Van Breda expert witness never worked in forensic lab - State

2017-10-16 16:54
Dr Antonel Olckers. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Dr Antonel Olckers. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Cape Town - The expert DNA witness hired by Henri Van Breda’s defence team has never worked in a forensic laboratory, the Western Cape High Court heard on Monday.

Dr Antonel Olckers had a tough time on the stand on her first day of cross-examination, as prosecutor Susan Galloway dug into her credentials, pointing out that most of her expertise was in academia and administration.

During cross-examination, Olckers conceded that she had not written an independent report on the DNA evidence in the Van Breda murders, much to Judge Siraj Desai’s surprise.

It "would have been helpful" if she had drafted her report "before your mind was clouded", Desai told her, to which the defence objected.

AS IT HAPPENED: Are you asking for my recusal, asks judge in #VanBreda trial

Olckers said her report was a summary, as her scope had narrowed and "resources had dwindled".

"I reported on what I was given time to look at," she testified.

Olckers, who was mandated by the defence to assess the scientific validity of the SAPS reports, had sat in during chief forensic analyst Lieutenant Colonel Sharlene Otto’s testimony, passing notes and whispering to the defence advocate during cross-examination, Galloway recalled.

She confirmed she had submitted her report to the defence after Otto had testified and had been aware of the analyst’s testimony when she redrafted her report.

Judge left flabbergasted

There were eight weeks between Otto’s testimony and Olckers’ turn on the stand.

Olckers also testified that she disagreed with Otto that laboratory accreditation was "nice to have", insisting that accreditation was essential, as it showed minimum standards were in place and met.

The SAPS laboratories are not accredited, but this is not a legal requirement.

Desai questioned how essential accreditation was, asking if SAPS' lack thereof meant that all police laboratory results were not scientifically valid.

Olckers countered that, if the standard operating procedures were followed, it would be.

Galloway, however, pointed out that, according to the SAPS Act, the only requirement was that DNA analysis must be performed in accordance with quality management systems, which Otto said had been done.

Olckers appeared unaware of this, which left Desai flabbergasted.

"You're an expert in the field," he told her.

Concern over judge's 'demeanour'

Olckers said she was aware of the Act, but didn’t know that International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) guidelines were in the regulations.

She also confirmed that she had never done a proficiency test.  

Van Breda, 22, pleaded not guilty to axing his parents and brother to death, seriously injuring his sister Marli, and defeating the ends of justice.

He alleged that an intruder wearing a balaclava, gloves and dark clothes was behind the attack, and that he had heard other voices of people speaking Afrikaans in their home in the De Zalze Estate in Stellenbosch in January 2015.

Van Breda claimed that, after a fight with the axe-wielding intruder who was also armed with a knife, the man had escaped.

Van Breda, through Advocate Pieter Botha, on Monday raised his concern over Desai’s "demeanour" and the manner in which he was posing questions to Olckers, saying the judge was displaying irritation with the witness.

Desai asked Botha if he was asking for his recusal, to which Botha responded that the defence just wanted it to be placed on record.

The case resumes on Tuesday.

KEEP UPDATED on the latest news by subscribing to our FREE newsletter.

- FOLLOW News24 on Twitter

News24 (@News24) | Twitter

The latest Tweets from News24 (@News24). News24 is Southern Africa and Africa's premier online news resource reaching over 2.3 million local users each month.

Read more on:    henri van breda  |  siraj desai  |  cape town  |  van breda trial

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.