• 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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Compiled by Kotie Geldenhuys

One unforeseen consequence of the emergence of the Internet, is the rapid increase in the illicit trade in child sexual abuse images and videos worldwide. Why does this make us upset? Because every child sexual abuse image or video is a crime scene where a child was abused. Although many of the perpetrators of child pornography think that they will get away with their crimes, the net is slowly closing in on them as law enforcement authorities globally are taking hands and use technology to ensure that these perpetrators will be stopped in their tracks and spend many years behind bars.

The case of S v Robert William de Vries is a clear example of how the cooperation between different countries and the use of technology set precedence for future testimony of witnesses in foreign countries in South African courts. After this case was concluded in May 2018, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) incorporated and encouraged the use of social media communication (such as Google Hangout) in cases where witnesses are abroad. Sections 158(3) and 158(4) of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 can be used to apply for a Skype or Google Hangout application. However, a request for mutual legal assistance must also be forwarded to the respective country to allow the witnesses to testify.

A very long investigation
The William de Vries case was the longest running child pornography investigation to date and it took nine years of delayed efforts and complications before the perpetrator was eventually sentenced. This is confirmation that investigating crimes like these is time-consuming and involves many role-players.

The William de Vries story started in 2009 when two postal inspectors from the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) stumbled across this case. The USPIS has long been recognised as a leading law enforcement agency in the battle to identify and arrest individuals who sexually exploit children. Postal inspectors investigate the use of the mailing system to illegally distribute child pornography or facilitate the sexual exploitation of children (USPIS, Nd). While postal inspector Christopher Cizin and a colleague were surfing the Internet one day in 2009, they discovered various advertisements inviting readers to buy pornographic material. After reading the adverts, Mr Cizin sent an e-mail to one of the advertisers at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. He received a response from the addressee, who is the distributor, containing four links and a password. Using the links and the password, Mr Cizin was able to access an address which he could use to place an order and see a sample of the videos with file names, thumbnail images of pornography, a video containing pornography, a price list and contact e-mail addresses, including the address referred to above and another address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The two postal inspectors responded to the adverts and introduced themselves to the distributor as Joe Reis and Simon Derrick. They communicated with the distributor over an extended period of time at the original e-mail address and subsequent e-mail addresses which were provided to them by the distributor. In due course they received instructions as to how the distribution system would work and they placed their orders with the distributor in the names of Joe Reis and Simon Derrick. They provided the distributor with two postal addresses in the USA and made arrangements for payments.

In April 2009, Mr Cizin received the two envelopes which each contained four double sided DVDs. He noticed that the envelopes had been posted in South Africa and were addressed as they had requested the distributor to address them. The contents were described as being educational DVDs. On the Joe Reis envelope, the sender’s address was supplied as being in Northcliff in Gauteng, South Africa, while the sender’s address on the Simon Derrick envelope was supplied as being P Riley in the Republic of South Africa. As Mr Cizin inspected the contents of the envelopes, he realised that he needed passwords to unlock the files on the DVDs as the files were encrypted. He requested the distributor to supply the relevant passwords and it was not long before he received the passwords to unlock the files. Mr Cizin and the distributor concluded a further transaction to buy pornographic media. Some of the e-mails for this transaction were sent from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Johan Claassen, a Foreign Service National Investigator from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Pretoria was alerted by his colleagues in New York about the online criminal activities which they had identified. These included five IP (Internet Protocol) addresses related to an individual who may be involved in child pornography. In addition to the IP addresses, the US investigators also noted money transfers to two South Africans (Nkosi, 2018). Johan Claassen subsequently handed the information to the SAPS while the DVDs which Mr Cizin had received were sent to Charl Louw, a forensic IT expert in South Africa, for analysis.

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[This is only an excerpt of an article published in Servamus: June 2020. The rest of the article refers to what happened when the South African distributor’s house was searched; what an examination of the seized devices revealed; how the lengthy investigation ends in a trial; William’s side of the story as well as judgment and sentencing. This article confirms how technology can be used successfully during the court case – even if a witness is in another country. 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.