News24

Judge found days after his death

2012-10-23 22:34

Cape Town - Acting judge Patrick Maqubela was dead for four or five days before his body was found, a pathologist told the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday.

State pathologist Dr Sipho Mfolozi was testifying in the murder trial of the judge's widow Thandi Maqubela and her business partner Vela Mabena.

They have pleaded not guilty before Judge John Murphy, and claim Maqubela died of natural causes.

Mfolozi told the court he noticed a "faint odour of decomposition" when he entered the bedroom of the judge's Bantry Bay apartment in the early evening of Sunday 7 June 2009.

He had been called to the scene by the investigating officer, Captain Etienne van Ede. Mfolozi said the curtains in the bedroom were drawn, and the judge was lying on his left side on the bed. Mfolozi noticed the face was swollen, and there was blood near his mouth, nose, and left ear.

Mfolozi noticed early signs of decomposition, and estimated the body had been there four or five days.

He said the captain told him no foul play was suspected, and that nothing was missing from the apartment.

Van Ede wanted to know if the judge had died of natural causes.

Mfolozi said the blood on the judge's face could have been caused by diseases such as tuberculosis or cancer, but a post mortem had revealed that the judge had been in good health at the time of his death.

Mfolozi said the post mortem revealed the blood was from his lungs.

Asked by prosecutors Bonnie Currie-Gamwo and Pedro van Wyk whether suffocation could have caused the bleeding, Mfolozi replied: "I think it can."

Mfolozi explained that suffocation would have damaged the lungs, which could have caused the bleeding.

The State alleges the judge was suffocated with plastic cling-wrap placed over his face.

Mfolozi said the cause of death could not be established by the post mortem alone, and that other procedures were also introduced.

He told the court: "There was haemorrhaging in the lungs, which was the cause of the blood on the face, but there was no pathology in the lungs to explain the bleeding."

The trial continues on Thursday.