Court hears of mortuary's problems in murder trial

2014-11-03 17:19
Brett Williams.

Brett Williams.

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Durban - KwaZulu-Natal's primary mortuary for post mortem exams has not had a working X-ray machine for three years, the Durban Magistrate's Court heard on Monday.

This emerged during cross-examination of the doctor who carried out the post mortem on former Royal Marine Brett Williams, during the trial of his alleged killers.

Dr Ashley Hammond told the court that although he had not deemed it necessary to X-ray Williams, he would not have been able to do so at the Durban's Gale Street mortuary.

Christo van Schalkwyk, for murder-accused Blayne Shepard, aged 23, and his brother Kyle, aged 25, was asking Hammond why Williams was not X-rayed.

"I am happy with what I found. If there was any doubt I could have requested an X-ray. The X-ray facility at the Gale Street mortuary has not functioned for the past three years."

He said bodies would have to be sent either to Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital or another service provider.

Earlier Van Schalkwyk accused Hammond of failing to meet the standards set down in a manual for personnel carrying out post mortems at state mortuaries.

Van Schalkwyk said this after it emerged that Hammond had failed to fill in Williams's name on the forms on which he noted his findings.

"Your autopsy fell short of the required standards", said Van Schalkwyk.

The Shepard brothers, along with Andries van der Merwe, aged 23, and Dustin van Wyk, aged 23, each face a charge of murder, three of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, and one of crimen injuria.

Evidence

They are accused of beating Williams to death outside Durban's Kings Park stadium on the night of 23 March 2013, after the Sharks beat the Melbourne Rebels in a Super Rugby match.

The court previously heard that Williams had been in a fight with Grant Cramer, a friend of Blayne Shepard. During that scuffle Cramer allegedly held Williams in a choke hold before dropping him to the ground unconscious.

The court heard last week that violent shaking tore small blood vessels in Williams's brain, causing a blood clot that killed him.

"His head must have been shaken around violently. It was probably a violent and sudden shaking of the head that caused it", Hammond said during his evidence-in-chief on Thursday.

Under cross-examination Hammond told the court that when he carried out a post mortem he dictated his findings to a scribe, who took notes. He said he would sign off the scribe's notes afterwards.

On 28 March 2013, he recalled he had performed three or four post mortems, including that of Williams, before he signed off on the hand-written notes.

He conceded it was possible that if the scribe had missed or not heard something he said, it was also possible for him to miss it.

It emerged during his evidence-in-chief that various bruises on Williams's body were not noted in the post mortem report.

Hammond said often the notes police wrote on a form, called a SAPS 180, and were "incomplete and unsatisfactory". The SAPS 180 is intended to help those performing post mortems to know what happened to a victim.

Hammond said he had not seen Williams's body before his clothes were removed or his body hosed down in preparation for the post mortem.

Van Schalkwyk questioned why this was so because "the clothing is of utmost importance" in obtaining clues.

He questioned the fact that the body had not been photographed before being hosed down.

Read more on:    brett williams  |  durban  |  crime

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