While Pietropaolo broke down in tears after hearing his three sons asking the court not to grant bail, the emotionally charged proceedings were marred by the increasingly erratic and aggressive behaviour of his lawyer, Sandile Buthelezi.
Pietropaolo was arrested in November last year for allegedly shooting his estranged wife nine times at their Brackenhurst home.
It was also confirmed in court on Thursday that he was also facing a charge of murder for killing his own father, Pasqualino, after ballistics reports showed the firearm used to kill Manuela had been one of the firearms reported stolen from Pasqualino’s home.
During this week’s proceedings, Buthelezi decided to call Pietropaolo to the stand, opening up the 62-year-old to a harsh cross-examination.
Buthelezi refused to believe that the crime was a schedule 6 offence of premeditated murder, despite the court ruling it was so - at least for the purposes of the bail application.
He was also chastised by presiding magistrate, Martin Kroukamp, for using a blasphemous word during proceedings, whispering to the prosecutor during his address, and for failing to stand up when addressing the court.
Eventually, Buthelezi began gesticulating wildly and shouting at Kroukamp, accusing him of bias against his client, the same strategy he had used against the previous magistrate on the case. However, Kroukamp was quick to explain that his questions for Pietropaolo were of a clarifying nature.
Despite the drama, prosecutor Goodwill Hlebela was able to argue that Pietropaolo, armed with an Italian passport, could easily flee the country if granted bail. He was also aware of the residential addresses of some of the victims in the matter, and that Pietropaolo’s release was of great concern to his relatives and the community at large, a point he proved by submitting a petition signed by about 2 000 people calling for bail to be denied.
He then read into the record the affidavits of Pietropaolo’s three sons, who all believed their father was responsible for the killing.
The teary-eyed Pietropaolo said he thought he had a good relationship with his sons - at least until he separated from Manuela three years ago - and that he posed no danger to them. Scoffs emerged from the court gallery, which was filled with Manuela’s friends and relatives, and anti-woman and child abuse activists.
It was the investigating officer, Kenneth Mathebula, who revealed that the accused had all but confessed to Manuela’s killing, despite declaring he would plead not guilty at his criminal trial.
Mathebula said on the night of the killing, when officers arrived at Pietropaolo’s Randburg home, they confiscated his phone and saw a message to his girlfriend, reading: “I’m sorry, baby, I shot her. Now I’m going to jail.”
He had also allegedly written a letter to his brother, now also estranged, making similar claims, saying he was ashamed of what he had done.
The bail application will continue this coming week.