Date set for Griquatown judgment

steenkamp ext family DFA Family members of the Steenkamps. Picture: Danie Van der Lith

Kimberley - Judment in the Steenkamp murder trial will be handed down in the Northern Cape High Court on Thursday morning. This follows closing arguments in court on Tuesday.

A 17-year-old boy is accused of killing Deon Steenkamp, 44, his wife Christel, 43, and their daughter, Marthella, 14, on their farm Naauwhoek near Griquatown.

He is also accused of raping Marthella and defeating the ends of justice. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

On Tuesday the defence maintained that there had to be another explanation for Marthella’s genital injuries other than sexual penetration.

Legal representative for the accused, Riaan Bode, had to withstand stern questioning from Northern Cape High Court Judge President Frans Kgomo, who informed him that his (Bode’s) speculations were not helpful.

Bode reminded the court that his client was traumatised on the night of the murders, which were committed almost two years ago on April 6 2012.

He indicated that certain legal processes were omitted, including when the accused made a statement to the police and was sent for medical tests without a legal representative.

Bode pointed out that the accused’s former legal team had made the assumption that Deon had raped Marthella and that this was not upon the instruction of the accused.

He believed that the accused should have been confronted about the sexual penetration charge on the witness stand.

“The evidence of the forensic pathologist was that the red area could be due to the quality of the photographs (the redness), masturbation or an infection while the object used for the sexual penetration (a male organ or a finger) remains debatable. It was also suggested that it could have been a ‘quickie’. There was no DNA to support the rape charge against the accused,” Bode said.

He suggested that the .357 revolver, used during the murders, ran out of bullets after the other deceased were shot when questioned by Kgomo as to why the attacker had tortured Marthella when, in stark contrast, Deon and Christel, were shot in cold blood.

“Marthella was not mortally wounded after the first shot and could have fought off her attackers.”

Bode speculated that due to the inability of the police to lift identifiable fingerprints from the murder scene or the murder weapons, it could be deduced that someone else was possibly responsible for the murders.

“There must have been fingerprints on the safe and the tables. Nor were any fingerprints belonging to any of the family members found. Only Marthella’s fingerprints were discovered on a drinking glass. The state’s case relies on circumstantial evidence.

“The accused only picked up the weapons at the gate and took them to the police station.”

He suggested that the attacker could have crept into the house while the family was watching game earlier in the evening on the hill.

“It is a big house with a big living area. The intruder could have come into the house, collected the weapons, left and later returned to the house armed. It is not that unusual and it was reported during the trial that the dogs were barking on occasion.”

Bode added that, as a young teenager of slight build, the accused would not have been able to fend off Deon who was 1,8 metres tall, strong and weighed 85 kilogrammes.

“No blood splatters belonging to Deon were found on the accused’s T-shirt. Fingerprints should have been found on the murder weapons that were handled by him. Epidural cells on the weapons that were sent for analysis proved to contain contaminated DNA. The accused is being prejudiced as the court never considered other possibilities.”

He believed that the absence of conclusive fingerprint markings, implied that someone else could have been on the farm on that fateful night.

“The jacket worn by Deon was never sent for DNA or blood tests and if foreign matter was found, it could have led to the identification of the attacker.”

Bode pointed out that the jacket seemed out of place as the rest of the family was wearing summer T-shirts, shorts or denim skirts.

Kgomo stated that no evidence was presented to prove that the forensic photographs were meddled with.

“The forensic pathologists, Dr Trompie Els and Dr Lemaine Fouche, did a thorough job and the fact that, regardless of the object used, the use of any foreign object can be classified as rape. There were also scratch marks on Marthella’s body that were indicative that her underwear was pulled in a downward motion.”

Kgomo added that there was no one else with whom Marthella could have come into contact with in the period leading up to her death, apart from the people who were on the farm.

“It was established that none of the farm workers were responsible for the rape. Who else could it have been,” he asked.

Kgomo indicated that he expected further evidence to be led around the allegation that Deon had raped Marthella, although it never materialised.

“Marthella was the second person who was shot. She went out to the grassy embankment at the back of the house. She was so weak that she was not even able to call for help.”

He found it difficult to believe that an intruder would have entered the house unnoticed, where only a dumb criminal would have arrived unarmed, only to leave the murder weapons at the front gate.

Kgomo pointed out that everyone treated the accused with sympathy upon his arrival at the police station, while the accused was preoccupied with sending text messages to his friends about the deaths of the Steenkamp family members, asking if he should inform his other acquaintances as well.

“The accused was only considered a suspect when he was arrested four months after the incident. His legal representatives saw to it that the legal prescripts were followed.”

State advocate Hannes Cloete said that the accused was treated fairly at all times and was never “thrown to the wolves”.

Cloete pointed out that the accused had identified himself as a suspect long before the police had linked him to the crimes.

“He sent a text message to his friend predicting that the police would not find another suspect. His family members were advised not to speak to him about the murders two days after they were committed. The people closest to him had a premonition that something was not right.”

He described the accused as lying to the court when he denied having heard Marthella’s screams when she was tortured by her attackers, while he claimed to be hiding in the shed.

“He also confused the court by saying that Marthella’s body was moved after she had collapsed due to her injuries.”

Cloete stated that both forensic pathologists who testified had agreed that Marthella was a victim of forced sexual penetration, although this did not exclude the use of objects.

“The defence consulted with their own pathologist regarding the rape charge and at no point did the accused indicate that he did not understand the charge.”

Cloete added that far from being a tranquil household that night, the accused had admitted that he had been involved in an argument with Marthella.

He found no fault with the manner in which the police had handled the crime scene.

“The police immediately followed up on all possible leads. The crime scene was reconstructed and no one was allowed inside the house until the necessary evidence was collected. I don’t know how the crime scene was contaminated. It was the version of the accused that the lights inside the house were on while the lights in the shed were switched off.”

Cloete highlighted how the accused had washed his hands on at least two occasions after the murders were committed.

“Deon was shot with a powerful weapon that would have rendered him incapacitated. The bullet wound resulted in the blood running down his body in a linear fashion and would not have spurted onto the accused’s shorts.”

He was of the opinion that taking blood or DNA samples from Deon’s jacket would not have brought the court to any other conclusion.

“The jacket was covered in Deon’s blood and there was no sign of a struggle.”

He highlighted how three experts including a pathologist, a ballistic and blood splatter analyst that the defence had consulted with, were never called to the stand.

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