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A “minute detail” is what makes a forensic handwriting expert adamant that Acting Judge Patrick Maqubela’s will was, “in all likelihood”, forged.
Colonel Marco van der Hammen was cross-examined on Monday, a week and a half after he gave his evidence-in-chief.
The acting judge’s widow, Thandi, and her co-accused Vela Mabena are accused of murdering him. She also faces two extra charges for allegedly altering her husband’s R20 million will.
Van der Hammen told the court on August 29 that there had been “significant differences” between specimens of Acting Judge Maqubela’s signature and the one on his will.
He concluded, therefore, that the signature under question was, “in all probability”, forged.
However, following his testimony, Maqubela’s defence lawyer, Marius Broeksma, reserved his cross-examination and gave Van der Hammen 15 additional specimens of the acting judge’s signature to inspect.
Van der Hammen had already had 50 specimens from around the time of Maqubela’s death in June 2009.
The 15 additional specimens were older examples of his signature, ranging within the period between 2001 and 2005.
Broeksma questioned Van der Hammen over similarities between these new specimens and the contested signature on the will.
However, during his cross-examination on Monday, Van der Hammen stuck to his initial finding.
He pinpointed one “significant difference” that he believed made the contested signature stand out from the 15 specimens Broeksma had given him.
This was that the signature on the will had had a “flying finish” - a release of pressure during a pen stroke, causing it to taper off.
None of the new specimens had had “flying finishes”, which he said was a very important difference.
“As minute as it may be, those are the conspicuous details that forgers will overlook,” Van der Hammen said.
Broeksma questioned Van der Hammen on how the acting judge’s frame of mind in 2009 might have affected his signature.
“Evidence will be led that when the 2009 signatures were made, the late judge was experiencing a very intense period in his life,” Broeksma said.
He also asked Van der Hammen whether he could discount the possibility that someone could revert to an older form of their signature.
Van der Hammen acknowledged that there were a range of factors - such as fatigue, alcohol, haste and emotional stress - that could cause variations in a person’s signature.
But, he said it was unlikely that the acting judge had reverted to an older signature because, as a judicial officer, he would have signed many documents.
Also, while he had encountered people reverting to older versions of their signatures before, he had never come across someone who had reverted to their signature from three to five years ago.
Acting Judge Maqubela was alleged to have been suffocated to death on June 5, 2009. His body was discovered in his Bantry Bay flat two days later.
It has previously emerged in court that two of the acting judge’s children from previous relationships were left out of his will, while his wife’s daughter from a previous relationship - whom he had never legally adopted - was cited as a beneficiary. - Cape Times