Durban — A forensic pathologist told the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday, that she found no tattooing around murder victim Dean Charnley’s gunshot wound on his chest.
Dr Nonhlanhla Shamase employed by the KwaZulu-Natal Medico-Legal Mortuary testified as a State witness in the alleged road rage incident, in March 2022 on Everton Road in Kloof, involving Charnley and murder accused Anthony Ball.
Shamase who performed the autopsy said tattooing would have been consistent with a shot fired at close range. In June, Ball’s defence lawyer said the fatal gunshot went off during a scuffle between the two. Ball has pleaded not guilty.
Ball’s version is that while he was on the M13 en route home Charnley tailgated him with the Nissan he was driving. Ball claimed that on Everton Road, Charnley stopped his car in front of his Subaru and alighted the vehicle.
Ball claims that Charnley came towards him shouting and hit the roof of his Subaru with his hand violently. Before Charnley reached him Ball opened his window and allegedly fired a warning shot.
Ball alleges that Charnley grabbed him through the window and partially opened the door grabbing the gun. Ball held onto the gun when the second fatal shot went off inadvertently.
A State witness has testified that there was no scuffle and it was Ball who blocked Charnley from overtaking him more than once on the M13.
During her evidence in chief, Shamase was asked by State prosecutor Rowen Souls to clarify what she meant when she said she found no firearm discharge residue on Charnley’s T-shirt.
“When there is gun discharge there is blackening suit and staining of clothing from the firearm.
“You see this with near-contact gunshots when the nozzle is closer to the body. For a contact gunshot, the mussel has to be against the body. In this case, there was no suit, blackness, or tattooing on the skin so this was a distant gunshot wound that had to be beyond 65cm.
“Tattooing is when unturned and burnt powder particles leave marks on the skin and happens in near gunshot wounds. It’s small bruising and abrasions at the entry wound this body had no tattooing at the entry wound. The range was further away from the deceased, more than 65cm,” said Shamase.
Shamase read out her entire post-mortem report to the court before Souls began asking her questions about it, he asked her to speak on the entry wound which she had said was lower than the exit wound.
“The difference between the two is 7cm and the direction was from front to back, top to bottom, and right to left,” she said.
When Souls put to her the scenario that the shooter had been sitting Shamase said that the direction of the entry wound is slightly downward so the scenario is unlikely adding that the deceased could have been leaning forward.
When Ball’s counsel, advocate Gideon Scheltema SC, said that textbooks advise it is senseless to look at tattooing when clothing is involved as residue can be absorbed.
“We don’t know the thickness of the fabric at this point. Another problem in identifying residue on clothes is the colour, the darker it is the harder it is to detect residue, blood stains can mask residue which is fine dust that settles on the service and can be easily removed if there is any movement,” said Scheltema who had received a negative response from Shamase when asked if pictures of Charnley’s T-shirt had been taken.
He said the general rule on wound ballistics was that one could not judge a wound past the 50cm mark, Scheltema said this after Shamase clarified that her expertise included terminal ballistics.
This was before he put it to her that perhaps she was at a slight disadvantage because she was not a ballistics expert.
He was referring to the observation Shamase made after the prosecutor asked her about the position of the shooter.
The trial continues on Wednesday.
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