Pretoria - Who stabbed Monica van Vuuren 25 times, leaving her home covered in blood?
Her killer is still on the loose after her husband Albert van Vuuren’s murder conviction and life sentence were overturned by the North Gauteng High Court on Wednesday.
Judge Hans Fabricius, who heard Van Vuuren’s appeal, said there was absolutely no evidence linking the 45-year-old man to his wife’s murder.
He questioned how the trial judge, the prosecution and even the defence could have overlooked certain vital aspects of his murder trial.
But Van Vuuren’s biggest let-down was the police, who conducted a forensic investigation nine months after the killing. They also did not bother to examine a blood-drenched jacket found on the scene. The couple’s lodger, Gordon McCallum, was wearing this jacket on the night of the killing.
The police instead arrested Van Vuuren, whose jeans had one speck of Monica’s blood.
This, while a doctor said whoever killed Monica went on a stabbing frenzy. Six of these wounds were inflicted after her death and the attack was so brutal she even suffered a fractured jaw and a dislocated neck.
The omission by the police to do their job, could cost the taxpayer dearly, as Van Vuuren said on Wednesday as he left the court a free man that he was considering suing the authorities.
Judge Fabricius, in his judgment, said that the house was covered in blood, yet no samples were taken from the crime scene. “One is forced to conclude the police had forgotten that justice applies to all.”
He said it was noticeable that the police devoted tremendous resources and effort to certain cases, whereas cases such as this received scant attention. “In this case it is a sad reflection on the police that they obviously dismally failed in their statutory duties.”
The trial judge at the time commented that if the case was properly investigated, the case could have gone either way, but because of poor investigation we will never know. Judge Fabricius said on Wednesday that the judge did not arrive at the conclusion which ought to have followed.
A forensic expert testified there was only a tiny speck of Monica’s blood on her husband. After drinking a tranquilliser with brandy, he was also totally intoxicated and only woke up in the police cells the next morning.
Judge Fabricius said common sense excluded the probability that Van Vuuren is the killer.
He and McCallum were drinking heavily that night and McCallum, who suffers from bipolar disorder, gave Van Vuuren a mind-altering tablet to drink. He earlier testified that he had a few pills himself and went to sleep.
McCallum said he was woken up by Van Vuuren, who said he had killed his wife. While his room was metres away from the kitchen and the house was covered in blood, McCallum said he heard nothing.
He also told the police he never wore the blood-drenched jacket that night and that Van Vuuren had worn it. He later admitted in court that he wore it. While the trial judge found him to be an honest witness, Judge Fabricius frowned upon this.
Another unexplained mystery was how it came about that the kitchen was cleaned of all blood the next morning – in spite of the police securing the crime scene. The bloodied jacket had also been moved from one room to another.
McCallum visited his friend in the cells that morning and repeatedly told him he (Van Vuuren) had killed his wife. Van Vuuren insisted that it wasn’t him, as he couldn’t remember a thing.
The only other person on the premises that night was a worker called Thomas, who has meanwhile disappeared. Another mystery was that R13 000 in cash was missing from a kitchen cupboard.
But Judge Fabricius said most telling was Van Vuuren’s first remark to McCallum when he had visited him in the cells. He told his friend “we had been attacked”.
This, Judge Fabricius said, should have rung “cathedral bells” in everyone’s mind, but these didn’t ring. They remained silent and this topic was never raised again.
Van Vuuren had a wound to his hand and another on his head, but nobody bothered to question this.
The judge said one would be inclined to think the murderer was either Thomas or McCallum, were it not for the fact of the couple “being attacked” hanging in the air.
Van Vuuren said he was relieved he had been vindicated, because being branded a killer and knowing it wasn’t you, was hell.
“This is a big birthday present as I turned 45 this week. I lost my job and my friends. I feel bitter because the police did not do their work. All I want is for Monica’s killer to be brought to book.”