Ex-banker carries on fight to prove he didn’t kill his dad
He's appealing the decision not to drop these charges, but his trial for the murder of his wife will continue regardless
Former treasurer of the Bank of Athens, Vincenzo Pietropaolo, has failed in his bid to have one of the murder charges against him dropped, but he’s set on taking the court’s decision on review.
Pietropaolo is on trial in Johannesburg High Court, charged with the murder of his estranged wife, Manuela, and his father, Pasqualino, in two separate incidents.
Last month, after the state concluded its case against him, the banker indicated through his lawyer, Louis Weinstein, that he wished to launch a Section 174 application.
This application essentially asked the court to acquit him on some of the charges without the defence having to argue against them, based on the argument that the state had failed to prove a case worth answering.
Pietropaolo had insisted the state had not proven beyond reasonable doubt that he had murdered his father, and therefore wished to have that murder charge against him withdrawn. However, Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng denied the application last week, believing the state had presented enough circumstantial evidence regarding Pasqualino’s death, which the defence needed to answer.
Pietropaolo was arrested in November 2017 shortly after allegedly shooting Manuela at her Brackenhurst, East Rand home nine times. His father was killed months earlier in what police initially thought was a botched robbery at his home.
However, after Pietropaolo’s arrest, the gun that had gone missing from Pasqualino’s crime scene was found in his possession, and was believed to be the same gun used to kill Manuela.
The circumstantial evidence was enough for Mokgoatlheng to deny the Section 174 application.
According to the lawyer on watching brief for Manuela’s side of the family, Casper Badenhorst, Weinstein indicated to the court that he wished to appeal the judge’s decision, meaning that the decision may be taken on review before a panel of other judges.
The proceedings have thus been halted until the end of May for the review application to be resolved, while Pietropaolo remains in custody.
Last month, as the state finalised its case, the court heard the details of the night Pietropaolo was arrested, and how he had allegedly confessed to Manuela’s killing in a text message to his new girlfriend.
Sergeant Tshepo Tshukudu, a member of the West Rand Flying Squad, had searched Pietropaolo’s home and arrested him just hours after the shooting.
He testified that he had noticed Pietropaolo texting on his phone, and after looking at the messages, saw that he was in communication with his girlfriend and claiming he was going to jail for his involvement in a shooting.
While he initially believed there was coarse language used in the messages, namely that Pietropaolo had referred to his wife as “the bitch”, when Tshukudu was given his own written statement to read to the court, the message in fact said: “I’m sorry, baby, I killed her. I love you. I’m going to jail.”
The state has also provided evidence of Pietropaolo’s movements on the dates of his wife and father’s deaths, proving through the banker’s vehicle tracker that he was in the areas at the times of both killings.