OPINION

'Live by the sword‚ die by the sword': My friend Pete Mihalik was an extreme realist

30 October 2018 - 12:27 By Estelle Ellis
Defense advocate Pete Mihalik inspects the Spier wine estate during the murder trial of property mogul business man Jason Rohde on October 9 2017. File Photo.
Defense advocate Pete Mihalik inspects the Spier wine estate during the murder trial of property mogul business man Jason Rohde on October 9 2017. File Photo.
Image: Anthony Molyneaux

I met Pete Mihalik 21 years ago when we were both young. He had just started working as a junior advocate at the Cape Bar‚ and I had just started working at the high court in Cape Town as a reporter.

He bought a ridiculously big bakkie and had a number plate made for it: Raider 1.

I laughed about it.

Somehow‚ between the first asset forfeiture application after the law came into operation and the case of a Hout Bay brothel owner threatening to release the names of “those who visited the jacuzzi”‚ we became friends.

The Cape Town underworld was a much more innocent place then. Pete was good at theorising about high-profile murders and was almost always right about who was behind them.

Intrigued by his former client‚ Jurgen Harksen‚ he was keen for someone to write a book about the adventures of the German fraudster. That was long before books about trials had become popular.

When one of his clients was gunned down before the conclusion of a case he seemed stoical about it: “You live by the sword. You die by the sword. Remember to write‚ ‘he died an innocent man’.”

Pete was good at keeping things in separate boxes. After he returned from a year off following a terrible assault‚ he seemed happy to be back. So happy‚ in fact‚ that the alleged perpetrators thought to phone the newspaper and explain themselves. It wasn’t a great explanation.

Pete was an extreme realist‚ maybe because he had a hard time with loss. His mother‚ sister and wife had committed suicide. I fear he might have been scared in his last days but I hope he was not.

I left Cape Town long ago‚ and my knowledge of the underworld is limited to what I have read‚ so I don’t have any secrets to divulge about who was doing what or who was behind Pete’s murder on Tuesday.

There are days I am fearful for the people I have left behind in the city I love – a city now pockmarked with places where beloved friends have died violently.

I don’t know how deep his underworld involvement was. What I do know is that the man who died was a dedicated dad‚ a guy who adored his kids. He would be devastated to know that his child got injured.

I am so heartbroken about what happened. The world has lost a kind man.

* Estelle Ellis is a senior reporter at The Herald in Port Elizabeth

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