Judge: Police did not do their job

2014-06-04 21:32


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Pretoria - A Bronkhorstspruit liquor shop manager sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his wife will hear next week if he is a free man.

A full bench of three High Court Judges in Pretoria on Wednesday reserved judgment on the matter until next Wednesday.

Albert van Vuuren, 45, has appealed against his conviction on a charge of murdering his wife, Monica.

During argument the judges had harsh words for the police and the way they had handled the investigation into the murder.

The frail-looking Mrs Van Vuuren died on her kitchen floor in July 2010 after being stabbed 25 times. She also had a broken neck and jaw.

Her death was, according to a pathologist, caused by a spinal injury and stab wounds to both sides of her chest which penetrated her heart, caused her lungs to collapse and resulted in a painful death.

She was stabbed a further six times after she had already died.

Van Vuuren testified that he had no recollection of the events of that night after using alcohol and a tranquilliser.

The trial court accepted the evidence of Van Vuuren's friend Gordon McCullum, who stayed with them.

He has testified that Van Vuuren was aggressive that night and later woke him up to tell him that he had killed his wife.

McCullum's jacket was full of blood, but he lied to a policeman, saying Van Vuuren had worn the jacket.

He claimed not to have a key to the house and could not explain the disappearance of R13 000 from a locked kitchen cupboard or who had tried to clean the scene of the murder after the police had locked up the house.

McCullum admitted to suffering from bipolar disorder, being in and out of psychiatric hospitals and regularly mixing copious amounts of alcohol with his psychiatric medication.

Judge Hans Fabricius said the police had for some reason not done any forensic investigation.

He asked why no one tried to find out where the stab wounds to Van Vuuren's head and hand came from and why he was not questioned about a statement to a witness that they had been attacked that night.

He said there were numerous mysteries in the case which were never cleared up.

"They found a man with a jacket full of blood and did not even bother to find out whose blood it was. The whole house was full of blood," Fabricius said.

"He [McCullum] used to drink half a litre of brandy and mixed it with his psychiatric pills. On his own evidence he did that for years.

"He wears a jacket full of blood, lies to the police about it and then to everyone's amazement he was found to be a reliable witness."

Fabricius questioned how this happened.

"Another man mysteriously disappeared without being seen again. Of course the police did not do their job at all. I think there has been a miscarriage of justice," he said.

Hannes Greeff, for Van Vuuren, said each police officer in the case had failed his or her duty almost 100%.

He argued that the finger pointed at McCullum as having something to do with the murder and trying to destroy evidence at the scene, but said the court need not find who had committed the murder in order to acquit Van Vuuren.

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