Shaw trial: Judge calls for climate testimony

2008-11-26 00:00

The judge presiding over the trial of wife-murder accused Hilton Shaw (58) has requested expert evidence relating to the climatic conditions and other environmental factors she feels are relevant to enable the court to arrive at a “just decision”.

Judge Vivienne Niles-Duner, sitting with an assessor, said some of the critical issues the court will decide on relate to what state witnesses Doris Ndlovu and Simon Madlala — who were working in the vicinity of the Shaw home on the day in question — “could or could not see or hear”.

She said at the time of the shooting it was mid-winter, and when an inspection in loco was undertaken by the legal representatives recently, considerable time had passed and it was now summer.

The case was adjourned until tomorrow to enable the state and defence legal teams to identify suitable experts to compile the report required.

The issues the court wants clarified include expert botanical evidence as to the type of trees standing between the house of Shaw’s neighbour, Mike Southwood, and the house and driveway of the accused, and whether they are deciduous or evergreen.

The judge also wants information relating to rainfall and its effect on the height and density of the trees in question, as well as information about the prevailing “climatic and environmental conditions” between 4 pm and 5 pm on the day Susan Shaw died, and the effects these conditions would have had on the visibility between the rooftop of Southwood’s house and Shaw’s homestead, as well as between the front garden of another neighbour — Kobus Kruger — and the Shaws’ house.

The court also wants to know what effects those climatic and environmental conditions would have had on the ability of people at relevant positions at both the Southwood and Kruger houses, and at the point where Shaw claims he was retrieving messages from his cellphone to hear sounds “such as a gunshot, dogs barking and human voices emanating from the accused’s house”.

Current indications are that the case is likely to be postponed till next year. A date will be decided tomorrow. Shaw has pleaded not guilty to murdering his wife and has suggested she may have been shot by an intruder.

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