• Plants can play a vital role in linking individuals to crime scenes: from the leaves we step on to the pollen that stick to our clothes. If you are curious about the secret language of plants and the link to crime scenes, be sure to read the article about Forensic Botany published in Servamus: September 2020.

  • Forensics is a fascinating science with a variety of subdisciplines that are used to link an individual to a crime scene. In an article published in Servamus: September 2020, we highlight some of the lesser known forensic disciplines.

  • Wildlife crime can be fought by using forensics, such as in poaching incidents where forensics is used to link seized rhino horn or ivory to a crime scene. If you want to read about the development of wildlife forensics, be sure to read the article in Servamus: September 2020.

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By Adv Jacqueline Fick

The world around us is evolving at a rapid pace. Technology has not only given rise to a new way of doing business, but also to how crime is committed - be it traditional or new types of crime.

When conducting an investigation in modern times, there is no better place to start at than with cellphone analysis. A cellphone is equivalent to a computer and in some cases, it contains more information than what we store on our computers. Yet, investigators might wonder how a cellphone can provide them with vital evidence in a murder or a robbery case and the like. This article aims to provide practical advice on how to deal with cellphone evidence as part of an investigation.

Distinguishing the types of information
For starters we need to distinguish between the information that can be obtained from mobile network operators (MNOs) and that which can be gathered from the cellphone itself. It is also important to note that not all the information that is stored on the cellphone can be requested from MNOs. A common misconception is that MNOs store the content of WhatsApp conversations. WhatsApp conversations and calls are data transactions which have end-to-end encryption, and all an MNO does is to provide the “pipe” through which the communication is passed from one device to another. MNOs also do not store the content of SMSes and therefore the content of these messages will not be available when you request the call data records (CDRs) for a specific cellphone number or as referred to by the MNOs, a MSISDN (Mobile Subscriber Integrated Services Digital Network).

The evidence that is contained on a cellphone will be classified as digital evidence. ISO/IEC 27037:2012 is an international standard that provides guidelines for specific activities in handling digital evidence, which are the identification, collection, acquisition and preservation of digital evidence that may be of evidential value. This standard provides the benchmark for dealing with among other things, digital evidence on cellphones and other mobile devices (https://www.iso.org/standard/44381.html).

Not all investigators are fortunate to have an investigator skilled in digital forensics present at each arrest. Investigators are advised to consider not booking a cellphone in as personal property when they arrest a suspect, but to book it as evidence and to follow the correct procedures when doing so. As with all evidence, there is a best practice for handling and ensuring a proper chain of custody. As much as it is commonly accepted that a firearm should be made safe before sealing it as evidence - a cellphone must also be made “safe”.

As a rule, the investigator should put the cellphone on flight mode, remove the SIM card or ideally, the battery should be removed (when possible) to prevent remote wiping of the phone. Remote wipe is a feature that allows a user to remove all data from your cellphone should the phone ever get lost or stolen. What criminals often do when their cellphones are seized, or when they know that some of their co-conspirators have been arrested is to remotely wipe the cellphone. If the cellphone is powered off or on flight mode, the remote wipe cannot be effected until the device is powered back on again or flight mode is deactivated. Therefore, the cellphone should only be activated by a trained digital forensic professional.

When processing the cellphone into evidence, be sure to note the cellphone, SIM card and even memory card as individual items. Each of these individual items holds different information which could be key to the investigation.

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[This is only an excerpt of an article published in Servamus: June 2020. The rest of the article discusses the different methods of cellphone analysis; cloud storage; a section 205 subpoena (Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977); and interpreting the information. A must read for ALL INVESTIGATORS! If you are interested in reading the full article, send an email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or contact our office at tel: 012 345 4660/22 to find out what to do. Ed.]

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Servamus - September 2020

When crimes are committed, the first thing criminals want to do is to get rid of the evidence that would link them to that crime.
By Kotie Geldenhuys
When Albert du Preez Myburgh abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered his close friend's eight-year-old daughter in May 1999, he did not realise that bugs would play a role in his conviction and sentence.
By Kotie Geldenhuys
When Sinja Robin Mabitsela and Josias Xaniseka Mkansi (also known as the Alexandra Balaclava serial rapists) started their raping spree, they did not realise that their DNA would be their downfall.
By Kotie Geldenhuys
Imagine how challenging it must be for scientists to identify a victim when only skeleton remains are available… now imagine how much bigger this challenge becomes for forensic anthropologists when only burnt skeleton remains are available and they have to identify these bones.
By Kotie Geldenhuys

Pollex - September 2020

In Servamus: July 2020, Pollex published a legal quiz regarding the current/recent state of disaster. Please refer to that issue for the questions.

Letters - September 2020

The current COVID-19 pandemic which has affected many and claimed the lives of so many, is still continuing to be a global threat for which there is no cure.
Const Kwayo Louw (23), a policeman from Kraaifontein, was recently commended by the Western Cape Minister of Community Safety, Albert Fritz for his exemplary contribution towards his community in Kraaifontein.
Retired W/O Sham Singh, the first Indian Station Commander of Lenasia, celebrated his 80th birthday on 9 July 2020. A milestone birthday for anyone and it was even posted on Facebook.
September Magazine Cover

Servamus' Mission

Servamus is a community-based safety and security magazine for both members of the community as well as safety and security practitioners with the aim of increasing knowledge and sharing information, dedicated to improving their expertise, professionalism and service delivery standards. It promotes sound crime management practices, freedom of speech, education, training, information sharing and a networking platform.