Johannesburg - George Barkhuizen, who is accused of having his wife murdered for insurance money, has submitted that the State has no case against him and he should not have to testify to prove his innocence.
Barkhuizen allegedly ordered a hit on his wife, Odette, after taking out three separate life insurance policies and forging her signature to do so.
She was found shot dead near her offices in Moffat View near Johannesburg in June 2015 in what police initially believed was another bungled hijacking.
Barkhuizen’s marathon trial continued this week at the Joburg High Court, with his defence launching a Section 174 application to have presiding Judge Ramarumo Monama discharge the criminal case against him.
The application is based on the position that the State's case, put forward by prosecutor Riegel du Toit, has not proved any of the allegations against the accused.
If successful, the application will mean Barkhuizen will not have to present a defence and can avoid testifying entirely.
Barkhuizen has argued, through his lawyer, advocate Sita Kolbe, that the “theory” that he killed his wife was originally provided to the investigation team by forensic consultant and private investigator, Paul O'Sullivan.
The defence has said O'Sullivan had been present at key interviews conducted by the State, including an interview with Barkhuizen himself.
According to the defence, the investigating officer had also lied when she testified that cellphone records had placed Barkhuizen at the scene of the crime after the murder.
When a cellphone expert testified this was untrue, the officer said she didn't understand how to interpret the records.
On the alleged forging, Kolbe argued that the State had failed to prove the wills had not been written by anyone other than Odette, and that if the State wanted to focus on the signatures, the accused should have been charged with forgery or uttering, instead of fraud.
The State has relied on circumstantial evidence throughout the trial, particularly the testimony of an expert examiner and documents specialist, Johannes Hattingh, who said he believed the signatures made on the documents were not authentic.
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During cross-examination, however, Kolbe said Hattingh’s report was his second one on the signatures, the first having been commissioned by O'Sullivan.
The initial report had apparently said Hattingh’s analysis was inconclusive. However, Hattingh explained that the second report had been constructed after he was given other sample signatures that allowed him to conduct a proper analysis.
He conceded that regardless of his analysis, there was no way to state conclusively that Barkhuizen had been the one who created the fake signatures.
Judge Monama is expected to rule on the application on February 13.