Marine murder: 3 pieces of evidence could not be used

2015-07-01 18:14
Brett Williams

Brett Williams

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Durban - Blayne Shepard, 25, accused of murdering former Royal Marine Brett Williams at a rugby match two years ago, was found guilty of culpable homicide on Monday.

Williams was killed at Kings Park Rugby Stadium after a match between the Sharks and the Melbourne Rebels two years ago.

Durban Regional Court Magistrate Trevor Levitt found that Williams had been kicked to death, but the State had not proved that the intention had been to kill him.
The seasoned magistrate relied heavily on the testimony of eyewitnesses coupled with the expert evidence from three doctors.

Here are some of the key aspects Levitt could not rely on when arriving at his guilty verdict in a case that gripped the city and made international headlines. 

• The Kirsten Cooper factor: Sister to Sharks rugby star Kyle Cooper, Kirsten was in a relationship with key state witness Grant Cramer and was present during the fight which led to Williams’ death but was not called as a witness.

In a statement, Cooper said: “The guard and the medics were pushing everyone when the deceased appeared to lose his balance and fell to the ground with a thud. It looked like he hit the edge of the trailer, and I never saw him move after that.”

While the defence argued that the state had failed to call Cooper as a key witness, Levitt found that they had every opportunity to call her as a defence witness and opted out.  “If this version or possible defence was so important to the case of the accused, who seemed intent on establishing an explanation for the injury of the deceased, even though there was no obligation in law to do so, then he was free to call her [as a witness].”

Her statement, referred to in questions posed to other witnesses, is hearsay and untested. 

• The missing blood sample: A sealed container that was sent with Williams' blood sample to the forensic laboratory for a toxicology report was returned empty with no sample in it.

“The court believes that the blood analysis would have assisted the court the most in confirming the blood-alcohol level of the deceased, a fact that may be in line with his obnoxious and confrontational attitude that the court has identified from the evidence of several witnesses," Levitt said in his judgement.

"It does not find that the embarrassing disappearance of the blood from within its still intact and sealed vial can be said to have prejudiced either the prosecution or the defence…”

• The CCTV footage: A copy of footage from security cameras at the stadium was admitted into evidence with Levitt remarking: “As an exhibit it is of no assistance to any of the parties insofar as the actual assault on the deceased are concerned due to the poor lighting and focussing… there were no cameras focussed directly as the scene of the crime at the tractor shed.”

In his judgement, the magistrate said that defence attorney Christo van Schalkwyk had lamented the fact that the original video had gone missing.

"In all of this the court does not forget that the accused bears no onus whatsoever to establish his innocence, the burden resting throughout on the state.

“In this trial there is indeed alternative evidence in the form of eyewitnesses.”

Read more on:    durban  |  crime

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