140227. Cape Town. Double murder accused Johannes de Jager inside Court room 12 at the Western Cape High Court. Picture Henk Kruger/Cape Argus. Reporter Natasha Prince

Cape Town - There is no direct evidence linking Johannes Christiaan de Jager to the rape and murder of a prostitute, his lawyer told the Western Cape High Court on Thursday.

“It rests 100 percent on circumstantial evidence,” Sakkie Maartens said in closing argument.

“It is my submission that in Hiltina's case, there is a total absence of direct eyewitness testimony of the rape and the killing.”

De Jager, 49, has pleaded not guilty to killing Cape Town prostitute Hiltina Alexander, 18, in May 2008.

Maartens said circumstances and exhibits had to build a chain of evidence strong enough to prove something beyond reasonable doubt.

Three incriminating circumstances and exhibits in the State's case were examined, namely an earring that was found in De Jager's bakkie, his pointing out of a flat, and a DNA swab result.

Maartens said only one witness had identified the earring as belonging to Alexander and the court should therefore be cautious.

The “proverbial cherry on top” was that the State had inadvertently destroyed the earring and the court and witness had to rely on a somewhat hazy photo, he said.

“DNA testing of the pierce-type earring had the potential of sealing the accused's fate or confirming the possible veracity of his explanation.”

Maartens took issue with De Jager having to point out a flat of a possible alibi three years after the crime.

He said the investigating officer at the time should have taken charge while memories were still fresh.

“Why did he not strike the iron while it was hot?”

The pointing out should have been videotaped to avoid arguments about conflicting recollections.

Lastly, Maartens raised suspicion around De Jager's DNA being found on swabs taken from under Alexander's fingernails.

He said the safekeeping and processing of the DNA samples was so “sub-standard and atrocious”, that no value could be attached to any scientific or forensic analysis.

Alternatively, the State was fully alive to the fact that De Jager admitted to being in the prostitute's company and that there was some sort of close contact between them.

“It is conceded that suspicions have been raised in the evidence that the accused was possibly responsible for Hiltina meeting her fate,” Maartens said.

“It is, however, submitted that a healthy measure of doubt exists and that Mr De Jager must receive the benefit of this doubt.”

The trial continues.