A police witness gave damning evidence to strengthen the state's case and cast doubt on one of the suspect's self-defence arguments.
In stark contrast to previous days at the murder trial of Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging leader Eugene Terre’Blanche, a police witness gave damning evidence to strengthen the state’s case and cast doubt on one of the suspect’s self-defence arguments.
But after three police officers testified on Tuesday, it is still unclear why Terre’Blanche was found with his pants open, underwear allegedly hanging on the end of his bed and “fresh sperm” (semen) on his genitals.
Chris Mahlangu (28) and a teenager have pleaded not guilty to housebreaking and robbery with aggravating circumstances and the murder of Terre’Blanche on April 3 2010.
Mahlangu said he acted in self-defence at his bail hearing in June last year but such claims were put to rest by forensic testimony given by crime reconstruction expert Colonel Ian Van der Nest.
Van der Nest made it clear that the blood stain patterns showed Terre’Blanche was taken by surprise, beaten with a heavy object “multiple times” and had no opportunity to fight back.
There was “such a large volume of blood” it soaked through the mattress Terre’Blanche was lying on. A bone fragment with soft tissue on it was found on the floor, according to Van der Nest. Terre’Blanche was beaten by someone swinging a large rod in a style similar to swinging a cricket bat.
“After the first blow there was no movement. You could see it by the blood flow,” he told defence lawyer Norman Arendse, ruling out any chance of a fight.
Van der Nest also told Arendse that evidence showed only one person could have swung the rod used to beat Terre’Blanche to death.
In a strange turn of events Kgomotoso Tlouane SC told the Ventersdorp High Court that his client Mahlangu was “bitterly sorry” but did not apologise for the crime.
“Hy is bitter jammer oor die voorval [He is very sorry about the incident],” Tlouane told the court, interrupting the flow of testimony.
One of Terre’Blanche’s relatives, Andre Nienaber, watching the trial on closed-circuit television, said that he was very surprised to hear the apology and didn’t hear it the first time so asked his wife what had been said.
Nienaber, wearing an AWB khaki cap earlier told journalists that Van der Nest’s testimony showed the “story about sex was definitely not true”.
When national police commissioner General Bheki Cele said last year that a condom had been found on the scene, it fuelled rumours that Terre’Blanche had sexual relations with the suspects.
But Van der Nest testified there was a reasonable explanation for Terre’Blanche’s unzipped pants. He said he thought that perhaps Terre’Blanche had opened his trouser button in order to rest comfortably, which is why his genitals were exposed when his body was found.
“Often when a person with a bit of a stomach [lies down], he opens his button just for comfort purposes.”
The fact that there was no blood on the jeans in the groin area showed that his pants were open before he was bludgeoned to death, said the forensic expert.
Van der Nest argued that if Terre’Blanche had stood up to defend himself he would “expect Terre’Blanche’s pants to be lower down” as they would have dropped as he rose.
Crime scene manager Captain Jacobus Rautenbach, who took the stand after Van der Nest, said he assumed the right-wing leader’s pants were not low enough to show he had been sexually active.
But Rautenbach testified that he spotted semen on Terre’Blanche’s genitals when he saw the mutilated body of the man he had known for 21 years.
He said under cross-examination it was strange that Terre’Blanche was discovered with his pants open and his underwear hanging on his bed’s headboard.
The trial continues on Wednesday.
For more on the life and times of the slain AWB leader, visit our special report.