Beheaded victim Desiree Murugan was still alive when she was decapitated, the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Durban heard on Tuesday. Forensic pathologist Portia Kheswa, who conducted a post-mortem on Murugan’s headless body on August 22, 2014, told the court the victim’s heart was still beating when her head was cut off.
She said although the victim had sustained more than 190 stab wounds and although the wounds could have had a vital contribution to her death, the heart was still beating when the head was decapitated, which caused her death.
“I found that there was a black lining around the neck which indicates that the victim’s heart was still beating when the head was decapitated.
“If the heart had stopped beating when the head was removed from her body, the lining around the neck would have been pink,” she told the court.
Defence attorney Phila Dube during cross-examination asked Kheswa if she believed the victim would have made it if the head was not decapitated.
“Are you telling us that she would have survived if the head was not removed from her body?” Kheswa said the victim would not have died from the stab wounds alone. If resuscitated in time, she would have made it.
“The cause of death was definitely not the stab wounds inflicted on her body, but death happened when the head was decapitated. She died instantly,” she said.
Murugan’s naked and headless body was discovered by municipal workers at Shallcross Sports Grounds . Her head was later unearthed in a shallow grave at the home of traditional healer Sibonakaliso Mbili in Mfume.
Five suspects, including the healer and his trainee sangoma, are standing trial, while two others – Falakhe Khumalo, who is serving a life sentence, and Thuso Thelejane, who is yet to be sentenced – have confessed to the killing. They claimed the healer had promised them R2 million in exchange for the head of a Indian, coloured or white person.
The case was adjourned to March 22 next year. Outside court, members of the Chatsworth community protested calling for the court to lock up the suspects and throw away the key.