‘Strange features’ in Croeser stabbing

2011-09-05 00:00

MORE gruesome evidence was presented in the high court in Pietermaritzburg on Friday in the prosecution’s bid to prove that police dog handler Morne Croeser murdered his wife, Erika, by stabbing her 14 times and that a stab wound to his stomach was self-inflicted.

Chief police forensic analyst Lieutenant-Colonel Ian van der Nest told Judge Esther Steyn and her assessor that multiple stab wounds inflicted on Erika Croeser were bunched close together on both sides of her neck, “which any child knows is a most sensitive area”. This, Van der Nest said, showed that her attacker was intent on killing her.

The attack was bungled, however, in the sense that the killer missed all major arteries and didn’t immediately incapacitate her.

The injury that needed the most force was a stab wound going in above her left cheekbone and coming out in her upper lip on the opposite side of her face.

Van der Nest said he believed this injury caused the knife blade to bend and possibly broke the handle.

The public — warned in advance about gruesome photographs displayed on a large screen — watched as Van der Nest demonstrated by using a fake head how Erika was most likely stabbed in the face.

He said he didn’t think the blade would have bent when it stabbed Croeser himself, because it only went through his muscle, fat and soft tissue.

Van der Nest also didn’t believe the knife handle broke while Croeser fought the attacker because he said he found no blood on the broken-off piece.

Another “strange” feature was the lack of any tear in Croeser’s shirt where he was stabbed, and very little blood.

He said he would have expected a “transfer of blood” to have taken place from the bloodied knife when Croeser struggled with the attacker.

Van der Nest said that from the lack of blood on Erika’s boots, he believed she fell when she was stabbed the first time and was then pinned down while the killer continued stabbing her.

Indications from blood patterns on the floor and on her clothing were that she lay on her stomach and buried her head in the crook of her arm.

There were “defensive” injuries, including a deep gash in her left hand, most likely caused by her grabbing the knife blade.

Van der Nest said it was strange that there were not defensive marks on both her hands and that if she had been surprised by an intruder she would have put both her hands up to defend herself.

Van der Nest conducted a forensic examination of the crime scene months after the attack, aimed at detecting any blood that was missed.

He used two tests, one termed “blue star”, which reveals blood in a “blue-purple light” and can only be done at night. The second was a test for human blood.

Van der Nest said he was struck by the extreme quiet at the Croesers’ house at night and said an intruder in the house would have heard the couple approaching long before Erika Croeser entered.

He agreed, however, under cross-examination that if the television was on, the sounds of approach could have been masked.

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