Top lawyer gunned down on the school run

The killing of a prom­i­nent Cape Town lawyer was the lat­est in a string of tragedies for his fam­ily

YOU (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - BY JOANIE BERGH

IN PIC­TURES he looks bliss­fully happy, grin­ning in one as he poses with his lovely wife, laugh­ing on a beach in an­other with her in his arms.

There are other shots of him with their two young chil­dren, the white cot­tages of Jacobs Bay be­hind them. They used to own a hol­i­day house in the West Coast sea­side town.

It’s hard to fathom the tragedy and grief that lies in wait for the seem­ingly care­free fam­ily.

Pete Mi­ha­lik and his wife, Karin, are both dead now, their young son has a bul­let wound in his face and their daugh­ter has wit­nessed an in­ci­dent of unimag­in­able trauma.

“It’s tragic, tragic, tragic,” Leon*, a close friend of Pete, says, swip­ing through his phone to look at pic­ture af­ter pic­ture of hap­pier times.

The well-known ad­vo­cate was drop­ping his chil­dren off at Red­dam House At­lantic Se­aboard school in the Cape Town sub­urb of Green Point at 7.35am on 30 Oc­to­ber when he was shot in the head, al­legedly by one of two hired hit­men who were re­port­edly paid R250 000 each to take him out.

A wit­ness says the gun­man walked right up to the driver’s win­dow of Pete’s R2,3-mil­lion Mercedes-Benz AMG, pressed the bar­rel against the glass and pulled the trig­ger twice.

Then he turned around and calmly climbed back into the front pas­sen­ger seat of a wait­ing car be­fore it sped off.

One of the bul­lets re­port­edly went through Pete’s head and struck his eightyear-old son in the face, lodg­ing in the boy’s jaw. Pete’s 17-year-old daugh­ter, who was un­harmed, re­port­edly shouted, “Call an am­bu­lance! Call an am­bu­lance!” as stunned par­ents ar­rived to drop off their chil­dren.

Both sus­pects were ar­rested within 48 hours of the slay­ing of an ad­vo­cate who’d reg­u­larly de­fended gang mem­bers in court.

Pete was also rep­re­sent­ing es­tate agent boss Ja­son Ro­hde, who’s ac­cused of mur­der­ing his wife, Su­san.

Pete’s killing has sparked fears of more vi­o­lence be­tween fac­tions in Cape Town’s or­gan­ised crime un­der­world.

But to his fam­ily, it’s yet an­other tragedy in a string of heartaches. Death, it seems, fol­lows them like a shadow.

KARIN com­mit­ted sui­cide in 2015, hang­ing her­self in a pub­lic park near the fam­ily’s home in Oran­jezicht, Cape Town. She was 46. “It was shock­ing,” Leon says, star­ing at an­other pic­ture of the cou­ple. “Pete was an­gry . . . He started drink­ing heav­ily.”

Karin, who’d been a stay-at-home mom, had suf­fered from se­vere de­pres­sion and had been in the care of a psy­chi­a­trist.

“Pete was a bro­ken man . . . He was shat­tered,” Leon says. “He im­me­di­ately sold the house in Jacobs Bay.”

Sui­cide is some­thing that touched Pete’s life as a child too. He was only 10 years old when his mother, Hantie, com­mit­ted sui­cide at the age of 38 by drink­ing rat poi­son. Pete and his el­der sis­ter, Wap­sie ( Jo­hanna Cor­nelia), were left be­hind with their fa­ther, Janos.

When Wap­sie turned 38, she too com­mit­ted sui­cide – by jump­ing off a build­ing.

Pete never re­ally spoke about the sui­cides of his mother, sis­ter and wife, Leon says.

He never spoke much about his step­mom or half-sis­ters ei­ther.

Af­ter Karin died he’d ral­lied round his kids. “Pete was an in­cred­i­ble dad,” Leon says. “He’d take leave for three months to take his kids over­seas. He spent so much time with them. And he raised them him­self, with the help of the kids’ god­fa­ther and an au pair.”

Leon ac­knowl­edges Pete had a drink­ing prob­lem and says Karin was “the one to keep him on the straight and nar­row”.

“Af­ter she died things got out of hand for a while, but he al­ways had a strong sup­port net­work in his friends. “Then he met Tas­min Mont­gomery.” The re­la­tion­ship with Tas­min, the exwife of for­mer Spring­bok rugby player Percy Mont­gomery, was Pete’s first se­ri­ous re­la­tion­ship af­ter Karin’s death.

“I think Tas­min meant a great deal to Pete and the kids,” Leon says. “And she al­ways helped him when­ever he’d re­lapsed.”

But the two parted ways and when YOU con­tacted Tas­min af­ter Pete’s mur­der, she re­sponded, “I haven’t been in a re­la­tion­ship or in con­tact with Pete Mi­ha­lik for the past 18 months.”

Be­fore his death Pete had been sober for some time, Leon says. He was also in a new re­la­tion­ship and seemed happy.

But rep­re­sent­ing sev­eral of the coun­try’s most no­to­ri­ous gang lead­ers and or­gan­ised crime mem­bers def­i­nitely had an im­pact, Leon adds.

“[As a lawyer] you of­ten see dossiers of peo­ple who’ve been be­headed, peo­ple who’ve been shot in drive-bys in front of their kids, or the kids were shot too. The un­der­world has no re­spect for hu­man life. That must have an im­pact on one’s life.”

Yet Pete loved his job, Leon stresses. He reg­u­larly acted as in­ter­me­di­ary be­tween gangs and he had a good re­la­tion­ship with all of them – so good that mem­bers of the 28s, 27s, Sexy Boys and Amer­i­cans showed up at Pete’s home af­ter Karin’s fu­neral to pay their re­spects.

“Many of his friends thought it was in­ap­pro­pri­ate, but he was okay with it. He al­ways said he didn’t take sides.

“But gangs may see things dif­fer­ently. They might see you as sid­ing with a spe­cific group.”

Leon, who’s known Pete since univer­sity, re­mem­bers a young blood­hound of an ad­vo­cate who in the late ’90s de­clared he’d one day be one of Cape Town’s best crim­i­nal lawyers.

“Yes, I’d warned him. When his as­so­ciate Nooru­dien Has­san was mur­dered by gang mem­bers two years ago, I told him, ‘Pete, you need to keep your dis­tance be­fore they take you out too.’

“But Pete got ag­gra­vated and said, ‘I’m a skol­lie from Bloem. I’m a street fighter.’

“Pete was brave. If he ever was afraid, no one knew about it.”

THE sound of a Zim­mer frame com­ing to­wards the tele­phone echoes down the line. Janos Mi­ha­lik, Pete’s fa­ther and a for­mer ad­vo­cate, lives in a re­tire­ment home in Oran­jezicht. He turned 73 four days af­ter his son’s mur­der and was shocked when he heard his son was dead, he says. But he’s do­ing well un­der the cir­cum­stances.

He and Hantie were di­vorced when she com­mit­ted sui­cide, he tells us. “Af­ter that Pete and I went to South Amer­ica where I farmed for two years and he at­tended a Span­ish school.

“When we re­turned I met my sec­ond wife [in Bloem­fontein where they set­tled]. We got mar­ried and had two daugh­ters. But we’ve also since di­vorced.”

His ex-wife, who doesn’t want to be named, tells YOU she’d known Pete and Wap­sie since they were chil­dren, and had been close to Karin.

“But I don’t want to say any more. Janos and I got di­vorced and he’s not in a good space.”

The bul­let was re­moved from Pete’s son’s jaw and he’s out of dan­ger. He and his sis­ter are now in the care of fam­ily friends.

A let­ter was cir­cu­lated to par­ents of Red­dam House At­lantic Se­aboard – which went into lock­down in the hours fol­low­ing the shoot­ing – in­form­ing them of the lit­tle boy’s re­cov­ery.

“It’s im­por­tant that ev­ery­one knows he’s do­ing well. All your love and prayers are con­tribut­ing to­wards his re­cov­ery.” *Not his real name

Pete Mi­ha­lik was one of Cape Town’s best crim­i­nal lawyers. His clients in­cluded gang­sters and mem­bers of the or­gan­ised crime un­der­world.

LEFT and ABOVE: Pete was shot twice in his car by a hit­man out­side his chil­dren’s school. ABOVE RIGHT: The blood-stained bag be­long­ing to Pete’s eight-year-old son. RIGHT: The shooter and his ac­com­plice fled in a sil­ver Polo.

LEFT: Pete and his late wife, Karin, who com­mit­ted sui­cide in 2015. RIGHT: Pete was a fan­tas­tic fa­ther, friends say. Af­ter his wife’s death he’d of­ten take ex­tended leave to spend time with his kids.

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