Jordan-Leigh Norton: Anatomy of a murder
The single wound which killed baby Jordan-Leigh Norton was applied with such force that it severed the trachea and left incisions on the vertebrae, the Cape High Court heard on Thursday.
“The cause of death was a penetrating, incisive wound to the neck and the consequences thereof,” testified Yolande van der Heyde, a forensic pathologist.
Van der Heyde was giving evidence in the headline-grabbing murder trial of five accused—alleged mastermind Dina Rodrigues, Zanethemba Gwada, Sipho Mfazwe, Mongezi Bobotyane and a 16-year-old youth—who have pleaded not guilty to all charges, including murder and conspiracy to murder.
Van der Heyde said besides the trachea, damage was also caused to the oesophagus, the left jugular vein, and the left vertebral artery. The spinal cord was intact.
She said the body of the six-month-old baby, who was received at the morgue in a nappy, measured 63cm from head to heel, weighed eight kilograms, had a small physique and appeared well nourished.
“[Her] face and neck [was] covered in blood.”
Van der Heyde said the wound was 2,7cm long and had regular, sharp edges, “consistent with that caused by a sharp object”.
She could not say what type of weapon was used, but it could have been a knife.
Previous testimony by the baby’s uncle, Dylan Norton, suggested one of the accused had a knife about 30cm long.
Van der Heyde said cuts on the vertebrae bone indicated three scenarios—the blade was moved within the wound, or the baby’s head and neck moved against the blade, or both.
She said the likely scenario was that the blade had been moved in the wound.
Led by prosecutor Nicolette Bell, Van der Heyde said the fact that there was incisions on the bone showed that “excessive force” had been used.
Van der Heyde said while an adult had about five litres of blood in his body, an eight kilogram baby had about 640ml.
With a quarter of this 640ml of blood supplied to the head, death could have occurred in a minute.
“[It’s] not only a vein that was severed, but also an artery ... By ten minutes the baby would have been dead.”
Van der Heyde said blood-stained mucous in the lower airway indicated the baby took a couple of breaths before succumbing.
Earlier on Thursday, two of the Norton neighbour’s told the court of events on June 15, last year, when the incident occurred.
First to testify was Gabieba Slamdien, who said she took Jordan-Leigh to a nearby doctor’s surgery after Dylan Norton had knocked on her door, saying they had been robbed.
“At that moment I just saw blood and took the baby from the nanny… Oh my God! I couldn’t take it, there was so much blood… I didn’t know if the baby was dead or alive.”
Slamdien said an ADT security vehicle drove her to the surgery while she cradled the baby, “my whole arm full of blood”.
Another neighbour, Avril Barnes, told the court she had heard her domestic worker shouting that something was happening in the road.
Barnes went outside and saw Dylan “crying bitterly” and Tobeka also distressed.
Barnes said she told them to relax and went inside the Norton household to prepare water with sugar.
She testified that before the incident she had never visited the Norton home, and “didn’t even know their surname”.
Judge Basheer Waglay postponed the matter to Monday.