Former bank treasurer took less than 3 minutes to kill wife and flee: expert
Vincenzo Pietropaolo took less than three minutes to shoot his estranged wife nine times and make his escape, and though he thought there were no witnesses, it was ultimately his own car that betrayed him.
Pietropaolo, a former treasurer of the SA Bank of Athens, stands accused of murdering his estranged wife, Manuela - firing a hail of bullets at her after she answered the door of her Brackenhurst home in November 2017. Arrested at the point where he was allegedly trying to flee the country, police were later able to link him to the murder of his own father, Pasqualino, months earlier.
On Friday, Pietropaolo’s double-murder trial continued at the High Court in Johannesburg, where a vehicle tracking expert was summoned to provide the details on Pietropaolo’s movements on the respective days his wife and father were shot.
Michael Du Preez, an executive of operations and technical at vehicle tracking company CTrack, had pulled the records on Pietropaolo’s blue Toyota on March 20 2017 and November 13 that same year.
He testified that on the November date, Pietropaolo’s vehicle had been travelling in and around the suburbs near Manuela’s home for more than a half-hour before finally pulling up in front of the home they had once shared at about 9.18pm.
Less than 2.5 minutes later, the car began moving again, speeding off from where Manuela’s body would later be discovered riddled with bullets.
The state was also able to prove through Du Preez that Pietropaolo had also been in the vicinity of his father’s home on March 20 2017, the day the elderly man was murdered in what police initially suspected was an armed robbery gone wrong.
When asked by prosecutor Lwazi Ngodwana about the accuracy of the Ctrack system, Du Preez was insistent that to manipulate the tracking records would require an expert who was familiar with how to access the GPS tracker system and its code. While not impossible for such a person, he said a layman would be unable to manipulate the information. This left little for Pietropaolo’s lawyer, Louis Weinstein, to cross-examine, as he mainly asked minor clarification questions around the tracking report that Du Preez had submitted.
While the state is set to wrap up its case soon, even as soon as next week, it remains unclear if Pietropaolo himself will take the stand as part of his own defence.
He will likely be asked about statements made during his bail proceedings, where the state revealed that he had all but confessed to Manuela’s killing while in custody. It was investigating officer Kenneth Mathebula who testified during the bail application that Pietropaolo had messaged his girlfriend's cell phone, writing: "I’m sorry, baby, I shot her. Now I’m going to jail."
He had also allegedly written a letter to his brother while in custody revealing similar claims, saying he was ashamed for his actions. Pietropaolo had also allegedly tried to kill himself while in custody, with the lawyer representing Manuela’s side of the family, Casper Badenhorst, revealing last year that the 63-year-old had tried to overdose on pills following a botched escape attempt.