Gerrie Nel is the State prosecutor trying to convict Oscar Pistorius of murdering Reeva Steenkamp
Gerrie Nel is the State prosecutor trying to convict Oscar Pistorius of murdering Reeva Steenkamp Reuters

Trying to convict Oscar Pistorius of murder is a lawyer who is as lauded by the South African legal profession as Bladerunner was in the world of athletics before he shot Reeva Steenkamp.

Gerrie Nel is a decorated senior counsel for whom "everything turns to gold," according to a colleague in the country's prosecuting authority. High praise indeed, but this skill has made Nel enemies and landed him in trouble before.

In 2008 he was arrested by 20 officers during a late-night raid while he was prosecuting South Africa's top policeman. Trumped up fraud charges against him were soon dropped and the corrupt senior officer was later jailed for 15 years, thanks to Nel.

Two years ago Nel was given an international special achievement award for his "fierce pursuit of the vision of the National Prosecuting Authority's ideals to achieve justice in society".

Such glowing praise paints Nel as the courtroom equivalent of the Canadian Mountie determined to always get his man, or the Wild West sheriff who chases down the outlaw to bring him into town to face justice.

Over the coming weeks, Nel shall focus all this determination and 30-plus years of legal experience on securing the murder conviction of one of the planet's most recognisable athletes.

If Nel lives up to his own high standards by achieving a guilty verdict, then Pistorius will spend a significant number of his remaining years behind bars.

A former colleague shed light on what makes Nel a special prosecutor in South Africa, saying: "He is... a prosecutor who, during my interaction with him, displayed a character of skilful prosecuting, a brilliant art of presenting evidence and one who is very patient with the witness.

"I've known him to be a very dedicated prosecutor and a very resourceful prosecutor," Mthunza Mhaga told You magazine.

Click here for a profile of Barry Roux, the lawyer hired at enormous expense by Pistorius to defend him against Nel.