Dad and wife murders: Banker says case not proved
Accused former Bank of Athens boss Vincenzo Pietropaolo moves to have some charges dropped
The former treasurer of the Bank of Athens accused of murdering his wife and father will be fighting to have some of the charges against him dropped, claiming the state did not have enough evidence to prove its case thus far.
Vincenzo Pietropaolo was initially arrested in November 2017, shortly after his estranged wife, Manuela was shot nine times at her home in Brackenhurst, south of Johannesburg.
But he has also been charged with the murder of his father, Pasqualino, who died months before in what police initially thought was a botched robbery at the elderly man’s home.
Pietropaolo appeared in the High Court in Johannesburg on Wednesday for his double murder trial, where the officer who initially arrested him gave details about the night of the arrest.
Sergeant Tshepo Tshukudu, a member of the West Rand Flying Squad, was on patrol on November 13 2017 when he and his partner received information that a white male had been named as a suspect in a shooting in Brackenhurst.
After being given the suspect’s address in Boskruin, he arrived at the complex Pietropaolo lived in to discover a member of the area’s community policing forum had already arrived and was able to point out Pietropaolo’s home.
The banker accompanied Tshukudu as he searched the home, where he discovered the washing machine running and containing a single outfit and a pair of Nike sneakers. He also found two firearms and two spent 9mm bullet cartridges.
On Wednesday, he testified how one of the guns had been dismantled, and theorised the reason for doing this was for Pietropaolo to clean the firearm after it had been used. He also said he noticed Pietropaolo texting on his phone. After looking at the messages, the officer saw he was communicating with his girlfriend, claiming he was going to jail for his involvement in a shooting.
While he initially believed there was coarse language used in the messages, where Pietropaolo had referred to his wife as “the bitch”, when Tshukudu was given his own written statement to read to the court, the message actually said: “I’m sorry, baby, I killed her. I love you. I’m going to jail.”
When asked by defence advocate Louis Weinstein why the officer had misremembered such aggressive language, he recalled that when he arrived at Pietropaolo’s home, the banker and his son had been in a verbal altercation on the phone, during which numerous swear words were used.
The sergeant also testified that while Pietropaolo did have a licence for one of the firearms, he did not for the dismantled 9mm pistol – the gun allegedly taken from Pasqualino’s home after his death.
It is this gun that led police to implicate Pietropaolo in his own father’s killing.
Following Tshukudu’s testimony and the state closing its case, Weinstein revealed he intended to file for a section 174 application in regards to the murder charge involving Pasqualino. The application asks the court – in this case, Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng – to drop charges based on the argument that the state has not provided solid evidence, and therefore the defence has no reason to argue against it.
If successful, Pietropaolo and his lawyer will only have to defend the charge of murder for Manuela’s killing.
While prosecutor Lwazi Ngodwana made it clear he would be fighting the application, the case was postponed to next week for the application to be argued.
Last week, the court heard testimony from a tracking expert who testified that, based on Pietropaolo’s vehicle tracker, the banker had been in the areas where his wife and father had been killed on the dates that they died.