Seasoned cop shocked by family’s murder
Kimberley - During the 15 years that he was employed at the Griquatown police station Warrant Officer Anthony Wildt said that he had never experienced “anything like it” when the Steenkamp family were brutally murdered on their farm.
The bullet ridden bodies of Deon 44, his wife Christel, 43, and their daughter, Marthella, 14 were discovered on the farm Naauwhoek, in the usually tranquil town of Griquatown in the Northern Cape on Good Friday last year.
Wildt, was manning the charge office in Griquatown on April 6 2012 when the accused - a 16 year old boy entered the police station in “an emotional state” where he was taken into one of the rooms “to calm down”.
The teenager who is in the custody of his guardians, has pleaded not guilty to three charges of murder, the rape of Marthella and defeating the ends of justice.
Wildt testified in the Northern Cape High Court on Friday how the accused was unable to “stand still” when he informed the police that the Steenkamp family had been murdered.
He stated that there was blood on the boy’s face, beneath his eyes and under his nose.
“There were scratch marks on the left side of the neck and blood on his both arms from the elbow down.”
The accused had provided a “reasonable explanation” when he claimed to have assisted Marthella “to stop the blood” while she was still inside the house, resulting in the transfer of the blood onto his pants.
The police were unable to detect any sign of a break in on the farm, on the night of the murder.
Warrant Officer Sebastiaan Mofokeng a detective from the Griquatown police station said that their informants had not come forward with any information regarding any intruders on the farm.
Mofokeng said he had found no sign of any persons, vehicles, tracks or footprints on the plot.
He added that other than an abandoned Nissan 1 400 bakkie that was found along the road to the farm, there was nothing “out of the ordinary”.
Tested conducted on what appeared to be palm prints on the back section of the vehicle and blood on the steering wheel, tested negative for human blood.
Naauwhoek farm workers, who were under the influence of alcohol “as it was a Friday evening” who were walking on foot, had indicated to the police that they had ridden in the vehicle until it had experienced a break down.
Mofokeng travelled in the direction of Niekershoop to establish if there were any other vehicles further up the road.
He requested Jo Scholtz from the local farmer’s association to alert the rest of the farming community of what happened, as the police were under the impression that it had been a farm murder, at the time.
“While waiting for the forensic team to arrive I personally took a walk around the premises to look for any suspects, vehicles or footprints but I did not find anything.”
Commanding officer of the Crime Scene Investigating Unit of the South African Police Service, Lieutenant André McAnda, who attended to the murder scene found Deon lying face down on the floor inside the house.
Judging from a blood smear near his head, it appears as if he was dragged a short distance on the ground following his death.
Bullet cartridges were found on his back, buttocks and on the floor next to his leg.
His arms and face was drenched in blood after the forensic team turned his body over.
Marthella and her mother, Christel, were found lying opposite each other on the floor in the living room.
One side of Marthella’s body was soaked in blood while Christel was found lying face down.
The mortuary in Bloemfontein had tested whether the deceased girl was sexually assaulted.
McAnda apologised to the court for an error on the forensic report regarding the labelling of six bullet cartridges that were bagged as evidence.
He explained that the “copy and paste” mistake, occurred during the night, after he had visited the crime scene, during a second occasion.
“It is expected of us to do our work as professionally and accurately as possible. It was done at a time where I was also exposed to the trauma. I know that this is not an excuse but I am only human.
Re-visiting the scene where an entire family was massacred caused all the memories to come flooding back. I recognised the urgency of the work that needed to be done so I did it during the night.”
McAnda was unable to testify on what happened to a DNA swab taken of the accused that “went missing” from a police vehicle that was parked outside the police station.
During cross examination, defence lawyer Advocate Willem Coetzee, pointed out that the police investigation was riddled with errors.
He stated that the mix up of the serial numbers that were labelled on the forensic bags, meant that incorrect exhibits were recorded and referenced.
“If evidence is not dealt with properly it can cast doubt on the accuracy of the investigation,“ Coetzee said.
Coetzee highlighted how crucial information such as serial numbers and dates were missing from the “merry mix” of exhibits including the colour, registration number and make of the vehicle that was abandoned along the side of the road.
Meanwhile fingerprints that were lifted from the crime scene, were never positively identified, due to poor quality.
Advocate Sharon Erasmus, appearing on behalf of the 16-year-old accused, stated that it was also possible for an unidentified person to have been on the scene.
Constable Stephen Mohitlhi, from the SAPS Local Criminal Record Centre and a fingerprint expert, reoprted that only two fingerprints were obtained from the crime scene namely one from the safe and the other from a drinking glass that was found in the back yard.
However none of the fingerprints including those taken from a firearm holster, the safe, plates, a blood stained counter, fridge, safe keys and the telephone that was left off the hook, could be traced either to the accused or the deceased as they were “unidentifiable”.
Mohitlhi said the all fingerprints were scanned through the Automated Fingerprint Identification system – a national database of arrested criminals.
“No matches were found from the prints lifted from the drinking glass.”
He said that no fingerprints were lifted from the steel security door, the wall, wooden door, or the door handle that was “contaminated” by other police officials who had touched the handle before his arrival.
He said the key was not in the door while the wooden door was left open at the back entrance was left open while the front door was chained shut.
The safe in the main bedroom containing firearms was unlocked.
Mohitlhi added that the firearms inside the safe appeared to be undisturbed and were sent to the forensic laboratory for testing.
He pointed out that blood could smear a fingerprint. “There were no prints that were visible to the naked eye, just marks.”
A collection of 206 photographs was taken at the crime scene showing apparent blood stains on the wall at the back entrance to the house, on the kitchen floor and wooden cupboards.
What appeared to be blood marks were also visible near the telephone, which was left off the hook.
Bullet holes were found in jackets, in the wall of one of the rooms and in a computer printer.
Footage was shown of a cellphone that was placed on top of a bible inside Marthella’s bedroom.
The latest technology was used to reconstruct the crime scene with the use of specialised software that creates three dimensional images and a camera that can take photographs at 360 degree angles.
Northern Cape Judge President Frans Kgomo has allowed the media to accompany the prosecution, led by state Advocate Hannes Cloete and the defence team, for an inspection of the farm on Monday.
He stated that no complaints had been received regarding the media coverage of the trial so far.
Members of the media will have to keep a safe following distance from the house, not disturb the proceedings and may not speak to any witnesses or potential witnesses.
Diamond Fields Advertiser