Years-long murder trial of policeman nears end
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.
GUILTY: Morne Manuel