Expert frustrates Dewani lawyer

2014-10-22 21:00
(Picture: AP)

(Picture: AP)

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Cape Town - A police ballistics expert called by the State in Shrien Dewani's murder trial on Wednesday seemed to cause much exasperation and frustration during cross-examination.

Pieter Botha, for Dewani, peppered Warrant Officer Pieter Engelbrecht with an array of questions about how he arrived at his ballistic results and stood incredulously when given the answers, often stating: "Are you serious?"

Engelbrecht's testimony in the Western Cape High Court in Cape Town had focused on how he compiled three re-enactment videos showing how Shrien's wife Anni Hindocha was potentially shot in a hijacked vehicle.

He also testified about the measurements he took from the original vehicle, a vehicle similar to that one at a later stage, and the measurements of convicted killer Xolile Mngeni's arms.

His latest ballistics report, which incorporated two earlier reports, was only compiled and handed to the defence on Tuesday evening.

Botha asked how Engelbrecht measured Mngeni's arms when he visited him at Goodwood Prison at the weekend, a day before he died from a brain tumour.

"Mr Mngeni, he appeared to be very ill and he was in a wheelchair... I tried as much as possible not to put him under pressure. I just took the measurements of his arm," Engelbrecht replied.

He measured from Mngeni's underarms to his fingertips, which was 72cm on the right hand side and 74cm on the left hand side.

"Somebody who was gripping the pistol; should you not have taken the measurement to his palm?

"How does a measurement to the fingertips indicate to you the length of a fired shot?" the lawyer asked him.

Engelbrecht conceded that it would have been better if he had measured to the middle of the palm.

"I did not realise the arm length of Mr Mngeni would be that critical," he said.

Dewani is accused of the murder of his wife during their honeymoon in Cape Town in November 2010. He has pleaded not guilty to the five counts against him, maintaining that the couple were the victims of a hijacking on 13 November 2010.

Staged hijacking

The State alleges that he conspired with others to stage the hijacking in return for R15 000.

Her slumped body was found in the abandoned shuttle taxi in Khayelitsha the following day.

Botha referred to a fresh set of photo re-enactments Engelbrecht compiled and wanted him to concede that a shooter in the front seat would not have been able to shoot to the rear as depicted.

The witness said he could not concede to that as he believed he himself would still be able to turn with a firearm in his left hand and point it backwards.

"I am going to put it to you Mr Engelbrecht: This is a very clear indication that you are miles away from being an objective expert witness, miles away, because you do not concede something that any person, a child looking at these photographs, would concede," the lawyer replied.

Deputy Judge President Jeanette Traverso interrupted the cross-examination at times to remind Engelbrecht to directly answer the question.

Botha referred to an affidavit of the more senior ballistics expert, Sergeant Serfontein, who was initially assigned to the case and who Engelbrecht shadowed.

Engelbrecht commissioned the affidavit in 2010.

In the affidavit, Serfontein said he had positively linked the cartridge with a .38 special Rossi revolver.

It was common cause that Dewani was shot dead with a Norinco pistol.

When Botha asked where the revolver came from, the witness replied: "I don't have any knowledge, my lady... I wonder whether he did not make a mistake on it."

He said he was not aware of any corrections despite being the commissioner of oaths.

"We all make mistakes on our statements and we also do some corrections. I really can't remember."

The policeman looked relieved when court adjourned for the day and he could exit the stand.

Traverso said the trial would not resume on Thursday because of Diwali and postponed it until Monday.

Dewani looked relaxed as he picked up his bundle of notes and walked back down to the holding cells.

Read more on:    anni hindocha  |  shrien dewani  |  cape town  |  dewani trial

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