'I could see he just stopped breathing': Court hears of lawyer Pete Mihalik's traumatic last moments

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The three men on trial for the murder of lawyer Pete Mihalik - Vuyile Maliti, Sizwe Biyela and Nkosinathi Khumalo. (Jaco Marais)
The three men on trial for the murder of lawyer Pete Mihalik - Vuyile Maliti, Sizwe Biyela and Nkosinathi Khumalo. (Jaco Marais)
  • Lawyer Pete Mihalik was alive for a few minutes after he was shot, while his daughter urgently sought help.
  • The music was still playing in Mihalik's black Mercedes-Benz and his foot was on the brake.
  • A man who rushed out to help, said Mihalik's son, who had also been shot, was bleeding profusely. 

Lawyer Pete Mihalik was alive in the few minutes after he was ambushed and shot in the head on 30 October 2018, while taking his children to school in Green Point.

According to Stiaan Kotze, the first person who was on the scene, Mihalik still had his foot on the brake of his black Mercedes-Benz.

Kotze was testifying in the Western Cape High Court trial of Sizwe Biyela, Nkosinathi Khumalo, and Vuyile Maliti, who are accused of Mihalik's murder, the attempted murder of his two children, unlawful possession of a firearm and unlawful possession of ammunition. They pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Kotze had been booked off work sick and was sitting in front of his computer when he heard two shots so loud that he thought they were in his house. 

He grabbed his keys, not thinking that he was only wearing his pyjama shorts, slops and a zipped hoodie, and ran to the pedestrian gate. 

He saw a man pass and break into a trot, but did not pay much attention to him.

He heard a girl screaming: 

Please help me!

The car's sound system was still playing music and Mihalik's daughter was screaming hysterically: "Please help my brother. He's been shot."

Kotze immediately unzipped his hoodie, took it off, and used it to staunch the bleeding.

He said the boy was conscious, but the girl was hysterical and wanted to know if her dad was alright. 

He asked her to keep pressure on her brother's wound and moved to the driver's side of the vehicle, where Mihalik was sitting. 

Kotze said:

There were two bullet holes in the window - one more or less halfway down and one at the bottom.

"I asked him if he was okay. He looked at me, but he swallowed. He just stared at me."

He saw a bullet hole in Mihalik's right temple and could see the actual bullet lodged there. Another shot had entered near to his jaw.  

"There was very little blood," said Kotze, who became emotional as he recalled the events. 

An interpreter and the audio specialist gently handed him a packet of tissues and a glass of water. Kotze's tears flowed, but he insisted that he just wanted to finish his testimony.

Advocate Pete Mihalik
Advocate Pete Mihalik (Jaco Marais/Netwerk24)

"Then, [Mihalik] swallowed once, and I could see he just stopped breathing," Kotze added.

He saw that Mihalik's son was becoming restless in the back seat and saying he felt very tired and that he wanted to sleep. He reached over Mihalik's shoulder to get to the boy and held him over Mihalik's shoulder. 

"I told him not to fall asleep. I told him to lie in my arms," Kotze said.

He saw a gym water bottle and gave it to the boy to drink. He realised that he had to get the boy out of the car, so he undid his safety belt over his father's body. 

READ | Pete Mihalik murder trial: Witness denies being told what to write in police statement

While he did that, a piece of the bullet fell out of Mihalik's head and bounced off Kotze's arm and onto his foot.

He said he did not know anything about guns, but he thought that perhaps one bullet had split and hit Mihalik and his son.

Mihalik's daughter kept asking how her dad was. 

While Kotze was cradling her brother and holding a hoodie tourniquet in place, he felt Mihalik's pulse.

He said:

There was no pulse.
 He struggled to get the car out of drive mode because Mihalik's foot was resting on the brake, and he wasn't familiar with that type of car.

Eventually, he figured it out and turned the engine off.

Mihalik's daughter was hysterical, and he asked if someone from among those who had gathered around the scene by then knew her family and if they could comfort her.  

The mother of one of her friends came over and took her away from her dad's car.  

Until then, there was no other assistance - no police. 

"Nobody," said Kotze. "It was just me by the car."

Then he heard the soft voice of a "guardian angel" behind him, asking what he could do to help.

He asked if he had a vehicle nearby and could take Mihalik's son to the hospital, and that was arranged.

ALSO READ | 'People were running around and screaming': Court told of moment Mihalik was shot outside school

The neighbourhood watch and one police van with one officer arrived. 

Kotze walked back to his home, covered in blood, only wearing his sleeping shorts and slops. 

He was told not to shower and to put the clothes he had worn to one side, and that the police would arrive soon to take his statement. 

He had an agonising wait until noon before the police arrived to interview him, sitting with the blood caking on his body.

The police apologised for making him wait so long, saying his was the sixth statement they had taken already.

He spent the rest of the day in the support company of family and friends who rushed over to sit with him after his ordeal.

Next on the stand was Sheldon De Jager an investigator at Avis Rent-a-Car in Cape Town, who testified about the rental of a silver VW Polo the day before the murder, by Maleti. 

De Jager also testified that the Renault Clio that was allegedly seen near the shooting was not in Cape Town at the time, according to vehicle location records. It was in Johannesburg. 

However, he explained that there are cases where people go to a car hire par parking lot in a public place and write down the number plate. They then clone that registration number, put it on another vehicle, and use the car for crime.

The trial was postponed to Thursday for the next witness.

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