Fraud accused tracked to EL

Brenda Wardle appears in the Commercial Crimes Court in Port Elizabeth

After her fame during the Pistorius trial, Brenda Wardle faces prosecution herself, writes Kathryn Kimberley

A legal commentator, author, qualified nurse and law student who evaded court for more than a year conducted her own defence yesterday after she was finally nabbed for fraud.

It was the active Facebook account of Brenda Wardle, who became a household name when she provided international legal analysis on the Oscar Pistorius murder trial, that helped Port Elizabeth investigators track her down to her daughter’s home in East London.

It is alleged that Wardle, 56, defrauded an Eastern Cape family out of more than R500 000 between April 2009 and August 2013, by pretending to be a practising attorney and offering to assist them in having an imprisoned relative released on parole.

A warrant was issued for her arrest when she failed to appear in court.

Wardle was arrested on Thursday and brought before the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court yesterday.

After stating that she would conduct her own defence as she was more than qualified to do so, magistrate Lionel Lindoor reminded Wardle of the age-old saying “a man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client”.

Wardle responded that in this case she would just have to be the proverbial devil, as well as the devil’s advocate. She said she was worthy of the challenge and ready to hit the ground running.

She said she was arrested in an undignified manner in front of her distraught young grandchildren.

It is the state’s case that in April 2009, Wardle informed convicted murderer Stephanus van Aardt that she could have his 12-year prison sentence converted to correctional supervision.

She allegedly told him and his wife that she was an attorney specialising in the early release of prisoners and claimed there were substantial costs involved in bringing the application.

“I am adamant I am not guilty. The allegations are utter rubbish,” she told the court.

She said it was peculiar that the police had battled to get hold of her as she was very active on social media.

She said she had never had any intention of running away and the reason she had failed to attend court was because she suffered from severe hypertension.

“No one would aim to run away and then post on Facebook. I am not vying for the position of dumbest criminal.”

She said she could not afford to be detained in custody as she had published 24 books this year and needed to deliver on the orders placed.

But state advocate Tjaart van Zyl said if Wardle were released on bail, her criminal matter would never be finalised.

Taking the stand for the state, Colonel André Horak said Wardle was wanted in Gauteng in connection with two similar fraud cases.

“I don’t trust the accused. She has lied to me too many times.”

Lindoor will give his ruling on July 10.

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