Cape Town – Although she stressed the importance of following Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), DNA expert Dr Antonel Olckers was questioned at length in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday over her refusal to sign a required confidentiality agreement when she accepted police forensic laboratory documents.
The confidentiality agreement states that the receiver must not disclose any information received from forensic science laboratory, about the laboratory, about its reports and information gathered.
Olckers, the first expert witness to testify for murder-accused Henri van Breda, said she read through the agreement but would not sign because it was "too wide".
The agreement also states that the information cannot be used for one’s own benefit.
This, Olckers said, meant that she could not be paid for the case.
She added that the only commissioners of oath present at the time she was expected to sign the agreement were members of the forensic science laboratory. She wasn’t comfortable asking them to act as witnesses to the signing, she said.
Judge Siraj Desai asked why Olckers could not take the document to a different commissioner of oaths and delete sections she didn’t agree with.
She responded that she would do so in the future.
But State advocate Susan Galloway said Olckers’ refusal created the impression that she was willing to comply with SOPs “as far as it suits [her]”.
Desai also questioned Olckers’ request for SOPs after Galloway pointed out that only the DNA paper trail dealt with the scientific analysis of the results.
He asked her if it was to check scientific veracity or “allow the defence to widen its attack”.
She responded that the SOPs describe how the laboratory should have performed its analysis and allow her to verify if the results are scientifically valid.
“I’m not here to attack the State,” she testified.
The court heard that Olckers had been criticised in a previous case because she had not known the specific laboratory’s SOPs. This is why she now requests it.
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 clothing, was behind the attack. He said he had heard voices of people speaking Afrikaans in their home in the De Zalze Estate in Stellenbosch in January 2015.
Van Breda claimed that the axe-wielding intruder, who also had a knife, escaped.
The trial continues on Wednesday.
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