Cape Town - The burns on a man necklaced allegedly at the hands of a well-known activist and three others were so severe that it would have been a miracle if he was not in shock after the attack.
This was the testimony of forensic expert David Klatzow during cross-examination at the murder trial of leading Social Justice Coalition (SJC) activist Angy Peter, her husband, Isaac Mbadu, who also works for the organisation, Christopher Dina and Azola Dayimane. They appeared in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday for the kidnapping and murder of Rowan du Preez, who died in hospital hours after his burnt body was discovered.
Du Preez was found in Mfuleni on October 14, 2012. He died about 18 hours after the attack.
This week, a declaration made by Du Preez, in which he identified his alleged killers, came into question during a trial within a trial.
It is alleged that Du Preez spoke to police officers before he was taken to Groote Schuur Hospital. The court has to decide whether Du Preez made the declaration and whether it is admissible.
Whether or not Du Preez would have been able to speak is being scrutinised. His level of alcohol consumption and its effects are being argued.
Judge Robert Henney asked Klatzow if Du Preez’s system would have been in shock. Klatzow replied: “I would have expected this person to have been in severe shock.”
Klatzow made it clear that he was speaking from a physiological perspective and it was not in his field of expertise to comment on the cognitive abilities of the patient at the time.
Having started the first lab which investigated fires for the insurance industry, Klatzow had performed tests setting fire to tyres using petrol, to determine how long it would take for the tyres to burn out.
He was asked to give evidence about whether a person set alight could answer questions after an attack, and whether the time that it took for the fire to burn out played a role.
“Yes, because the time when a human being is exposed to heat is highly relevant to the degree of injury.”
The SJC has laid complaints against the police about inefficiencies, which have led to an inquiry in Khayelitsha. The commission was also set up to probe mob justice killings in the area.
The trial continues.