TEARS of gratitude and special praise for the courage of an eyewitness flowed at the Port Elizabeth High Court yesterday after a killer of slain Nelson Mandela Bay traffic officer Neal Domingo was convicted of his murder.
Domingo was gunned down in his official vehicle and robbed of his service firearm on August 12 2009. He had just got into his vehicle after visiting his daughter, Elaine Seafield, in Gelvandale.
Yesterday, Judge Nomatamsanqa Beshe found Gavin Minnie, 31, guilty on charges of murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances and the possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition. He now faces a possible life sentence.
Minnie – who was out on bail at the time of Domingo’s murder – is currently serving an eight-year sentence for attempted murder.
He also has previous convictions for indecent assault, attempted rape and the possession of an unlicensed firearm. In 2008, he was declared unfit to possess a firearm.
Judge Beshe said the evidence of the single eyewitness, who can only be identified as Bogart as he is in witness protection, was in her judgment strong enough to secure Minnie’s conviction. Bogart gave evidence surrounded by four armed bodyguards.
“What can we say to Bogart?” Domingo’s brother-in-law, Enrico Jarvis, said. “It took a real man to do what you have done.”
Traffic officers packed the court benches during the judgment. In one corner sat three of Minnie’s friends, identified as having close ties with the Dust Lives gang.
Outside court, two of Domingo’s best friends and the men who led the motorcycle cavalcade at his funeral, acting Assistant Superintendent Eugene Geswint and Assistant Superintendent Andrew Petersen, congratulated investigating officer Warrant Officer Willem Erasmus and Captain Mark Cresswell.
“Neal was a prominent leader figure for us. He did not deserve to die like that. He would have given them his firearm. There was no need to shoot him,” Petersen said.
Jarvis said the family was delighted with the verdict.
“We do hope the police will also eventually catch the man who did the shooting,” he said.
He said they were also very grateful to the police officers who organised for Bogart to go into witness protection.
Domingo’s widow, Lucilla Domingo, said she also wanted to thank Bogart for being so brave.
She also expressed her thanks to state advocate Jason Thysse, Erasmus and her late husband’s colleagues. “After his death they became like family to me.”
In her judgment, Judge Beshe said the fact that Bogart did not readily volunteer information to the police supported the argument that he had no motive to falsely incriminate Minnie. “He first had to be persuaded it would be safe for him to [do so].”
She also said that Minnie and his former girlfriend, Charmaine Sampson, who supported his claims of an alibi, were “so rehearsed” that Thysse rightly labelled it as suspicious.
She said that even though it was never the state’s case that Minnie was the man who shot Domingo, it was clear to her that he had associated himself completely with the actions of his unknown companion who was the gunman, and should therefore be found guilty of murder.
Sentencing procedures were scheduled to start today.