2 minute read
6 Oct 2014
5:24 pm

State calls pathologist as first witness in Dewani case

The pathologist who conducted slain honeymooner Anni Dewani's post mortem was called as the first State witness in the murder trial of her husband Shrien Dewani on Monday.

FILE PICTURE: A member of the ANC Women's League protests outside the court holding a picture of murdered Anni Dewani, during the appearance of British businessman Shrien Dewani at the Western Cape High Court, 08 April 2014. Picture: EPA

Dr Janette Verster told the Western Cape High Court she was called to Khayelitsha, Cape Town, where the body was found in the back seat of an abandoned taxi on the morning of November 14, 2010.

She concluded that Dewani died from gunshot wounds at close range.

Shrien Dewani earlier pleaded not guilty to killing his wife, and to other related charges. He claims the couple were hijacked as they were being driven through Gugulethu, Cape Town, in a shuttle taxi on Saturday, November 13, 2010, while on their honeymoon. According to him the hijackers forced him out and drove off with Anni.

Verster conducted a preliminary examination at the scene, noting that Anni was lying on her right hand side with both hands tucked under the chin. The body was cold to the touch.

Moments before Verster took the stand, a video of the crime scene and Anni’s body was shown on large flat-screen televisions, causing shocked silence and a few gasps in the court room.

In the video her brown hair spills over the back seat, out of the open passenger door. She is still wearing a black dress and heels from the evening before, with her scarf tucked behind her body.

To questioning by prosecutor Adrian Mopp, Verster said she noticed a gunshot wound to Dewani’s left hand and the left side of her neck.

They sealed her hands in brown paper bags and carefully lifted her body onto a body bag. It was then they noticed another gunshot wound on the right side of her back.

Verster said the wound to the neck severed two vascular veins and perforated the spinal cord.

“This wound had fatal consequences… which resulted in massive blood loss,” she testified.

“So within a few heartbeats the deceased would have bled out through the wound in the neck.”

She said had Anni survived the shooting, she would very likely have been paralysed below the neck.

Despite finding four fresh contusions on the inside of the tourist’s left leg and fresh marks below her left knee, Verster said there was no evidence of anal or vaginal trauma that would indicate sexual assault of some kind.

In cross-examination, Dewani’s lawyer Francois van Zyl contested the idea that Anni Dewani had been cowering defensively and was shot with a gun pointing directly at her.

“The firearm was actually wedged between the left hand and the chest,” he said.

Verster said she had difficulty imagining that scenario and could not say which way the weapon was pointed as ballistics was not her expertise.

“Have you dealt with execution-type killings in the past?” Van Zyl asked.

She replied that she had, in the course of performing more than 200 post mortems that included different types of gunshot wounds.

Van Zyl asked where she expected injuries would occur in an execution.

Verster said numerous areas were possible, including the head and chest, and it depended on whether there was a struggle.