• Prevention is key to protecting our homes from fire. In this month’s Community Safety Tips published from p52 in Servamus: September 2021, we share information about the common causes of fire and what you have to do in case of fire.

  • It can be a headache for authorities to identify the bodies of deceased persons. article published from p22 in Servamus: September 2021 provides valuable information on how forensic science and databases can be used in the identification process.

  • With their keen sense of smell, biological body-fluid detection dogs play a vital role at rape and murder crime scenes. Our article published from p18 in Servamus: September 2021 explains their training, work and successes along with their human partners.

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By Kotie Geldenhuys

These days the media is able to cover almost every aspect of the criminal justice system, from the bloody crime scene and the arrest of the perpetrator, to the trial and eventually the sentencing of the perpetrator. This, however, has not always been the case. Not that long ago, the public complained about coverage of crime scenes where bodies and body bags were displayed on television or in newspapers. With news now being available 24/7 on all platforms, the general public demands closer and more detailed coverage of even the most heinous crimes. The public wants to know what is going on. This was evident during the Oscar Pistorius trial which, it is claimed, received more media attention than the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Judge Thokozile Masipa’s banning of blogging and tweeting of graphic evidence by pathologist Gert Saayman gave rise to 2500 articles, news and social media hitting more than 106 000 unique inserts within 24 hours. When Oscar Pistorius vomited in court, it was carried in 2300 news articles and in nine days the media hit the 750 000 article mark (National Press Club, 2015).

A large part of the public is interested in wanting to know what is going on in the world and the media plays an important role in informing and educating them. In many cases the media is shaping the public's perception of a criminal incident including the potential perpetrator, the identification of the victim(s), the underlying situational notions surrounding criminal activity and the wider criminal justice system (Hayes, 2015). Although serious crime attracts substantial media coverage, the level of coverage will vary widely from case to case. The specific characteristics of the offence, the location and the background of the victim or perpetrator will influence the degree of media interest the case receives. It seems that the reporting of crime and judicial issues is often driven by dramatic events, violent crimes, the wealthy and high-profile personalities (Feist, 1999). As examples, one can look at the role of the media in the Lucky Dube murder, the Oscar Pistorius trial, the David Rattray murder, the Leigh Mathews kidnapping and murder, the Van Breda murders, the Griekwastad murders, former president Jacob Zuma's court appearances and the case against former national police commissioner, the late Jackie Selebi. In a country where too many crimes are committed against women, femicide also receives a lot of media attention as happened after the murder of Karabo Mokoena and Uyinene Mrwetyana. However, the substantial amount of media interest in a case can be a complex issue, but if it is managed well, the media can make a significant contribution as they can generate valuable information from the general public. On the other hand, dealing with the media can take up valuable time and resources during the critical early stages of an investigation (Feist, 1999).

Andy Feist, the Programme Director of Policing Research at the UK Home Office in London said in 1999 that newsworthy cases were overwhelmed by media interest and requests for information. He added that the competition for “angles” could encourage some reporters to behave in a way which might seriously hinder the process of an investigation and form public perceptions. Media houses want to be first with the news and sometimes do not worry about its impact on the investigation, the victims and their families as well as communities. In an attempt to get another angle and to report first on certain aspects of the case against Phindile Ntshongwana, the man responsible for the Brighton beach murders, the Sunday Tribune published a frontpage article about the “Grisly killing spree”. It appears that the reporter spoke to a survivor who had given them his version of events, something which is always very frustrating to investigating officers who usually want to keep detailed information about how a crime was committed away from the media. One of the reasons is to prevent possible copycats from committing similar crimes in an attempt to have these unrelated crimes included in the series under investigation. Another reason is that a suspect might simply repeat what he or she has read or heard in the media about the crime when interviewed or interrogated. On that same day, News24 ran a similar story, but took another angle and speculated that the motive could have been revenge as the suspect's daughter had been raped and, in the process, she was infected with HIV. By taking this angle, this reporter made the suspect look like a “hero” as people who had commented on the article said that they would have done the same thing if their daughter had been raped (Labuschagne, 2021).

Mr Feist however warned that when a case generates limited media interest, opportunities to appeal to the public for information can be constrained. The authorities often use the media as a tool to publish information about crime in an attempt to gather more information from the public about the crime so as to apprehend the perpetrator. Identikits are often released to the media to help with locating a suspect which often leads to the arrest of several perpetrators. Research however found that the news media has a limited effect when it comes to alerting the community to assist in the apprehension of criminals. A 2015 study conducted by researchers from the Birmingham City University in the United Kingdom among 103 participants, found that despite 24-hour news coverage of high-profile victims and perpetrators, the public failed to remember either the victim or the perpetrator. Therefore, news media portrayals of perpetrators and victims are often not successful in getting the public to recognise a victim or perpetrator on the street from a picture shown on the news (Brookes, Wilson, Yardley, Rahman and Rowe, 2015).

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[This is only an extract of an article published in Servamus: September 2021. If you are interested in reading the rest of the article, send an email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to find out what you need to do. This article also focuses on the impact of media on perpetrators; the media at the crime scene and in court.]

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Servamus - September 2021

The relatives of a Pietermaritzburg couple, who were shot dead in their bakkie on Old Greytown Road in March 2021, were angry when a young, close relative discovered a video making rounds on social media platforms showing the grisly scene.
By Kotie Geldenhuys
These days the media is able to cover almost every aspect of the criminal justice system, from the bloody crime scene and the arrest of the perpetrator, to the trial and eventually the sentencing of the perpetrator.
By Kotie Geldenhuys
Blood dripping from stairs like waterfalls and maimed bodies; decomposed bodies covered with maggots; small children crying out in pain after being raped by someone they trus-ted; and women with bruised faces and bodies who shamefully try to hide their pain and humiliation are just a few scenarios that police members come across when they are called to a crime scene.
By Kotie Geldenhuys
One of the most familiar cold cases, which still boggles South Africans’ minds after all these years, is the Gert van Rooyen and Joey Haarhoff case, when at least six young girls mysteriously disappeared in the late 1980s.
By Kotie Geldenhuys

Pollex - September 2021

Act 7 of 2021 supra appears in English and Afrikaans in Government Gazette No 44650 dated 1 June 2021. It amends the Correctional Services Act 111 of 1998.
This Act 2 of 2020 is discussed comprehensively in Ask Pollex in Servamus: October 2020.
Read More - S v Josephs 2021(1) SACR 450 (WCC)
Relevant legislation Section 302 of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 (“the CPA”) provides as follows:
Read More - S v Tiry and Eight Others 2021(1) SACR 349 (SCA)
Factual background The principal complainants in this matter are Sasol and Engen who are producers of petroleum products.

Letters - September 2021

When police members turn 60, they are legally obliged to go on pension. Yet, that does not mean that they are "old".
Pollex noticed the following two letters in the regional newspaper Tyger Burger, dated 2 June 2021, which circulates in the Northern Suburbs in the Cape Peninsula.
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.