Pretoria - A former security guard would trade places with a nine-year-old boy he shot dead five years ago, the High Court in Pretoria heard on Monday.

Johan van der Walt, 42, was found guilty in July of culpable homicide by causing the death of Gift Mokoena near Bronkhorstspruit in June 2007.

He testified in mitigation that the incident “should never have happened”.

Wiping away tears, he said: “If I could exchange places with him. I would do it any time.”

The young boy died shortly after being shot in the chest when Van der Walt shot at the Mokoena's car.

The court accepted Van der Walt's evidence that he had fired warning shots at the car because he believed he and his brother were about to be hijacked, and had not meant to hit anyone.

Van der Walt and his younger brother Deon, a former Transnet security guard, had been on patrol looking for cable thieves on the night of the shooting.

Van der Walt, who worked as a security guard at the time, had previously seen a friend being killed in a cash heist.

He and his brother were both charged with murdering the boy and trying to murder six of his relatives.

Only Van der Walt was found guilty of culpable homicide.

Gift's father Jan Mokoena testified that his son's death had a severe effect on him and his wife. He had resigned from several jobs because he could not stand anyone shouting at him, and relived his son's death every time he saw a white person “doing a bad thing”.

“Why, why did he shoot at us? If there was a fight I could understand, but there was no fighting on the road... I never heard a word from his side to say he's sorry,” Mokoena said.

“I applied for a firearm licence, but I never used that licence. I would never even shoot a dog. I know that is wrong... But my son, he just died like a dog.”

He had taken his children with him when he visited his mother that day, and had to tell his wife her child was not coming home.

“She blames me for coming back without my kid. If I didn't go maybe our kid would still be alive... I blamed myself also.”

Mokoena said he would be very happy if Van der Walt paid him back the R68 000 he had spent on his son's funeral.

The judge was expected to rule on Van der Walt's sentence later on Monday. - Sapa