Meekahaefele Masooa is facing murder charges after a road-rage incident. Picture: Dumisani Dube/African News Agency Archives
Johannesburg - As a four-year-long road rage murder trial enters the home stretch, forensic evidence provided at the start has come under the microscope, as well as the credibility of a well-known ballistics expert.

Meekahaefele Masooa is accused of murdering motorcyclist Douglas Pearce in an apparent road rage incident on Valentine’s Day in 2014, although his trial has dragged at the high court in Joburg for various reasons.

The State claimed Masooa shot and killed Pearce after a verbal altercation on Malibongwe Drive in Randburg, firing as the biker turned his back.

But Masooa, a lawyer from Centurion, has claimed it was in self-defence and that Pearce had been facing him while attacking him, when the biker’s own firearm discharged.

Key to the State’s assertion was forensics expert Chris Mangena, who entered the public spotlight for his testimony during the Oscar Pistorius murder trial.

It was Mangena’s findings that ultimately allowed the prosecution to convict the Paralympian, though his expertise has come under fire in Masooa’s case this week.

Mangena said it was indisputable that Pearce was shot while facing away from Masooa, mostly based on the bullet holes in Pearce’s jacket. However, defence advocate Lydia van Niekerk has argued through her own expert that relying on the fibres of the jacket for indisputable proof that Pearce was murdered would be foolhardy.

However, Van Niekerk didn’t stop with her experts, as she then began an attack on Mangena’s credibility as he returned for further testimony.

Van Niekerk produced a copy of the findings of an internal police disciplinary hearing against former KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head Johan Booysen, finalised in 2014. While the findings vindicated Booysen and said he should not have been suspended, the chair of the panel conducting the investigation, advocate Nazeer Cassim, had chastised Mangena.

Mangena had testified against Booysen over a matter where a suspect was shot by police, allegedly under Booysen's management.

However, Mangena had examined the ballistic evidence four years later, constructing a report that allegedly ignored key evidence by a colleague.

“Captain Mangena, who prepared the ballistics report some four years later, did not have regard to the objective findings of (the colleague). It raises, to my mind, an improper purpose in seeking to discredit Booysen, unless there is a reasonable innocent explanation,” Cassim wrote.

When the report was presented in court, Mangena denied the allegations. He also insisted that his testimony in Masooa’s matter was correct.

The trial is set to continue in March.

Saturday Star