Irma Labuschagne dies

2009-07-09 16:06

Johannesburg - Renowned criminologist Irma Labuschagne has died, her family said on Thursday.

She died in the Wilgers Hospital, Pretoria, of lung cancer at the age of 70.

Labuschagne was to have testified for the defence in the sentencing of Krugersdorp schoolboy Morné Harmse, convicted of killing a fellow pupil with a sword, but a broken leg prevented her from going to court, said her close friend and colleague, advocate Johann Engelbrecht SC. That was in May.

She went home after five or six days in hospital, but remained largely bed-ridden. She was readmitted to hospital last Monday with an oxygen deficiency, Engelbrecht added.

One of the country's top forensic criminologists, Labuschagne had given evidence in numerous high-profile cases including those of the Skierlik shooter, Najwa Petersen and Mark Scott-Crossley.

Engelbrecht said that at the time of her death, Labuschagne had been assisting him on the case of Cézanne Visser, the woman dubbed Advocate Barbie, who stands accused of a range of sex crimes, and would have testified should Visser be convicted. In her long career, she also gave expert testimony in courts in the United States, the United Kingdom and Italy.

"I will remember her as a kind-hearted person who felt for the human being," said Engelbrecht, who started working with Labuschagne in the early 1990s.

"I'll remember her as a [humorous] person, a friendly person," he said.

"It is a very, very sad day."

Skierlik shooter

Called on by Engelbrecht to testify in mitigation of the sentencing of Skierlik shooter Johan Nel, Labuschagne told the court the 19-year-old could not remember much about the incident.

She testified that the seed of the events was planted in Nel's head long before he lashed out, and that the incident could have been much more catastrophic had his planning not been as poor.

She presented a 32-page pre-sentencing report to the court in the trial of Najwa Petersen for the murder of her entertainer husband, Taliep.

Labuschagne told the court Petersen had said she would rather die than give people the satisfaction of seeing her crumble.

The well-known forensic criminologist gave evidence in the sentencing of the so-called lion man, Mark Scott-Crossley, whose murder conviction was commuted on appeal to that of accessory after the fact to the murder of farm labourer Nelson Chisale.

She also testified in the trial of Pieter Viljoen, the man found guilty of slitting his five-month pregnant wife's throat from ear to ear, telling the court how he been invited to visit

Labuschagne held several degrees and lectured at the University of Pretoria, the University of SA and the Justice College, she also assisted the police and prison staff, serving on a correctional services risk profile management task team.

Rape crisis centre

She completed her doctoral thesis on expert evidence by the forensic criminologist with regard to sentencing in South African courts of law.

She was among the first criminologists ever to participate in the sentencing process and on her curriculum vitae, names as her mentor in this regard world renowned Justice Richard Goldstone.

Labuschagne was a director of the Pretoria Rape Crisis Centre for 12 years and founded the country's first rape crisis centre. She consulted to many rape crisis services throughout the country.