Reading a lengthy judgment, he said it was possible to infer from proven facts and circumstances that Patrick Maqubela died between 1am and 6pm on Friday, June 5, 2009.
Murphy concluded from cellphone records that Thandi Maqubela must have been at her husband’s apartment in that time, with the exception of a few hours, despite her denials.
“She was thus there after the deceased died. It was thus surely she who shrouded the body… or she who knows who did it,” Murphy said.
He said her indignation at the state of their marriage made her capable of such an act. She and her co-accused Vela Mabena have pleaded not guilty to suffocating acting judge Patrick Maqubela with cling-wrap in his apartment in Sea Point, Cape Town.
She has also denied guilt on fraud and forgery charges related to a document she claims is her husband’s will. The court heard that the first three people to discover her husband’s body that Sunday were the complex’s security guard and two of the acting judge’s friends, who entered the apartment together.
Murphy said the activity at the apartment, with consequent visits by other people, left much to be desired in terms of a forensic investigation. He found that the observations of the three were not without ambiguity, but were nonetheless “decisive”.
“We are persuaded that the evidence, on balance, supports the finding that the body was neatly shrouded, with a pillow resting on the deceased’s face.”
The shrouding and neatness thus suggested an interference with the body after death. Murphy said it was possible Thandi Maqubela had been responsible for covering her husband’s face to “protect her sensibilities” in terms of religion.
He also pointed to her training as a nurse and her post mortem knowledge. “It’s possible that she shrouded him, closed the windows and put on the heaters to increase the temperature, to accelerate decomposition, to render the time of death impossible,” Murphy said.
“These circumstances… give rise to the legitimate assertion that she consciously chose to disguise the cause of death.”
Murphy was less convinced about the State’s assertion that three pieces of cling-wrap, found bunched up in a wastebasket near the bed, were used as a murder weapon.
He said the State had proved the cling-wrap was in the basket in that period, and the presence of the acting judge’s DNA and the palm and thumb print of Thandi Maqubela on the middle layer.
He said her fingerprints and her husband’s DNA may have found their way onto the cling-wrap through innocent means.
“These facts do not establish beyond doubt or beyond the balance of probabilities that the cling-wrap was a murder weapon….”
He said it was unusual, although not inconceivable, to leave a murder weapon at the scene of the crime.
On Monday, Murphy asked the media to avoid reaching preliminary conclusions in the two to three days it would take to read the judgment, “because the judgment is so complex and there are so many factual findings to be made”.
The judgment continues on Wednesday.