Newsmaker – Roger Dixon: ‘I used my eyes, My Lady’

2014-04-20 15:01

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Roger Dixon admits that he knows nothing about ballistics, blood spatter, wound ballistics, light and sound.

But this didn’t stop the forensic geologist from confidently offering his opinion on each of these subjects before the North Gauteng High Court this week.

Dixon was savaged by prosecutor Gerrie Nel when he took the stand as a defence team expert in the Oscar Pistorius trial.

Perhaps his finest moment was revealing the details of a sound test ­designed to determine whether a cricket bat hitting a door could sound like a gunshot.

The intrepid geologist armed himself with a sound man and headed off to an open, outside area – not a bathroom, or even Pistorius’ home – and recorded himself hitting a door with a bat.

Defending his method, Dixon explained that other forensic experts were present. They even brought their wives, he told the court – a detail which gives new meaning to the idea of “date night”.

Nel took great delight in discovering that the sound man in question was actually a music producer. When it came to recording the gunshots for ­comparison, the court heard, the gun kept jamming and the music producer had to keep recording the shots individually, then electronically manipulate them to sound like rapid gunfire.

This part of the test, it emerged, was redone a week before Dixon took the stand. But he told the court he wasn’t present at this retest and had no idea how it was conducted.

He also tested the light at Pistorius’ home – supposedly as it would have been on the night the athlete shot Reeva Steenkamp dead. Nel found a ­problem with this, too. On the night of the shooting, it was new moon and so ­extremely dark. On the night of the test, though, it was full moon and a great deal lighter.

Asked what instruments he used to test the light, Dixon responded: “The instruments I used were my eyes.”

Then Dixon revealed that there may be a wound ballistic expert hiding in all of us, just waiting to emerge.

Pathologist Professor Gert Saayman, Dixon told the court, was wrong to find that Steenkamp ate two hours before she died and that the bruising on her back was caused by a second bullet missing her and ricocheting off the toilet wall.

He also disputed Saayman’s version that the mark on Steenkamp’s buttocks was caused by the bullet entering her hip. Instead, Dixon explained, it was the result of her falling on a magazine rack in the toilet.

Dixon has attended three postmortems during his career, whereas ­Saayman has personally conducted between 10?000 and 15?000.

He had a torrid time in court this week, but it was not Dixon’s first role in a high-profile murder case. He testified as an expert witness for the defence in Fred van der Vyver’s trial. Van der Vyver was accused of murdering his girlfriend, Stellenbosch University student Inge Lotz, in 2005.

Dixon identified marks on a glass that ultimately helped acquit Van der Vyver.

He testified this week that he was qualified to talk about “soil and all sorts of things” because he is a geologist working in a university laboratory ­analysing these materials.

He likes to take photographs, too, he told the court.

He testified that he does not own a television, hasn’t followed the trial on radio and doesn’t buy newspapers.

He is active on Facebook, though.

According to his Facebook page, Dixon is a man of varied musical tastes. He likes Beethoven, heavy metal, harp music and Meat Loaf.

On the third day of his testimony, his status update read: “Third day in court today. Let’s see how much of my credibility, integrity and professional reputation is destroyed. It is difficult to get belief in those who will not listen because it is not what they want to hear. After that, beer!”

Dixon told City Press that it really was his account and that the status ­update was meant to be light-hearted. But he said: “Perhaps in hindsight, posting that comment was a mistake.”

His Twitter account reveals that he’s a “mineralogist and forensic scientist, I grow clivias and other plants, have a Land Rover and a Trans Am. I live in a forest I planted myself.”

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