Cape Town - Three international experts linked to one of the most publicised trials in South Africa - that of the murder of Stellenbosch mathematics student Inge Lotz - have been cleared by the International Association for Identification (IAI), quashing claims by amateur forensic investigator brothers Calvin and Thomas Mollett.
The decision cannot be appealed, according to the IAI.
In their complaints to the IAI, the brothers alleged that US expert Pat Wertheim, Dutch expert Arie Zeelenberg and US expert Michael Grimm violated the IAI Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct in testimony and conclusions surrounding Lotz’s murder.
However, while Thomas Mollett did not respond to a request for comment on Friday, it was clear from his post on the Justice for Inge Lotz Facebook page that he and his brother were not going to give up without a fight.
“We stand by every word in our petitions, and this heralds a new battle with yet another evil opponent - the IAI. We will expose them. Those who want to crack open the champagne, do it, it will be short-lived - and this does not alter the truth. Those who want to take us on, go ahead, but come with facts. We will now step up our battle and will get overwhelming local and international corps of support, and this absurd view of the IAI will hopefully now receive international attention,” he posted on the same day that the IAI rejected the complaints.
Wertheim’s and Zeelenberg’s testimony related to a fingerprint, which became known as Folien 1, allegedly found on a DVD cover that Lotz had rented hours before she was killed.
They managed to persuade the court, on behalf of the defence, that Folien 1 did not emanate from a DVD, but a glass. The finding ruled out crucial evidence that would otherwise have placed Lotz’s then boyfriend, Fred van der Vyver, on the scene at a specific time. The State also alleged that the murder weapon was an ornamental hammer that belonged to Van der Vyver.
But, at an IAI conference Grimm spoke at, he concluded that the head injuries could not have been caused by a novelty hammer.
After his acquittal, Van Der Vyver instituted a R47 million damages action against the police for wrongful prosecution.
The Western Cape High Court found that the police were liable, but the minister of police successfully appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeal.
Before the appeal was finalised, however, the Mollett brothers went public with their claims that they believed the three experts were wrong.
They claimed that their own investigations proved police did not bungle the investigation into Van Der Vyver.
The brothers sent a complaint or petition to the IAI, which set up a professional review board (PRB) to look into the allegations.
On August 14, all three experts were notified of the outcome in writing.
“At the annual general meeting in August, the board of directors considered the PRB’s findings and recommendation. After careful consideration, the board of directors agreed with the decision of the PRB, and the petition was dismissed. This is a final decision and cannot be appealed by the petitioner,” all three letters stated.
The PRB found that Wertheim and Zeelenberg did not violate the IAI code, and recommended that no punitive action be taken. In Grimm’s case the PRB found that the allegations were outside the purview of the IAI, and outside the IAI’s areas of expertise.
Speaking on behalf of the Van Der Vyvers, defence advocate Dup de Bruyn SC said: “I just hope that the people who were influenced by the brothers’ claims, and I include all levels of legal practitioners, will now realise what is going on... The highest professional body has spoken. We have no further comments.”
But Thomas Mollett was not convinced. On the Justice for Inge Lotz Facebook page, he described the responses from the IAI as “half-baked and totally inadequate”.
“No explanations or reasons were furnished... It was simply a waste of time by a useless organisation. We see it as meaningless and indicative of an organisation that does not view their or any standards seriously, and which wanted to spare their members the humiliation,” he added.
He thanked their supporters and said they should not lose hope. “Now the gloves are off,” he said.
This week he added: “It is disgusting how overseas experts are rated above our own.”
Thomas Mollett lives in Piketberg, while his brother lives in Canada. Last year they also made formal representations to the Western Cape Directorate of Public Prosecutions. In January, Western Cape Director of Public Prosecutions Rodney de Kock responded that, as far as the directorate was concerned, the case against Van Der Vyver was closed.