Still no breakthrough in Henning case
Pretoria - A year after the senseless murder of Chanelle Henning, her family is still no closer to the truth as to who gave the order to have the young mother killed.
The name of her estranged husband Nico was mentioned during the trial of his close friend Andre Gouws and former Nigerian Olympic athlete Ambrose Monye.
Henning was gunned down in front of the Morningstar Montessori crèche in Faerie Glen on November 8 last year, shortly after dropping off her five-year-old son.
Her family expressed anger and disappointment at the postponement of the trial to April and said valuable court time was being wasted on “nonsense”.
They referred to a request by Gouws to have a new Legal Aid representative assigned to him as well as a request to have the court adjourned for several hours so he could eat and sleep.
During the first week of the trial, Acting High Court Judge Johan Kruger heard from Gouws’s counsel, Daan Mostert, that his client was kept in a cell with about 70 inmates, thus depriving him of sleep.
Mostert requested the court to rule that Gouws and Monye be kept in the same cell as they could not concentrate on proceedings due to a lack of sleep.
Mostert further told the court that Gouws had not had a proper meal in days as they were fed stale bread three times a day.
The trial started with a postponement when Gouws insisted on ending his mandate with Legal Aid lawyer Van Zyl Nel.
He was adamant that he had not had enough consultations with Nel and that a case of “such magnitude” could not be prepared for in such a short time.
When the trial eventually started a week later, the State’s first witness, convicted murderer Willem Pieterse, revealed meticulous details of the last minutes before Henning was shot dead and the activities in a drug “underworld” that led to the murder.
The court heard that the order to kill Henning came from Monye, while Gouws, who had been following her for a month, pointed out her residence and provided a printout of her daily schedule.
Pieterse said he and Du Plessis had several meetings with Monye - and two of his “right-hand men”, known only as Sly and Richard - to discuss the “hit”. The meetings were held at Roman’s Pizza and McDonald outlets in Sunnyside.
Pieterse broke down as he told the court how he had parked his bike behind Henning’s car as she left the crèche.
He paused, removed his glasses and wiped his eyes before telling the court how Du Plessis jumped off, walked up to her car and pulled the trigger.
Pieterse said her car moved forward and Du Plessis ran after it firing another shot, before it crashed into a tree.
The two sped off on Pieterse’s bike.
Gouws and Monye face five charges including murder and conspiracy to murder. They pleaded not guilty.
Further details on how the various role-players were introduced to each other also emerged during Pieterse’s testimony.
Preshan Singh, the man who supplied the gun to Pieterse, pleaded guilty to the charges against him (possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition) and was given a suspended sentence after reaching an agreement with the State. Singh claimed he had no idea that the gun would be used to commit a murder.
The day before the murder, Pieterse tried to kill Henning after Du Plessis pulled out at the last minute, but he “could not shoot her”. It was only after Monye threatened to kill Du Plessis’s wife, children and dogs that he agreed to go ahead with the hit.
During cross-examination, Mostert put his client’s version to Pieterse, claiming Gouws was assisting his good friend Nico with his divorce.
In Gouws’s version he claims Nico asked him to have her followed to establish if she abused drugs and alcohol, but never to have her killed.
During Du Plessis’s testimony, he told the court, “I killed Chanelle Henning.”
He also told the court how he and Pieterse had discussed various methods that were not carried out as they were too complicated.
Du Plessis told the court that Gouws suggested a “house robbery”, or taking the young mother out from a distance with a long-range rifle.
He also revealed that he had initially pulled out as he could no longer work with Pieterse. He suspected that Pieterse and his wife were having an affair.
Hawks cellphone data expert Captain Francois Möller testified that Gouws withdrew R44 000 from his bank account hours after the murder.
He had phoned Monye twice before the withdrawal.
Gouws had only R971 left in his bank account after the withdrawal. Möller further told the court that several SMSes between Henning’s estranged husband, Nico, and Gouws were deleted from Gouws’s cellphone after the murder, but detailed billing records indicated regular communication between the two as well as Gouws and Monye in the weeks before the murder.
A report compiled by Möller indicated Nico had called Gouws seven times between October 1 and November 7 last year.
The court heard that although the SMSes were deleted, some of them, as well as photographs, could be retrieved via special software from Israel.
One of the deleted messages Möller retrieved was sent to Nico the day after the murder of his wife. “I am very proud of you my friend. Let me know if there is anything else I can do for you,” the message read.
Möller said that at the time the SMS was sent, Nico had just completed a lie detector test at the offices of the Hawks.
Möller further testified that Nico’s cellphone was reported stolen on the day of the murder but the contract costs were paid every month although the SIM card and handset were never re-activated.
Möller concluded his testimony by showing the court photographs of Gouws’s blue Ford Bantam bakkie and blue BMW scrambler motorbike in front of Henning’s home.
The images were taken from three CCTV cameras in the area and Gouws’s vehicles were identified by special markings.
Cellphone records also indicated that Gouws’s cellphone signal was picked up by the tower closest to Henning’s home at the same time the footage was taken.
The case will continue in April when Mostert will continue with his cross-examination.