Durban - A man shot his girlfriend repeatedly during a fit of rage, but the Durban North woman who was the victim of his fury insists he’s a “good man” and begged the court not to send him to jail.
“Everyone has their opinion about what happened,” said his 44-year-old girlfriend, Maria de Luca. “I didn’t want this incident to overpower my life. I knew our relationship was volatile, but I didn’t think it would go this far.”
On Thursday, her wish to see her former boyfriend walk free was granted.
Gavin Botha, 49, appeared in the Durban Regional Court on an attempted murder charge for the shooting. He pleaded guilty to the charge, having secured a plea bargain with the State.
Magistrate Anand Maharaj, who presided over the matter, sanctioned a fine and a suspended prison sentence for Botha.
He is also required to compensate De Luca financially for pain and suffering, as well as pay her medical bills.
“I can’t say I’m happy with the outcome, but I couldn’t see him sitting in prison for what he did,” De Luca said after the sentencing.
“He is a good man and a good father; people make mistakes,” she said.
While Botha and De Luca had been lovers for nearly three years, their relationship was fraught with heated altercations and passionate make-ups, but the December 18 row was the most ballistic of the lot.
The couple were out socialising with friends at a bar when Botha apparently became distant and aloof in his interactions with De Luca.
This sparked yet another quarrel and De Luca, overcome by emotion, announced their break-up.
Their spat spilled over to De Luca’s home, where Botha started shooting.
Botha, out of control from anger and alcohol, fired five shots at De Luca.
Three rounds hit her face, chest and stomach.
Despite the attack, De Luca decided to stand by her man and came to Botha’s aid in his ensuing run-in with the law.
De Luca, in a brief written statement, begged the court to show mercy and not impose a prison sentence on Botha.
“I ask the court to understand that he is a good father to a teenage son.
“Please have mercy on him,” an extract from De Luca’s statement read.
The woman, who has fully recovered from her wounds, also suggested Botha be refused the right to possess a firearm and be compelled to pay for her further medical treatment.
While De Luca confirmed her relationship with Botha has not been rekindled, it became clear during their day in court that differences the pair had have since been ironed out.
They sat beside each other throughout the day’s proceedings, had lunch together at the local cafeteria, spoke civilly throughout and were only separated when the pensive-looking Botha was called to the dock.
Apart from pleading guilty to the charge Maharaj read to him, Botha was told to make no further utterance as the plea document prepared by his attorney, Carl van der Merwe, was read out in court.
It spoke of Botha and De Luca’s rocky relationship, which, like a pendulum, swung repeatedly between cycles of extreme passion and heated arguments.
On the day of the shooting De Luca had invited Botha to a pub for a drink.
He opted not to drink there, but later visited another pub where he had drinks with some friends.
When De Luca tracked Botha down he was annoyed.
After a brief stay at the bar, a frustrated De Luca, who was being treated indifferently by Botha, announced she was leaving him and returned to her Durban North home.
Regretting his behaviour, Botha tried to telephone De Luca afterwards, but she would not take his calls.
He then drove to De Luca’s home, expecting to make up with her.
While outside, Botha noticed De Luca sitting on her patio and deliberately not taking his calls when he phoned from the car.
Botha claims he experienced an “emotional storm” that resulted in him drawing his firearm and firing two shots in De Luca’s direction.
He rushed into the house and fired a further three bullets that hit De Luca.
Botha admitted that by firing shots at De Luca he realised she could be killed, but he fired nevertheless.
He said his ability to control his actions was diminished by the effects of being drunk.
Botha received a R10 000 fine and was sentenced to eight years in prison, which was wholly suspended for five years.
He is also required to pay De Luca R20 000 for pain and suffering, and medical expenses limited to R10 000.
“He’s learnt a big lesson from this and also showed his remorse in court,” De Luca said.
When asked if pleading with the court not to incarcerate Botha was a slap in the face for other women who had been victims of violence, De Luca said: “I’ve decided to forgive him and move on.”
Kubi Rama of Gender Links, an organisation championing gender equality, said the sentence handed to Botha did not fit the crime.
“He’s been charged with attempted murder.
“It’s very disturbing to note the sentence handed down. If he (Botha) reoffends, the Department of Justice must take responsibility,” Rama said.