Pretoria - Alleged wife killer George Barkhuizen could walk away from the Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg, a free man next week.
Barkhuizen stands accused of ordering a hit on his wife Odette after taking out three separate life insurance policies and allegedly forging her signature to do so.
Odette Barkhuizen was found shot dead near her offices in Moffatview in June 2015 in what police believed was a bungled hijacking.
However, after months of investigation, the police charged her husband with the killing. Barkhuizen’s trial began this year, with the State alleging the killing was planned after he had forged a new will and testament for his wife, and took out a set of life insurance policies worth R7.5 million from three separate insurance companies.
According to the State’s indictment, the couple had been estranged for some time, and Odette had recently told her husband she wanted a divorce.
The life policies and new will, created just two months before Odette’s death, were allegedly constructed without her knowledge. The State rested its case earlier this month.
But this week, George looks set to embark on a Section 174 application, which will ask the court to discharge his case because he and his legal team will claim the State’s case has no chance of success. If the application succeeds, the defence will not have to argue a case.
Barkhuizen confirmed this on his Facebook wall after proceedings earlier this month. He has used the same social media page vehemently denying the State’s allegations since the trial’s inception.
His profile picture for his Facebook page is an indication of his desire to prove his innocence. “Look deep into my eyes and realise that I will never back down,” is written on the image of a snarling wolf.
A separate Facebook page, believed to be run by George, called “11062015 truth before & after” has shown his perception of the proceedings. In October Barkhuizen was warned by his legal team to stop posting the trial’s progress on social media. In a post, he wrote: “I received a message from my legal team, about a complaint regarding that I am posting the truth on FB about what is happening in the trial... I will accept their advice... for now.” Less than two weeks later, he was posting again.
Last month the State called an expert examiner and documents specialist, Johannes Hattingh, to tell the court whether he believed the signatures on the will and life insurance policies were forged.
After telling the court of his decades of specialist training and experience, he said he believed the signatures on both documents were not authentic.
Comparing the signatures on the policy documents to a series of sample signatures, Hattingh’s report said: “Despite the poor quality of the disputed documents, the disputed signatures on the policy documents differ to such an extent in construction and execution which is so obvious and significant that it is concluded that the signatures are forgeries of the person’s signature who signed the specimen signatures.”
During cross-examination, however, George’s advocate Sita Kolbe revealed that this had been Hattingh’s second report on the signatures, the first being commissioned by forensic consultant Paul O’Sullivan.
The initial report had apparently said Hattingh’s analysis was inconclusive over whether the signatures were forged. Hattingh explained that the second report had been constructed after he was given numerous other sample signatures that allowed him to conduct a proper analysis. But he conceded that regardless of his analysis, there was no way to state conclusively that Barkhuizen had been the one to create the fake signatures.