Was Mokoena alive when her body was set alight? It’s unclear

It was unclear whether Karabo Mokoena was alive at the time her body was burned, said the doctor who had performed the postmortem in the Johannesburg High Court on Wednesday.

Dr Malerato Ramela was testifying at the trial of Sandile Mantsoe who is charged with the murder of his former girlfriend. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him.

The state will close its case on Thursday after calling the last witnesses to the stand. Prosecutor Mike Hlatshwayo told the court that the last two witnesses would be those mentioned by Tuesday’s witness, Isaac Mabasa, a security guard at Sandton Skye.

Hlatshwayo also submitted the autopsy report and defence lawyer Victor Simelane said it was not disputed.

But Judge Johnson asked to see the coroner to clarify a part of the report about the deceased’s respiratory system. 

Dr Ramela explained that, because Mokoena’s body had been burnt, the upper and lower airways were no longer present and she was unable to determine whether the victim had breathed in soot. Therefore, it was unclear whether Mokoena was alive or deceased at the time her body was burned.

Mabasa was then called to the stand. He testified that on April 29 at 1:15am, he assisted Mantsoe, who had mislaid his access card, to his apartment. He said he did not set foot in the room and there was no indication of misconduct. This was the only time he had assisted Mantsoe, he said. The defence did not cross examine Mabasa.

After Mabasa stepped down, Constable Khotelo, an investigator on the case, took the stand and corroborated Mabasa’s evidence by saying that he checked the occurrence book to see when Mantsoe needed assistance in getting into his apartment. He found that it was only that time.

Hlatshwayo then asked to submit evidence of abuse claims made by deceased Karabo Mokoena. Judge Johnson decided that it was hearsay and Hlatshwayo abandoned the request.

The state intended to close its case today but will close it tomorrow instead because Hlatshwayo wants to examine the two other supervisors at Sandton Skye. He also wants to question them about who gave Mokoena’s ID card to Mokoena’s sister, as stated in her testimony.

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