• Physical evidence is the silent witness in criminal cases which is why it should not be contaminated and why the chain of custody is vital. Read our article published from p20 in Servamus: August 2021 to learn more about evidence and the story it tells.

  • The reconstruction of a crime scene is a vital step to give the court an idea of what happened at a crime scene. Our article published from p34 in Servamus: August 2021 explains what the process entails.

  • Various role-players from within the SAPS can help to provide specialised information about the scene, the victim and the suspect at a crime scene. Our article published from p23 in Servamus: August 2021 highlights these role-players.

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An argument that goes back to the womb
By Kotie Geldenhuys

South Africa is not only one of the countries with the highest crime rates in the world, but also with the highest rate of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) globally. But is there a link between FAS and crime?

One case which highlighted the link between criminality and FAS was the murder of Jessica Russell, a nine-year-old girl from British Columbia in Canada in May 2000. Jessica was brutally murdered by 20-year-old David Trott, who had been shifted around the foster care system since the tender age of 12 after his mother, who was a heroin addict and an alcoholic, had died. David had been in conflict with the law from an early age after he became involved in petty crime as a teenager - his crime later escalated to assault and vehicle theft. A few days before Jessica's murder, David was incarcerated and awaiting a psychiatric assessment pending an assault charge against him. As the assessment never arrived, the judge released David who had nowhere to go and no access to appropriate treatment or support. He then came in contact with Jessica Russell whom he brutally assaulted and murdered. In May 2002, during a 96-minute confession, he admitted to the murder and explained that he drove Jessica to a secluded Fraser Valley mountain east of Mission in British Columbia where he sexually assaulted her, broke into a trailer and tied her up. Afterwards he hanged her by looping an electrical cord from an overhead fixture. He told the police that Jessica did not fight, that he did not know how long it took for her to die and that he later set the trailer alight. After this confession, his lawyer, Howard Smith resigned. David Trott's reason for his decision to plead guilty was that he wanted to be in a federal penitentiary, where he could smoke. Mr Smith said he had never seen a sadder story of emotional neglect, abuse and untreated mental disorders. David Trott suffered from foetal alcohol syndrome and several behavioural disorders, including attention deficit disorder. In the months leading up to Jessica's death, he was taking strong anti-psychotic medication. According to Mr Smith, David Trott had the attention span of a gnat (similar to a fly) (Armstrong, 2002). David Trott was sentenced to six months' incarceration (Hanlon, 2017).

The Trott case is one of numerous cases which have been reported throughout the years where the perpetrator was a victim of FAS. Although one can describe the deeds of David Trott and various other offenders, suffering from FAS as brutal, one person who is to blame for the situation in which her child eventually land is the alcoholic mother. This argument can be taken back to the womb.

What is FAS?
Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), which was first identified in the 1970s (Douglas et al, 2012), is a neuro-developmental disability that occurs as a result of foetal exposure to alcohol. These disorders include a wide range of physical, behavioural and learning problems. The most severe type of FASD is foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) which is a result of a woman drinking heavily during her pregnancy (Gavin, 2016). The developing brain is particularly vulnerable to alcohol and prenatal exposure to alcohol can lead to a variety of adverse effects on cognition, memory, attention, emotional/behavioural control, social skills, academic abilities and daily living skills. Restricted growth, diminished neurological functioning, characteristic facial features and behavioural challenges are all symptoms of FASD (Currie et al, 2016). FASD can be prevented when a woman avoids alcohol use at the time of conception or during pregnancy.

How big is the problem?
In many countries, including South Africa, alcohol consumption during pregnancy is common. Many women consider drinking as a coping strategy for their socio-economic and socio-political realities (Adebiyi et al, 2019). However, the high prevalence of FASD recorded in South Africa is partially attributed to the historical drinking culture driven by the "dop system", a system where farm workers' wages were paid in part in the form of alcoholic beverages (or "dop") (Hendricks, 2016).


[This is only an extract of an article published in Servamus: May 2021. If you are interested reading the rest of this article where we discuss the lifelong problems encountered; the link between FAS and crime and whether FASD can have an impact during the trial, send an e-mail to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..]

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Servamus - August 2021

Television series have played a significant role in creating public interest about forensic science and the investigation of crime.
By Annalise Kempen
Despite Hollywood’s portrayal in numerous television programmes, crime scene investigation is a difficult and time-consuming task that cannot be completed in a couple of minutes.
By Kotie Geldenhuys
Fire and water - two elements of nature that result in opposite reactions: when one stares at a firepit or a bonfire and listens to the sound of water such as a waterfall or waves breaking, it typically makes one calm and relaxed.
By Annalise Kempen
Every crime scene tells a story which is why it is of utmost importance that proper crime scene management is implemented to prevent the destruction of any evidence that might be found at a scene.
By Kotie Geldenhuys

Pollex - August 2021

In two recent, different and unrelated case law, namely -
Read More - Minister of Transport v Brackenfell Trailer Hire (Pty) Ltd and Other 2021 (1) SACR 463 (SCA)
Role-players in this matter are: National Minister of Transport = the appellant;
Read More - S v Gabani 2021 (1) SACR 562 (ECB)
This Gabani case took place between the Mdantsane Magistrates’ Court and the High Court in Bhisho in the Eastern Cape.

Letters - August 2021

Dudley Maharaj was born in Pietermaritzburg in 1936 and recently turned 85 years of age.
NAME: W/O L H Zandberg STATION: Pretoria Central Magistrates’ Court
August 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.