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No gunpowder on teen’s hands

Crime & Courts

Kimberley - No gunpowder residue was found on the hands of the 16-year-old boy, accused of killing three members of the Steenkamp family on their farm near Griquatown a year ago.

Deon Steenkamp, 44, his wife Christel, 43, and daughter Marthella, 14, were shot several times on the farm Naauwhoek on April 6 2012.

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Seen here is the farmhouse at Naauwhoek. Picture: Lizéll Muller

The investigating officer, Colonel Dick de Waal, told the Northern Cape High Court in Kimberley yesterday that the residue test was performed at the Griquatown police station shortly after the murders.

He pointed out that two of the accused’s T-shirts did, however, test positive.

Gunpowder residue was found on the T-shirt worn by the accused when he arrived at the police station as well as a T-shirt covered in blood that was recovered from the house the following day.

Residue tests conducted on the bodies of the deceased all tested negative.

“The weapons, a .22 and .357 calibre firearms, discovered at the scene belonged to Deon and Christel,” he said.

De Waal, who retraced the accused’s movements step by step in court yesterday, timed the entire chain of events within a time frame of 24 minutes and 16 seconds.

“If the accused had waited a further ten minutes in the shed after hearing the second round of shots, it would increase the time to up to 30 minutes.”

He indicated that he travelled in his bakkie from the farm to the police station at 60 kilometres per hour, as the road was covered with sharp rocks.

Seven cell phones were confiscated from the Steenkamp home as well as from the accused.

All the phones were contracted to MTN, who confirmed that there was cell phone reception on the farm that day.

“According to cell phone records, Christel was the last person to send an SMS on April 6 at 6.34pm to her sister, Marietha, about flights between Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth. The Griquatown police station’s records show that they were alerted about the crime at 6.47pm ... 13 minutes after the message was sent,” he stated.

He said transactions involving the sale of livestock shortly before the murders took place, where the accused indicated that Deon was owed large amounts of money, did not produce any positive leads.

De Waal also ruled out the possibility of a revenge attack on the family and indicated that the crime scene did not resemble a farm attack.

“They were well-loved by the community. The former farm worker, who the accused claimed stated that if there was ever a farm attack in Griquatown, the Steenkamp family would be targeted, only had praise for Deon.

“Deon’s father, Don Steenkamp, informed us that his (the worker’s) services were terminated after sheep and equipment went missing from the farm.”

He pointed out that the object of a house breaking was usually to steal items of value.

The accused’s list of missing items included cash in the large safe, his father’s knife, keys and the angle grinders from the safe.

De Waal said the angle grinders were retrieved by farm workers on April 7 2012.

“During a farm attack the landline phones are severed to cut off all forms of communication. In this case, the line was still operational, although the receiver was left off the hook.

“It does not make sense that the intruder took several R100 notes out of a bag and put the rest in the back of the safe. The robber would have had to remove the four loaded hunting rifles and then return the firearms to their original position.”

He added that the small safe was not disturbed and that no attempt was made to force it open.

“Items that are usually stolen during a housebreaking, such as cell phones, Christel’s handbag containing her cheque book, electronic equiptment, the television, farm equipment and laptops, were left untouched. There was no forced entry, broken windows, burglar bars or doors that were bent to gain access into the house. The deceased were not tied up and there was no sign of a struggle either inside or outside the house.”

Deon’s wallet contained R4 000 in cash while there was also money in Christel and Marthella’s wallets.

De Waal noted that there were not signs of any rummaging through drawers or chaos created inside the house during the alleged break-in.

He stated that he had never experienced any criminal leaving murder weapons behind at a crime scene.

“They take the weapons with them to defend themselves in the event of being pursued or confronted by the police.”

Forensic and ballistic experts from Cape Town and Pretoria as well as sniffer dogs combed the scene for clues, but could not find anything.

A leatherman knife, a cell phone, camera and wallet was confiscated from the accused when he was arrested on August 22 2012, at his hostel room at Grey’s College in Bloemfontein.

De Waal stated that a blood sample of the accused was later sent to the forensic laboratory in Pretoria.

He said that he was unable to obtain any fingerprints, either from the provincial or national Home Affairs offices in order to compare it to a fingerprint that was found on a glass discovered in the back yard.

The post-mortems were performed by the head of the state mortuary in Bloemfontein, as Kimberley did not have the necessary experts or facilities available.

State prosecutor Advocate Hannes Cloete added that the incident took place after two forensic pathologists had left the Northern Cape.

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