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Oscar Pistorius case judge mourns

2/26/2013

JOHANNESBURG -- Last week, the judge who granted bail to
Oscar Pistorius was in the international spotlight, presiding over
dramatic hearings in a courtroom as the Olympic athlete sat in the
dock charged with murdering his girlfriend. This week, the judge is
in private mourning.

Desmond Nair, chief magistrate of the Pretoria Magistrate's
Court, confirmed Tuesday that he is related to a woman suspected of
killing her two children and committing suicide on the weekend.

The revelation was the latest twist in the saga of Pistorius and
prominent figures linked to the case against the double-amputee
athlete, who faces a charge of premeditated murder in the Feb. 14
shooting death of Reeva Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model who appeared
in a television reality show.

The bodies of a woman and her two sons were found Sunday evening
at their Johannesburg home by her ex-husband, police Warrant
Officer Balan Muthan said. Authorities suspect the woman
administered a substance that killed her children, and took her own
life by ingesting it as well.

"I can confirm the deceased is my first cousin," Nair told The
Associated Press in a telephone interview.

The woman's brother, Vishal Maharaj, identified her as Anusha
Maharaj. Police said Maharaj was her family name before she
married. South African media identified her as Anusha Mooljee.

Muthan said police suspect "she took her own life by ingesting
a substance that killed her," and that she "most probably" gave
the same substance to her children. Autopsies were conducted Monday
and toxicologists were analyzing the substance believed to have
killed the three family members.

Suicide notes were found and a murder investigation was
underway, Muthan said. He said copies of the notes were admitted as
evidence in the probe and declined to comment on the contents.

Eyewitness News, a South African media outlet, said the boys who
died were 12 and 17 years old and cited neighbor Claire Osment as
saying she rushed outside after hearing screams coming from the
townhouse where they lived.

"We asked what happened. The dad just said, 'She has killed my
boys.' He was just crying," Eyewitness News quoted her as saying.
"He couldn't believe it, he couldn't believe that his sons are
gone."

Nair, 44, has presided over a number of high-profile cases,
including the 2008 conviction on fraud charges of Sydney Maree, a
South African who took American citizenship and became a track star
in the United States; a 2011 plea agreement in which rugby player
Bees Roux received a five-year suspended prison sentence for the
beating death of a policeman; and inquiries into alleged misconduct
by magistrates around South Africa.

On Friday, Nair delivered a lengthy discourse on why he was
granting bail to Pistorius, including an assertion that prosecutors
had not argued persuasively that the Paralympian was a flight risk.
Nair criticized shortcomings in the state's investigation, but he
also said aspects of Pistorius' account of what happened were not
convincing.

Pistorius says he killed Steenkamp accidentally, opening fire
after mistaking her for an intruder in his home. Prosecutors
alleged he intentionally shot her after the couple had an argument.

Last week, the chief investigator in the case against Pistorius,
Hilton Botha, was removed from the inquiry after it was revealed
that attempted murder charges against him had been reinstated in
early February. The charges relate to a 2011 incident in which
Botha and two other police officers allegedly fired on a minibus.

In another surprise, a lawyer for the Pistorius family said
Sunday that Oscar's brother, Carl, faces a charge of unlawful,
negligent killing for a 2008 road death. That charge had also been
dropped and later reinstated.