Dressed in shorts, Dawie Connoway, the man who gunned down his ex-girlfriend at her work in Moreleta Park two years ago, bowed his head and showed little emotion as he was sentenced to life in jail on Thursday.
He cut a lone figure in the dock in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, as he was faced with a framed picture of Nicolene Schreuder, who he was convicted of killing.
The picture was placed in the corner of the bench by her mother, Roselind Schreuder. Next to it were two pink roses.
As ANC Women’s League members hugged Schreuder after Connoway made his way to the holding cells to start serving his sentence, the mother cried bitterly.
Pointing to the picture, she said: “I did this for my daughter. I want him to remember her.”
Schreuder said she did not hate Connoway for killing her daughter, but actually felt a little sorry for him. “I am very happy that he will remain behind bars for at least the next 25 years. It will never bring my child back, but it is good for others in my position to see that we have a justice system that works and is there for us.”
The motive for the brutal daytime killing remained unclear, as Connoway claimed they were happy.
The couple had ended their relationship by the time he had pulled the trigger on April 29, 2015, in the parking lot of the business called Manage All, where she worked as a personal assistant to the chief executive.
But Connoway, 41, said they were still friends and she had spent the previous weekend with him on his farm outside Pretoria. She had phoned him the morning of the shooting to visit her at work, he said.
The court found Connoway had gone to the office in Rubenstein Drive that day with the intention to shoot her. He fired several times at her in the parking lot, before speeding off on his motorbike.
Jannette Groenewald, a receptionist at Manage All, testified that Connoway arrived at the business and asked to see Nicolene. This was the first time she had met him. He often came to visit his girlfriend, but never entered the premises. They always met outside the gate.
Groenewald said that while waiting for Nicolene, they had a pleasant chat about his motorbike.
“They greeted by kissing, and Nicolene and Connoway then walked outside and I went on with my work. About five minutes later I heard shots and glass shatter. I heard someone shouting, open the f****** gate. I saw Dawie pointing a firearm at Peter (the security guard) and I saw Nicolene lying on the ground.”
Connoway’s mother, Elize Fourie, helped him to escape arrest by hiding him in a walk-in safe at her farmhouse. She was later arrested for defeating the ends of justice and later handed a suspended sentence.
Connoway and Nicolene lived together on the farm for about two years prior to the incident. They broke up a few days before the shooting, after which Nicolene moved in with her mother.
Her mother said Nicolene phoned her on April 16 that year and told her she could no longer handle Connoway’s abuse. She claimed he had dragged her around by her hair in a fit of rage and smashed her television sets and laptop to the ground. Nicolene then moved in with her mother.
The mother said Connoway arrived at her home a few days later wanting to see her daughter, but she was not home. “He wanted to come in to talk. He was emotional and told me he was sorry about what had happened. He said he would never hurt her again.”
Connoway told the court he went to Nicolene’s work that day after she had phoned him. When she joined him in the parking lot, she grabbed his firearm, which he always carried with him, he said.
The shots went off as she struggled to get hold of the firearm, he said. He loved her very much and would never hurt her, he added.
Judge Vivian Tlhapi frowned upon the fact that Connoway sped off while leaving his dying former girlfriend bleeding in the parking lot. “If you love someone, you will not leave them in that state,” she said, adding that he had shown no remorse for his actions.