Pretoria - A toxicologist who took the stand in the High Court in Pretoria trial of Rehithile Katlego Matjane, 34, accused of murdering her two sons, said the mostly over- the-counter medication she took prior to the incident could not have led to the tragic incident.
Dr Gert Muller denied on Tuesday that the painkillers could have led to the serious psychiatric side effects which she claimed it did.
According to the mother the medication led to her suffering from “sane automatism” on the day she had shot Alvero Matjane, 2, in the head and his brother Keyondre, 6. He was shot in the forehead and he suffered a second bullet to his lower right arm, as he tried to protect himself from the bullets.
According to her she only had “snapshot” recollections of what happened on the afternoon of April 17, 2015, when she had shot both children at a deserted spot near Hammanskraal.
Matjane’s defence is one of "sane automatism" due to a short lasting psychotic depressive episode with suicide trends, which led to the shooting.
She blamed the side effects of a host of painkillers she took for a headache and menstrual pains on the about five days leading up to the incident and on the day of the shooting.
The over-the-counter medication she took included Symbicord Turbohaler - an asthma inhaler belonging to one of her children, Mypaid Forte, Migril and Empacod. She also had a glass of wine during lunch (about three hours prior to the incident, a Red Bull and several sport supplements.
Matjane was unable to state the quantity of the medication she took, but she did not claim that she had overdosed on any of it.
Muller analysed each of the substances she had used and its side effects. He concluded that while the long standing intake of some of these substances could eventually lead to side effects, it was highly unlikely that it contributed to her actions as it was only taken on the short term and evidently in prescribed dosages.
“I could not find an association between the medicines used by the accused and the homicide.”
Muller told Judge Hans Fabricius that the lower the schedule of medicine, the lower the risks were.
But defence advocate Piet Pistorius said his experts will testify that the medications had side-effects which, if used in combination with each other, did affect his client.
He pointed out that a witness testified that she had “foamed” at the mouth after the incident. This was proof of the toxicity of the medication, he said.
Matjane, earlier testified she used a host of medication days prior to the incident. On the second day of using all this medication she started to feel “very sad and lonely.” She also developed suicidal thoughts.
Her aches and pains continued on the day of the incident and she took more medication. Around lunchtime her desire to commit suicide was so strong that she fetched her husband’s firearm from the safe. She sat with the firearm in the car crying, but decided against killing herself.
She then had lunch, which included a glass of red wine and fetched the children. Matjane recalled strapping herself and her children in the car and her next recollection was waking up in a field.
She recalled seeing her eldest son lying in a pool of blood next to the car and calling out to her youngest son. She then saw him slumped in the front seat.
She had a "snapshot" memory of putting the gun next to her head and pulling the trigger, but a shot did not go off.