Peak-hour killer may still go to jail

Estelle Ellis
ellise@avusa.co.za
TWO years after he was handed a suspended sentence and correctional supervision after a deadly shooting spree in peak-hour traffic, former Walmer resident Steven Romer, 53, once again faces the prospect of going to prison.
Later this month, the Port Elizabeth office of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) will ask the Supreme Court of Appeal to reconsider the suspended sentence given to Romer by Judge Chris Jansen. He sentenced Romer to 10 years‘ jail suspended for five years and three years of correctional supervision.
State advocates are expected to argue that the sentence was shockingly inappropriate in the circumstances. Romer was convicted of murder and attempted murder after a bizarre shooting spree on October 17, 2007. While driving in peak-hour traffic in Lorraine, he started shooting at motorists, moving to Sunridge Park and Kempston Road before finally being taken into custody in Linkside.
Gavin du Mont, 41, was killed in the attack, while Karen Heuer, 27 at the time, and Ernest Janse, 56 at the time, were both seriously injured.
The appeal will be heard by judges Carole Lewis, Ronnie Bosielo and acting Appeal Court Judge Xola Petse.
Romer, who lived in Walmer at the time of the incident but was originally from East London, maintained throughout his trial he could not remember what had happened. He returned to East London after he was given a suspended sentence.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. At the time, his counsel, Terry Price, described Romer‘s behaviour during the incident as “irrational and completely purposeless. It (was) bizarre in the extreme”.
Romer said he only remembered getting into his car with his pistol. He had wanted to find a shooting range. He remembered buying beers in Seaview. “I was overcome by blackness, as if I was in a dream-like state and being attacked by a demon … which came at me through the windscreen towards the passenger side.”
The court also heard he had become addicted to alcohol and over-the- counter medication after his divorce in 2002. Romer maintained he had never been warned not to drink while taking anti-depressants.
The court was told that the combination of alcohol and the side-effects of the anti-depressants he had been taking would have been disastrous.
Jansen said he could not send Romer to prison for a crime he did not remember committing. He also took into account that Romer had gone for treatment for his addiction and had managed to turn his life around.
Two days before the DPP‘s appeal is to be heard, the Supreme Court of Appeal will hear an appeal by former Port Elizabeth policeman Marius van der Westhuizen, who was sentenced to 24 years‘ imprisonment for killing his three children before unsuccessfully trying to commit suicide himself. Van Der Westhuizen also suffers from amnesia, possibly due to the brain injury he suffered when he shot himself. He has asked the court to set aside his conviction and sentence.

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