Sandile Mantsoe, who is accused of murdering his girlfriend of seven months, Karabo Mokoena. Picture: Lindi Masinga/ANA

Johannesburg - More horrific details regarding Karabo Mokoena’s mutilated body emerged in court when a pathologist said she could not tell whether the deceased was burnt alive.

The gruesome details were revealed on Wednesday at the high court in Joburg by Dr Malerato Ramela, the pathologist who conducted the autopsy on Mokoena’s body last year after it was found in a remote ditch near Sandton.

She told the court that Mokoena's upper airways were destroyed, therefore she could not check them for any soot or fumes which would have shown that she was still breathing when she was set on fire.

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Ramela said Mokoena's charred remains also made it difficult to extract blood from her, which they could have checked for the presence of carbon monoxide.

The pathologist wrote in her report, which was read out in court by Judge AJ Johnson, that the “absence of both the upper and the lower airways made it impossible to determine the (presence) of soot in the airways”.

Probed further by Judge Johnson on what this entailed, Ramela said it was common practice to check airways for soot in order to determine whether a victim was alive while being burnt.

“In this case, a large part of the body was absent, which was the neck, the torso and part of the upper limbs,” Ramela testified.

Mantsoe has admitted to disposing of 22-year-old Mokoena’s body, claiming he found his former girlfriend dead in his upmarket Sandton apartment after she supposedly committed suicide in April last year.

He is facing three criminal counts - assault with the intention to cause grievous bodily harm, murder and defeating the ends of justice - and has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

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Earlier, Colonel Andre de Klerk from the Johannesburg detectives cluster testified about the meticulous manner in which Mantsoe had recalled to him on how and where he had ditched Mokoena's body.

It emerged from De Klerk's testimony that the tyre and acid he used to destroy Mokoena's body were fetched from a shed on his mother's property.

De Klerk, who read out a statement he wrote in May last year, the day after the murder accused was arrested, said Mantsoe told him that his mother did not hear him enter and leave her property.

This statement was not disputed by defence advocate Victor Simelane and was accepted as evidence in the trial.

According to De Klerk, Mantsoe was “relaxed, confident, very respectful and co-operative with police” before, during and after the act of pointing out where he had discarded the body.

De Klerk said Mantsoe showed them everything he did leading up to burning Mokoena, including the filling station where he bought petrol.

Mantsoe said he chose that stretch of veld near Corlett Drive because he knew the area well as he had grown up nearby.

The Star