MURDER accused “Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius, 27, has spared no expense in compiling an ironclad legal team, but maintaining his innocence will not be easy as the prosecutor in the case has already sent one Olympic athlete to prison.
The trial kicks off in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria today. Pistorius is accused of murdering his girlfriend, former Port Elizabeth model Reeva Steenkamp, 29, on Valentine’s Day last year.
Pistorius, a Paralym- pic gold medallist, is out on R1-million bail. Top state advocate Gerrie Nel was carefully handpicked to lead the prosecution in what is anticipated to be the trial of the century. Nel has already secured a life sentence for one Olympic athlete.
A state prosecutor for the past 30 years, Nel successfully prosecuted Nigerian Olympic athlete Ambrose Monye and his friend, Andre Gouws, for conspiring to kill young Pretoria mother Chanelle Henning in November 2011. They were each sentenced to life in prison.
Nel is a former head of the Scorpions in Gauteng. He also successfully prosecuted disgraced ex-national police commissioner Jackie Selebi, and is no stranger to intimidation.
He was arrested in January 2008 in the midst of the Selebi trial in what appeared to be an attempt to disrupt the investigation. Another key player is Lieutenant-General Vineshkumar Moonoo, 53, appointed as the chief investigating officer. According to News24, Moonoo has been a policeman for the past 29 years. He was named divisional commissioner of the detective branch in 2011.
The defence, according to the indictment, will call 107 witnesses, including 18 of Pistorius’s neighbours.
Other witnesses include a member of the SA weather service and a psychologist.
Meanwhile, Pistorius’s defence is headed by Advocate Barry Roux, SC, who will go head to head with Nel.
Roux proved he was a force to be reckoned with when he tore apart the state’s case in Pistorius’s highly publicised bail application last year.
He was admitted to the Johannesburg Bar in 1982. According to a source, a senior counsel in Johannesburg earns between R50000 and R80000 a day for a long-running criminal trial.
Roux represented Scottish-born businessman and former Rangers football club director Dave King, accused of owing R2.3-billion to SARS.
After a 13-year court battle, King was ordered to pay only the smaller amount of R700-million in revenue owed. Roux will be assisted by junior Advocate Kenny Oldwadge , a member of the Johannesburg Bar since 2002.
Oldwadge successfully defended Sizwe Mankazana, who was charged with culpable homicide, reckless and negligent driving and driving under the influence of alcohol after he lost control of his vehicle, killing Nelson Mandela’s 13-year-old great-grandchild, Zenani.
Ballistics expert Thomas Wolmarans confirmed that he had been called to testify for the defence. Wolmerans has more than 45 years’ experience in the field.
Also testifying is Roger Dixon, 54, a research mineralogist and forensic geologist at the University of Pretoria. He was previously employed at the SAPS Forensic Science Laboratory. According to his online Linkedin profile, he has conducted more than 1000 forensic investigations. Forensic pathologist Reggie Perumal, 57, of Durban, who, according to The Witness, is one of only two private forensic pathologists in the country, will also be called to the stand.
Pistorius’s version will be backed up by Evidence Room, an American forensic animation firm based in Cleveland, that specialises in crime scene re-enactments.
Presiding over the case is Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa. Masipa, 66, was appointed a judge in 1988, becoming only the second black woman to be admitted to the bench during the apartheid era. She was a social worker and journalist before studying law at Unisa.