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Pretoria - If convicted, the alleged axeman, former Blue Bulls flanker Joseph Ntshongwana, must be dealt with as a serial killer - a danger to society who could not be “fixed” because no one knew what triggered his alleged violent killing sprees.
This was the essence of Wednesday’s evidence by Professor Gerard Labuschagne, an expert on serial killers who also holds the rank of brigadier and is head of the police’s psychological investigations section.
He was testifying in the Durban High Court trial in which Ntshongwana is facing four murder charges - in which it is alleged he hacked off his victims’ heads with an axe which he hid in a disused dog kennel at his Yellowwood Park home - and two attempted murder and rape charges.
Ntshongwana has pleaded not guilty to all the charges and claims not to remember anything about the incidents which took place in November 2010 and March 2011.
His defence is that he is seriously mentally ill, his expert Professor Abubaker Gangat saying he suffers from a delusional disorder.
But three psychiatrists who observed him after his arrest have all said the planning of the crime, the covering up afterwards and his fleeing the scenes when challenged, showed he must have known what he was doing was wrong.
Labuschagne, who is also a qualified psychologist and has worked on more than 100 serial killer investigations, said he had first seen Ntshongwana after his arrest at the end of March 2011 when he was called by investigating officer Lieutenant-Colonel Jason McGray.
“I believed, from the information given to me regarding the crimes, that the cases were of a serial nature and after the arrest I came down.
“While we were waiting for McGray to come and take the warning statement, I chatted to him (Ntshongwana) in the presence of his attorney. I did not notice anything abnormal about his behaviour.
“I also noticed that while the statement was being taken he was quite willing to answer questions except for those possibly involving the case.”
Labuschagne said only one serial murderer in South Africa had ever been found unfit to stand trial and “we do not see mental illness as a cause of this behaviour”.
In the case of Ntshongwana, he said, he could not see a nexus between the crimes and the mental illness.
“From the evidence I would venture the opinion that he knew what was he was doing.”
The case before Acting Judge Irfaan Khallil is continuing.