Senzo Meyiwa murder: Is this a case of police incompetence? Experts weigh in

Senzo Meyiwa murder: Is this a case of police incompetence? Experts weigh in
Sergeant Thabo Mosia – the first forensic police officer on the Senzo Meyiwa murder scene – is cross-examined by advocate Zandile Mshololo in the Pretoria High Court on 7 June 2022. (Photo: Supplied)

The forensic detective in the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial, Thabo Mosia, has come under fire. We looked at what was done – and not done – at the murder scene, and asked forensic experts for their take.

Forensic detective Thabo Mosia has been on the witness stand for three weeks in the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial. The Bafana Bafana and Orlando Pirates captain was murdered in Vosloorus on 26 October 2014.

He was with friends Tumelo Madlala and Mthokozisi Thwala, his girlfriend Kelly Khumalo and her family, Gladness Khumalo, Zandi Khumalo and Zandi’s boyfriend, Longwe Twala.

In October 2020, Fisokuhle Ntuli, Muzikawukhulelwa Sibiya, Bongani Sandiso Ntanzi, Mthobisi Prince Mncube and Mthokoziseni Maphisa were arrested and charged with murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, possession of firearms without a licence and possession of ammunition. All have pleaded not guilty.

Eight years after Meyiwa’s death, Mosia stood in the witness box at the Pretoria High Court and was being cross-examined on what he did when he arrived at the crime scene on Sunday, 26 October 2014.

So far, Mosia has told the court:

  • He did not take gunshot residue tests from the people who were in the house when Meyiwa was murdered;
  • He did not take DNA samples from the handle of the door that the robbers allegedly used to enter the house;
  • He did not trace the phone that was allegedly stolen; and
  • He allowed the people who were present when the murder occurred to stay in the house.

When the defence counsel asked Mosia why he didn’t do these things he said it either wasn’t his job or he didn’t deem it necessary to do so. So, what exactly is necessary for a forensic investigator to do when they arrive at a crime scene?

What the police did

Mosia told the Pretoria High Court he didn’t take gunshot residue tests from the people who were in the house when the alleged robbery occurred because he didn’t consider them to be suspects.

Senzo Meyiwa was murdered on Sunday, 26 October 2014. (Photo: Manus van Dyk / Gallo Images)

Everybody is a suspect

“If there is a shooting then everybody should be treated as a suspect until they’ve been cleared,” said Kevin McDonald, a forensic consultant.

Laurie Pieters-James, a forensic criminologist, said gunshot residue tests should have been done on the people who were in the house in order to rule them out.

“But that is… done at the forensic investigator’s discretion. I would’ve also taken their clothes because blood doesn’t just splatter on the wall,” Pieters-James told DM168.

What the police did

When Mosia was asked why he didn’t take any DNA samples from the handle of the door that the robbers allegedly came through, he said it was because it had already been touched by a lot of people.

Collecting samples

Pieters-James agreed that a door handle being touched by many people could be a reason to not take DNA samples from it.

Read in Daily Maverick: “Soccer star Senzo Meyiwa’s murder – judge warns against trial delays, defence advocate berates State over ‘late’ documents

Another reason could be “if the door handle is made from wood, [because] then it’s also difficult to lift a fingerprint because wood is a porous material”.

It isn’t clear what kind of material the door handle at the Khumalo home is made of.

What the police did

Neither did Mosia trace the Samsung S4 that was allegedly stolen. He told the court this was because “my brief was to secure the scene. I was working with a detective and he should have ensured it was traced.”

‘Could have been somebody else’s job’

“This may be the case because when you work with forensics there are different departments. Firearms go to the ballistics department, the body goes to pathology. They would then send their reports to the investigating officer… So it could have been somebody else’s job to follow up on the phone,” said Pieters-James.

Kelly Khumalo, Senzo Meyiwa‘s girlfriend, was at the Vosloorus house on the night of his murder. (Photo: Gallo Images / Oupa Bopape)

What the police did

Mosia, who arrived at the crime scene at 11.55pm – almost four hours after the murder – said he allowed everyone to stay at the house because it was late at night and there were children present.

A catalogue of incompetence

As to how common it is to allow people to stay at a crime scene, forensic expert David Klatzow said: “It’s common with incompetent police. You have to preserve [the crime scene] as close as possible.”

Read in Daily Maverick: “Who killed Senzo Meyiwa: As court case unfolds, docuseries reveals 8 years of inconsistent storytelling and inept policing

On 7 June, advocate Zandile Mshololo, who is representing Ntuli, grilled Mosia on his qualifications. Mosia said he completed his BTech in forensic investigations in 2019 – five years after Meyiwa’s murder.

Mosia told the court that when he attended the crime scene in 2014, he had done several advanced crime courses offered by the SAPS, dating back to 2008.

The qualification is crucial

McDonald said that having a forensic science qualification was crucial. “If you look at what happens with evidence being misplaced or cases [getting] thrown out because the evidence wasn’t collected properly, it’s because people don’t understand the forensic investigation processes properly.” DM168

The Senzo Meyiwa murder trial continues on Monday after proceedings were postponed last Wednesday. See report here: Soccer Star Senzo Meyiwa’s murder: judge warns against trial delays, defence advocate berates State over ‘late’ documents

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.



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