Vineshkumar Moonoo: the investigator

Lt-General Vineshkumar Moonoo is the police investigating officer in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial. (Graphic by Mary Alexander. Background image courtesy of Jonny Ross, Flickr)

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The chief investigating officer in Oscar Pistorius’s murder trial is veteran cop Lt-General Vineshkumar Moonoo, a detective with the South Africa Police Service (SAPS) for the past 29 years.

Moonoo was appointed divisional commissioner of the SAPS’s detective branch in 2011. In March 2013 he took over the Pistorius murder case from warrant officer Hilton Botha. At the time, police commissioner General Riah Phiyega described him as the “top detective” in the SAPS.

Botha was the original investigating officer in the case, but in Pistorius’s bail hearing he conceded that he had mishandled crucial evidence. His argument that Pistorius was a flight risk was also discredited by Barry Roux SC, Pistorius’s defence lawyer. It emerged at the time that Botha faced attempted murder charges for allegedly shooting at a taxi containing seven passengers in 2011, on the pretext that a criminal he and his colleagues were chasing was in the vehicle.

Moonoo, 53, is a career policeman who has worked his way up the ranks. He became a police trainee at the Wentworth Police College in 1981, and in 1982 he volunteered in the tracing unit. “In 1982, I volunteered to work in the tracing unit as there were eight cases of housebreaking and theft and theft of vehicles a day in Lenasia [in southern Johannesburg]. In my first month, we arrested 32 people and the rate of similar incidents dropped to one a week,” he told Sapa last month.

The normally media-shy Moonoo told the news agency that in Standard 8, or Grade 10, he knew that he wanted to become a policeman.

Only three years after completing Police College, he became a detective. He was subsequently stationed in Kliptown in Soweto, where he remained for a long time, eventually becoming area head for detective services.

He holds a national diploma in Police Administration and has also completed an executive development learning programme. His experience spans operational, line and support functions at executive level. Moonoo has headed up the general investigations at the Detective Service, and also held the positions of area head of the detective service in Soweto, section head of Evaluation, Monitoring and Operational Development, and component head for Organised Crime.

In 2002 he was appointed to head a division of the organised crime branch, and promoted to major general. In 2013 Phiyega appointed him to head a special task team to investigate some 250 robberies where the suspects had used police uniforms and police blue light vehicles, reports Sapa.

Moonoo has also been appointed to coordinate the investigation into a fatal bomb blast in November in Bedfordview in Johannesburg last year that killed two people. It took place at Czech fugitive Radovan Krejcir’s Money Point gold and diamond exchange business and is thought to be part of an ongoing battle between Krejcir and his associates.

After Moonoo was appointed to head the Pistorius investigation, Sapa reports that he calmly commented that the case would be “business as usual”. “He went on to say that the media contingent covering it had been ‘more persistent than I believe is necessary’, and promised not to allow the scrutiny to compromise the investigation.”

Moonoo declined to have his CV released after the appointment. He was a board member of the National Council for Correctional Services and he has served on the board of the Central Drug Authority. He currently represents the Africa region as a member of the board of Crime Stoppers International, a global network of 2 500 people working against crime. Since 1976 more than $10-billion in drugs and property has been recovered and more than one million people have been arrested, according to the website.