Croeser breaks down viewing pictures in court

2011-09-01 00:00

FORMER dog unit police officer, Morne Croeser (34) charged with murdering his wife, Erika, at their home in Albert Falls on August 28 last year, lost his composure and broke down yesterday when the court viewed harrowing photographs depicting the injuries sustained by his late wife.

The photographs, displayed on a large screen, were referred to by Dr Nonhlanhla Shamase, who conducted the post mortem on Erika Croeser’s body.

She gave detailed descriptions of each of the fourteen stab wounds and puncture wounds inflicted on Croeser’s face, neck and left hand by her killer, and expressed the view that “significant” force was used to inflict some wounds though none had passed through bone.

The deepest wound was 95 mm deep indicating that a knife at least that length was used.

The court was shown a black handled knife with a long, tapering blade ending in a very sharp point which Shamase confirmed could have been the weapon used.

The defence yesterday obtained the services of specialist forensic pathologist Dr Reggie Perumal to sit in on the medical testimony.

Before the evidence, state advocate Irene Neyt warned that the photographs could be upsetting for family members or sensitive members of the public and Judge Esther Steyn gave people a chance to leave the courtroom if they did not want to view them.

Croeser sat motionless for much of the early testimony, resting his face on his arms in front of him and gazing stoically at the screen. However, he became emotional as time went on and lowered his head to wipe the tears from his eyes.

The judge became aware of his distress and, although Croeser indicated that the evidence could proceed, she decided soon afterwards to adjourn to enable him to compose himself.

Croeser appeared tense for most of the day and frequently closed his eyes while listening to the evidence.

The first police officer at the scene of the murder, Constable Nolan Wallace of Cramond, told of finding Croeser kneeling next to his wife holding her hand and crying. Croeser had kept asking how Erika was, said Wallace.

“He then asked me to take this thing out of him,” he said.

He said Croeser lay back and lifted his sweater and he could see a knife with a black handle stuck in his abdomen.

While showing him the knife Croeser carried on holding Erika’s hand.

“I told him that I couldn’t take the knife out, but the paramedics were on the way. He kept asking about Erika and so I checked her pulse, but I couldn’t feel anything at that time,” Wallace said.

He said the knife was removed by the paramedics, who had arrived quickly.

Wallace said on arrival at the house they found the front door and security gate to the house wide open and called out for Croeser, but he didn’t answer.

On reaching the kitchen he saw Croeser kneeling next to Erika in an enclosed verandah.

Wallace said they had asked Croeser what had happened but he didn’t answer as he was “still crying heavily”.

Wallace said most rooms in the house seemed “neat”, but the wardrobe door in one bedroom was open and “some stuff” lay on the floor.

The Croeser’s former neighbour, Gideon Nkabinde, testified he was awoken in the early hours of that morning by the noise of a security gate rattling as if it was being shaken.

He then heard a wardrobe fall and thereafter the “extremely loud screams” of a woman. She screamed three times and then a gunshot went off, he said.

Nkabinde said he heard Morne Croeser’s voice shouting out his name. Nkabinde phoned the police.

He and the other security officials did not enter the Croeser’s house and waited outside for police.

The trial is proceeding.

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