It is up to the conscience of Andre Gouws and Ambrose Monye whether they will testify against Nico Henning in connection with their allegations that he was the mastermind behind the contract killing of his estranged wife Chanelle.
The pair earlier told Pretoria High Court Judge Johan Kruger that they were willing to work with the police to build a case against Henning. They also said that they were more than happy to take the stand against him.
This was done in the hope of receiving lighter sentences, but Judge Kruger on Wednesday said the facts in the case warranted nothing less than a life sentence for each man. He couldn’t find any substantive and compelling reasons to pass a lesser sentence.
Gouws, 49, appeared to have expected this, as he calmly listened to his fate. Monye, 39, on the other hand, seemed surprised and upset that his last-minute “turn-about” did not have any effect on his sentence. He sat with his face in his hands, dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, listening to his fate.
Their statements, as read out to court while they were in the witness box, couldn’t be used to prove the merits of the case against Henning, as his lawyer had not cross-examined them, said Professor Wium de Villiers, of the University of Pretoria’s law faculty criminal justice expert.
He said if the pair were unwilling to testify, the prosecution at most could use the statements to cross-examine Henning and witnesses about the allegations, during his trial.
Judge Kruger said he couldn’t approach the issue of substantial and compelling circumstances from the hypothesis of the envisaged role to be played by the two in the prosecution of a yet to be instituted matter.
He said the merits (in the Nico Henning case) were unknown to him and irrelevant to the issues before him. “Both accused had all along been aware of Henning’s alleged involvement. They did not only protest their innocence (during the trial), but denied any involvement by Henning. Having been convicted they changed their tune and pointed to Henning as the instigator… It is simply a matter of shifting the blame, or, at best, not to be held solely responsible. It hence becomes a matter of self-interest and self-preservation.”
The judge said both men were prepared to kill for money. Gouws tried to provide a motive for his actions by saying Henning manipulated him and offered him R1 million for the hit. He said there were no indications of manipulation. “It seems to me to be no more than a mere request by Henning that Gouws should murder Chanelle… Even if he felt manipulated or even intimidated by Henning, the ultimate choice remained his own.”
The judge said the scheme to have Chanelle killed was designed by Gouws.
He said Monye’s role in the murder “is cold-hearted and callous beyond words”.
“To him it was a faceless person to be killed… whom he wanted killed for personal gain… To him the whole exercise was no more than an impersonal contract to kill. It displayed a total lack of even the most basic respect for the sanctity of human life.”
The judge said Chanelle’s murder was of a particularly cold blooded, calculated and devious nature. “The murder was executed on an unsuspecting young woman and mother of a young child, who did neither of the two accused any harm, who was leading her own life, minding her own business, unaware that ill-intended men were planning to kill her. Murder is always utterly repugnant, but the murder on Chanelle remains an act beyond reasonable comprehension,” the judge said.
The young mother was gunned down on November 3, 2011, seconds after she dropped her son off at a crèche.
A tussle regarding custody over the child was said by Gouws to be one of the motives for the contract killing. Henning and Chanelle were at the time embroiled in a bitter legal battle over the child, who is now living with Chanelle’s parents.
Chanelle’s emotional parents, Ivan and Sharon Saincic, hugged each other as their daughter’s killers were led to the holding cells.
Gouws’s mother, Lenie, who hugged her son before he was taken away, left the court, crying. She did not want to comment, but an upset family member at her side, told a Pretoria News cameraman to “shove his camera in his backside”, when he took a picture of them.
Henning is due back in court on June 4.
Legal steps that the State can take
There are legal remedies open to the prosecution and the court to deal with Andre Gouws and Ambrose Monye should they refuse to testify against Nico Henning, after both testified under oath that he had ordered the hit on his estranged wife, Chanelle.
The prosecutor can call them to the stand in Henning’s upcoming trial and if, under oath, they gave a different version to the one they forwarded during their case, they could be prosecuted for perjury, De Villiers said.
If they refuse to be sworn in or refuse to say anything at all if called to the witness stand, they could be declared hostile witnesses, he said. The penalty for this in serious cases such as murder, could be a jail sentence up to five years.
He explained that the prosecution in Henning’s case couldn’t rely on their versions presented in their case, as it was not tested during cross-examination by Henning’s counsel. De Villiers said if they were willing to testify against Henning, they could be called to the witness box and asked whether they still agreed with their written statements (presented during their case). They will then orally have to answer questions posed to them by the defence.