Leila Samodien

Justice Writer

BEES, or at least a substance produced by them, could be behind the death of Acting Judge Patrick Maqubela, his widow’s defence counsel has suggested.

Advocate Marius Broeksma cross-examined forensic pathologist Dr Sipho Mfolozi yesterday, questioning him about medication that had been found on the acting judge’s bedside table.

His body was discovered in the main bedroom of his Bantry Bay flat on June 7, 2009, two days after the State alleges he was murdered.

His widow, Thandi, standing trial in the Western Cape High Court with co-accused Vela Mabena, argues that he died of natural causes.

Mfolozi, a State witness, has previously testified that his post-mortem was not sufficient to determine the acting judge’s cause of death.

He did, however, rule out natural causes.

He found there had been a haemorrhage, caused by a “pressure injury”, in the acting judge’s lungs, resulting in his airspaces filling with blood.

Yesterday, Broeksma questioned Mfolozi about several causes of “sudden death” – as well as factors that might lead to it – which he might have “missed” when he performed his post-mortem.

One of these was anaphylaxis, a sudden and unexpected allergic reaction that could result in death.

Broeksma asked whether a person who had been stung by a bee could “suddenly and unpredictably” suffer an anaphylactic reaction, even if they had been stung several times in the past.

Mfolozi acknowledged that this was possible.

Such a reaction, he said, could be triggered by any chemical, drug or protein.

Broeksma then put it to him that a type of medication, Bee Propolis, had been found on Acting Judge Maqubela’s bedside table, which could have led to an allergic reaction.

He said that the product contained a substance that was produced by honey bees to fix their hives and contained antibiotic agents.

“There are recorded instances where people have shown allergic reactions to it,” said Broeksma.

He later suggested to Mfolozi that there were “medical studies that show” that the taking of Bee Propolis could trigger an anaphylactic reaction. Mfolozi said he was not in a position to dispute this.

However, he said that in the case of the acting judge, he hadn’t picked up any factors associated with anaphylaxis.

Broeksma suggested that an allergic reaction severe enough to be fatal could not necessarily be detected at the stage of a post-mortem, especially if the body was badly decomposed as Acting Judge Maqubela’s had been.

Mfolozi said it was possible.

In explaining anaphylactic reactions, Mfolozi said it could cause the airways to become obstructed, which could result in death. But he also said it did not directly cause bleeding of the lungs.

The State is to re-examine Mfolozi and requested a postponement to prepare. Judge John Murphy adjourned the trial until Monday.

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