Shaw trial: ‘Blood and bullets damning’

2009-06-04 00:00

OVER the next 12 days Pietermaritzburg high court Judge Vivienne Niles-Duner and an assessor will ponder all the available evidence to decide whether or not former Nottingham Road resident, Hilton Shaw (58) shot and killed his wife, Susan, at their home at Lake Lyndhurst on June 3, 2007.

Medical evidence led at the trial was that Susan Shaw bled to death from a contact bullet wound fired through three layers of clothing into the area just above her left armpit.

Forensic pathologist Dr Reggie Perumal said she was shot while leaning against the bathroom door to the main bedroom and that the muzzle of the gun would have been touching her. The wound severed an artery and vein and her body was drained of blood. He estimated she would have bled to death within 10 to 15 minutes.

Hilton Shaw has pleaded not guilty to her murder, and said he had left the house briefly to make his way to a spot about 300 metres from the house on the remote estate to get a cellphone signal. When he returned, he found his wife lying bleeding on the verandah.

Judge Niles-Duner said yesterday she hoped to be in a position to hand down judgment in the case on June 15.

Presenting legal argument yesterday, State advocate Dorian Paver urged the court to convict Shaw based on all the circumstantial evidence that has been presented by the State, the probabilities in the case and the testimony of two employees. The employees made certain observations while working on neighbouring properties that “gave the lie” to Shaw’s version of evetns. He said that even though Shaw was “intelligent” and gave evidence well, this did not mean the court should accept he was telling the truth.

Defence advocate Shane Matthews, however, submitted that Shaw was a good and “honest” witness and said the court can only convict him if it finds beyond a reasonable doubt that his evidence cannot possibly be true. He submitted that in the light of the available evidence it can’t do so, and argued that much of the evidence that was presented by the prosecution corroborated with Shaw’s version.

Matthews said although the medical evidence suggested it was unlikely Susan Shaw committed suicide, this possiblity also cannot be completely ruled out.

Paver submitted that all the evidence points to Shaw having been inside the house when his wife was shot. The only three possibilities were that he had shot her — possibly in the course of a domestic dispute — that she had shot herself , or that she was shot by a “notional intruder”, which he submitted was improbable for a number of reasons.

He suggested it was not likely that an intruder who had just shot Susan Shaw would have dropped the gun, as this would have enabled her to pick it up and defend herself. Nor was it likely he would leave behind the jewellery that was easily at hand in the bedroom.

He said for Susan Shaw to shoot herself in the manner she had been wounded, she would have had to be a “virtual contortionist” and the court should dismiss this possiblity.

Matthews, however, submitted that the known facts all support Shaw’s testimony.

It was not disputed that to use a cellphone at the property one had to leave the house. Also, from that point beyond a dense forest one could not hear a gunshot go off at the house and Shaw told his brother-in-law, Craig Bricknell, that on the day of the incident that he had gone to get SMS messages when his wife was shot.

The blood on Shaw’s clothing also corroborated his version that he had knelt at his wife’s side, and possibly wiped his hands on the back of his trousers and in this way got blood on his sleeves.

Blood found on the safe was also consistent with Shaw’s evidence that after finding his wife his first thought was that she had committed suicide and that when he could not see the firearm, he had gone to look for it in the safe.


Former Nottingham Road resident Hilton Shaw (58) (pictured) is accused of shooting and killing his wife, Susan, at their home at Lake Lyndhurst on June 3, 2007.

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