• Teenagers and alcohol don’t mix. What are parents’ responsibilities to ensure that their children don’t abuse alcohol? We give a variety of tips in our Community Safety feature in the June 2017 issue of Servamus.

  • Tennis star Bob Hewitt found guilty 30 years after committing sexual abuse against those he coached. Read the details about what had happened in the Crime Series published in the June 2017 issue of Servamus.

  • Sexting – the exchange of sexual messages or images – is a reality in schools. Teachers and learners are perpetrators and it is important to know about the dangers. Read our article in the June 2017 issue of Servamus.

  • Teenage alcohol abuse combined with sexting can have devastating & deadly consequences. Parents need to get involved to prevent their children from becoming victims. Read our article in the June 2017 issue of Servamus.

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By Kotie Geldenhuys

Investigating crime can be compared to assembling a jigsaw puzzle. Investigating officers gather and assemble all the pieces to get a clear picture of what happened and to enable them to identify suspects. However, sometimes, investigating officers may be missing a few puzzle pieces when they are lacking important pieces of evidence, a confession, etc.

Despite these missing pieces, some investigating officers may still believe that they know who the perpetrator is. But the question is: How would they go about proving the link between the perpetrator and the crime if they don't have all the puzzle pieces?

When there is a likely suspect, but little evidence and no confession, one has a circumstantial case. Circumstantial cases are often quickly stigmatised as being too difficult to prove in court, but there are some ways in which a very strong circumstantial case can be built. There is no reason to see it simply as an open-and-shut case and allow perpetrators to get away with murder.

 

What is an open-and-shut case?

An open-and-shut case is regarded as a very simple and straightforward case with little to no complications. Such a case most commonly relates to a criminal case where the evidence is easy to find and can be used to convict the person who has been accused of the crime. This can also be used more figuratively to describe a type of situation which has no complications and is very straightforward. It is a phrase used by investigating officers to refer to those cases that don't require much further investigation. Labuschagne (2015) argues that it is typically those cases:

  • where the offender is arrested at the scene, often with multiple people having witnessed the crime taking place, or 
  • which appear to be suicides.

 

In these cases, as well as with staged crime scenes (see below), there are some pieces of evidence that are much more compelling than others and various loose ends need to be tied up to come to a conclusion. 

 

The staging of crime scenes

When investigators approach a crime scene, they should look for behavioural "clues" left by the offender to find answers to critical questions such as: What happened during the encounter between the offender and victim? Did the suspect ambush the victim? Did the suspect use verbal means (the con) to capture the victim? Did mutilation take place before or after death? While investigating crime scenes, there may be facts that baffle investigating officers. This confusion may be the result of crime scene behaviour referred to as staging, which is what happens when someone purposely alters the crime scene prior to the arrival of the police (Douglas and Munn, 1992). 

According to Labuschagne (2015), there are two main reasons for staging. The first is to mislead the police and the other is to protect the victim's name or family from embarrassment/shame - for example, in cases of auto-erotic fatalities or rape-murders. Douglas and Munn (1992) stress that this type of staging is performed by the family member or another person who finds the body in an attempt to restore some dignity to the victim.

Offenders who stage crime scenes usually make mistakes because they arrange the scene to resemble what they believe it should look like. They do not have the time to fit all the pieces together logically and, as a result, there will be inconsistencies in forensic findings and in the overall "big picture" of the crime scene. These inconsistencies can serve as indications of possible staging (Douglas and Munn, 1992).

 

Dangers in open-and-shut cases

The dangers of such cases are that the investigating officer and crime scene personnel become complacent when they:

  • record and gather physical evidence at the scene;
  • photograph evidence; or 
  • take statements from witnesses.

 

Labuschagne (2015) gives an example of a case in which there were witnesses during a murder, but mistakes were made early in the investigation, which might have simply been because the investigating officer and crime scene personnel became complacent. In this case, a man and his wife agreed to separate. The man then went to his place of work and stole an assault rifle, before he went to the guesthouse where his wife was staying. After confronting her about her "affair", he took the assault rifle from the vehicle and shot her. When the police arrived at the scene, they found the man in the room with the barrel of the assault rifle in his mouth. Following negotiations, he was arrested at the scene. The problems arising in this case were that statements from witnesses at the scene who overheard the argument were not collected until the trial had already started, almost two years later. Furthermore, the crime scene was not completely photographed, so it could not be determined whether the suspect had broken down the door to gain access. In this case, the accused's defence was based on temporary non-pathological criminal incapacity (NPCI) (see more below). In a statement taken after the trial had commenced, a witness described hearing the deceased begging for her life and the accused saying "goodbye" before the final shot was fired. This indicated his presence of mind, which is typical of someone acting on "autopilot". The kicking open of the door would indicate a rationally-thinking person who realised he had to overcome an obstacle blocking him from achieving his goal. But since the door frame was not photographed, there was no indication of what the condition of the door frame was like after the incident, and the handyman who had repaired the door could not be traced.

[This is an extract from a very interesting article published in Servamus: March 2017. The rest of the article focuses on typical defences that can be raised in court; how circumstantial evidence can be steered in court; and the tragic case of an innocent man who had spent many years in prison due to police incompetence and their belief that they investigated an “open-and-shut case”. Contact Servamus’s office at tel: (012) 345 4660/41 or send an e-mail to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to enquire about getting a copy of the article. Ed.]  

Servamus - June 2017

In April 2013, a 17-year-old girl named Rehtaeh Parsons, was removed from life support and subsequently died.
By Kotie Geldenhuys
"Can you crawl through my window? I will do whatever you want. I want it to be first-class. First-class hotel, champagne and good sex."
By Kotie Geldenhuys
It is night-time in the city. Flashing neon lights and soft streetlamps create shadowy images across the pavement.
By Kotie Geldenhuys
In May 2017, the story broke that a young 22-year-old water polo teacher at Parktown Boys High had been accused of sexually grooming and assaulting more than 20 schoolboys, aged between 15 and 16 years, at this top school in Johannesburg.
By Kotie Geldenhuys

Pollex - Jun 2017

Read More - Gareth Prince, Jonathan David Rubin, Jeremy David Acton and Others v Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) and Others, unreported case no 8760/2013 dated 31 March 2017, Western Cape High Court (WCC)
This is the much-publicised case regarding an application by the three applicants supra, before a full bench of three judges of the High Court in Cape Town ("the court"), for a declaration that certain legislative provisions that prohibit the use, possession, purchase and cultivation for personal or communal consumption of cannabis (also referred to as "dagga" and/or "marijuana"), are invalid.
Read More - S V [Bob] Hewitt 2017 (1) SACR 309 (SCA)
This is the much-publicised case of the retired, world-renowned champion tennis player and instructor/coach, Bob Hewitt, who was convicted by the High Court in Pretoria on two counts of rape* and one count of indecent assault*.
Read More – Burford v Minister of Police, unreported case no CA 128/2015 dated 10 November 2015 (ECG)
Background Section 50 (1)(a),(b),(c) and (d)(i) of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 (“the CPA”) provides as follows:

Letters - Jun 2017

I am a retired member of the SAPS and I collect all kinds of SAPS memorabilia from the inception of the South African Police in 1913 right to the present.
I am a retired member of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and I would like to purchase a blue leather uniform jacket as worn by SAPS members.
On 21 April 2017, police colleagues of D/W/O Petrus Oelofse attended his farewell function, which was hosted by the Jeffreys Bay Stock Theft Unit.
June 2017 Magazine Cover

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