Dewani trial: Analyst not budging on primer residue

2014-11-14 16:05
Anni Hindocha. (Jennifer Bruce, AFP)

Anni Hindocha. (Jennifer Bruce, AFP)

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Cape Town - A police forensic analyst testifying in Shrien Dewani's trial on Friday refused to concede that a person with gunshot particles on their hands probably fired a shot.

Colonel Thandiwe Mlabateki, the State's 16th witness, testified in her evidence in chief that when a shot was fired, primer residue particles were ejected through the openings of a firearm.

She said a positive primer residue result indicated that the person had fired a firearm, was within a two-metre radius of a shooting, or that there had been secondary transfer through the handling of a firearm, spent cartridge or gun holster.

In the present case, a portion of the yellow kitchen glove used in the shooting of Dewani's wife Anni had tested positive for primer residue.

The glove was worn by convicted killer Mziwamadoda Qwabe. Convicted gunman Xolile Mngeni was not wearing gloves and his hands were not tested for residue.


In cross-examination, Dewani's lawyer Pieter Botha asked if she knew that Qwabe had testified that he did not touch the firearm before or after the shooting. She replied that she did not.

"Would you agree with me that possible transference is therefore excluded?" he asked.
She conceded that this was correct.

Botha did not mention that Qwabe had testified about picking up the bullet casing in the vehicle after the shooting.

He said the police tested for primer residue between a person's thumb and index finger because that was closest to a firearm. One could reasonably conclude that a positive result indicated the person probably fired the shot.

Mlabateki disagreed.

Deputy Judge President Jeanette Traverso intervened and said one had to think of the probabilities, keeping in mind that "nobody knows exactly what happened".

"The conclusion is to say that that person was in the vicinity where that firearm was discharged. You cannot be bold to say that person fired a firearm," Mlabateki said.

19 years’ experience

Botha said he simply did not understand then why she taught forensic analysts to first test for primer residue in the web of the hand and not on another body part.

Mbaleteki, who has 19 years' experience in chemistry and 13 in primer residue analysis, deposed an affidavit on the primer residue on 4 January 2011.

Dewani is on trial for allegedly plotting with taxi driver Zola Tongo and others to kill his wife Anni while they were on honeymoon in Cape Town in November 2010.

He has pleaded not guilty to charges including kidnapping, murder and defeating the ends of justice.

He claims the couple was hijacked while Tongo was driving them through Gugulethu in his minibus on Saturday, 13 November.

He was released unharmed, but Anni was driven away. She was found shot dead in the abandoned minibus in Khayelitsha the next morning.

The State alleges he conspired with others to stage the hijacking in return for R15 000.

Dewani maintains that Tongo was to have helped him organise a surprise helicopter trip for Anni for R15 000.

Tongo is serving an 18-year jail term and Qwabe, a 25-year jail term.

Mngeni was serving life in jail for firing the shot that killed Anni, but died in prison from a brain tumour on 18 October.

The trial was postponed until Monday, when the State is expected to call its next witness.

Read more on:    shrien dewani  |  cape town  |  dewani trial  |  crime

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