Years-long mur­der trial of po­lice­man nears end

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - JA­NIS KIN­N­EAR

IN A last-ditch at­tempt to see his bail ex­tended af­ter be­ing found guilty of mur­der­ing his preg­nant wife and un­born child, po­lice­man Morne Manuel told a Mitchells Plain Re­gional Court mag­is­trate that his new fam­ily would end up “on the street” if he re­mained be­hind bars.

The guilty verdict came yes­ter­day, end­ing a 13-year trial. Manuel, who now lives in Hei­del­berg, was found guilty of shoot­ing his then wife Ja­nine Manuel, 24, who was seven months preg­nant with their sec­ond child, in Septem­ber, 2000.

The pair had al­legedly ar­gued about him be­ing late for an ul­tra­sound ap­point­ment.

Fight­ing yes­ter­day for his bail to be ex­tended, Wil­liam Booth, for Manuel, ar­gued that his client was the “pri­mary care­giver” of his new wife, their child, two of her own chil­dren, and his 17-year-old daugh­ter from his mar­riage to his late wife.

Should he be kept in jail, the fam­ily would end up “on the street” and the ac­cused, be­ing a po­lice of­fi­cer, would be “in­jured” while in cus­tody, Booth charged.

State prose­cu­tor Mzi­wanele Jaxa coun­tered, how­ever, that let­ting him out would draw neg­a­tive pub­lic re­ac­tion, and stressed that “jus­tice must not only be done, but must be seen (to be done)”.

Manuel was found guilty of kick­ing open the door to the fam­ily’s bath­room dur­ing the Septem­ber 2000 in­ci­dent, then shoot­ing his wife in the face with his ser­vice pis­tol, in the pres­ence of their then four-year-old daugh­ter.

On July 26, 2005, Manuel had pleaded not guilty to the mur­der. He con­tin­ued to work as a po­lice of­fi­cer af­ter he was cleared at an in­ter­nal hear­ing.

Yes­ter­day mag­is­trate Nomqon­disi Jakuja apol­o­gised to the dead woman’s fam­ily for the long time the case had taken to con­clude.

Pro­ceed­ings were post­poned at least 58 times, for rea­sons in­clud­ing a change of mag­is­trate, ill­ness, and re­quests for for­mal court doc­u­ments.

On Thurs­day the de­fence told the court that Manuel and his wife had a tu­mul­tuous re­la­tion­ship, and that he had never in­tended to kill her. He had “lost con­trol” as a re­sult of stress.

Clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist Dr Gielie van Dyk, for the de­fence, tes­ti­fied that Manuel was un­der se­vere emo­tional dis­tress be­cause of the his­tory of vi­o­lence in the cou­ple’s re­la­tion­ship, com­bined with his work stress.

The mag­is­trate dimisseded Van Dyk’s re­port how­ever, ques­tion­ing his ob­jec­tiv­ity. Jakuja ruled that rather than los­ing con­trol that day, Manuel had “lost his tem­per”.

“The State proved their case with­out a rea­son­able doubt that the ac­cused had in­ten­tion,” she said, and there was no ev­i­dence that he may have been un­der any emo­tional dis­tress that day. “The ac­cused be­ing an of­fi­cer of the law was well aware of the con­se­quences when he used his firearm, and he knew what would hap­pen shoot­ing her in the face,” she said.

When the guilty verdict was handed down, Manuel’s new wife broke down at the back of the court­room.

But the dead woman’s aunt, Lo­raine Solomons, ex­pressed shock that he “still wants to go free” af­ter he “killed his un­born child and his wife”.

The case was post­poned to Fe­bru­ary 21.

ja­nis.kin­n­ear@inl.co.za

GUILTY: Morne Manuel

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