Bloody Lies


This book takes head-on one of the highest-profile murder cases in recent South African history.


This book takes head-on one of the highest-profile murder cases in recent South African history. In 2007 Fred van der Vyver was acquitted of the 2005 murder of fellow student Inge Lotz. He then sued the police to the highest court for malicious prosecution – and failed.

In spite of the defence’s trashing of the prosecution’s case at the trial, the authors show, compellingly, how every key element of the prosecuting evidence withstands the closest scrutiny. They use models, measurements, forensic tests, mathematical formulae and the views of experts both here and overseas.

They show how an ornamental hammer found in Van der Vyver’s vehicle, but thrown out as evidence, could match the head wounds. Contrary to the claim accepted at court they show convincingly that a disputed fingerprint was not lifted off a drinking glass – a detail that could make all the difference.

They demonstrate how blood marks on a towel could have come off the hammer, how blood stains on the floor could have been shaped by a specific shoe and how a closer look at cellphone records reveal a different choreography of movements than what was accepted by the court.

Could it be that two amateurs succeeded where the state prosecution failed? Thomas, a language practitioner, and his engineer brother Calvin, have made headlines, been featured on Carte Blanche and vilified, but not proven wrong – leaving wide open one of the most tantalising unsolved murder cases on record.

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1 week ago

Bloody Lies

A few short notes on the Abbot case in Namibia. I must make it clear that I have not seen any material on the case and know very little about the relevant circumstances and investigation at this stage. I only want to address the issue of the lack of blood considering the event and decapitation, which seems to be suspicious to many.

Firstly, death is a process. Depending on the event and resulting cause of death, death is not like switching off a switch. I do not want to go into the medico-legal definitions of death, but in certain death settings (e.g. brain death settings) the heart can continue to beat for some time after "death", and it takes time for all cells to die off, and for all functions to cease. In this setting, one has to understand some basic physiology and pathology.

It goes without saying that what makes blood move around in the body, and would cause blood to be expelled from the body during and after injury, is a beating heart. To juxtaposition this case, the best is to imagine somebody slitting your throat with a big, sharp knife. While cutting is ongoing and the blood vessels are breached, the heart is still working and pumping (as there is still connection with the brain) – blood will be forced out of the breached vessels by pressure caused by the contracting heart. You will likely die as a result of blood loss – and/or when vital nerves are breached (there may be a combination of issues, including shock that may contribute). But you can expect a bloody scene.

The fact is, there is a beating heart that would cause active bleeding. In this case, we must keep in mind that the heart would have stopped to beat just about instantaneously as the spinal cord was severed when the sharp blade of the train’s wheel ran over the neck. What then also becomes important to consider is the position of the body. When a decapitated body lies flat, one can expect a reasonable amount of blood seeping passively out of the breached blood vessels (and thus out of the body), more so if hung by the feet. But if the body is in an upright or inclined position (even just a little) gravity will restrict this passive flow-out as the blood settles down to the lower dependent parts within the body.

It has been mentioned as a possible reason, Cadaveric spasm can occur – when instantaneous muscular stiffening occurs at the moment of death, which can persists into the period of rigor mortis. Given that the arteries also comprise muscle which upon contraction (i.e. spasms) could have prevented expulsion, this seems to be a possibility. However, a more likely explanation to me is the possibility of searing. We must remember that because of the prolonged and intense friction of the wheels on the track, the wheels are extremely hot. On impact the heat of the blade could have seared the vessels, restricting expulsion.

In the end a combination of body position, spasms and searing could have prevented significant bleeding. Please note, I am making no claims regarding murder vs suicide, but simply that the lack of blood in such a setting is explainable.
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2 weeks ago

Bloody Lies

A few short notes on the Packham case. After having seen the PM report and some PM photos of primarily the skull fractures, it is my opinion that Gill was hit with intent and intensity, with a moderately heavy flat object. Maybe not entirely flat but it was not in the line of e.g. a pipe. The punched out (circular) fracture is indicative of a flatter impacting surface rather than of something like a pipe, which would have caused more of a boat-shaped fracture. She was hit (e.g. with a fist) on the jaw so hard that her jaw (on the right side) fractured right through, after which she was hit several times on the right side of the head. More passive fractures on the left side of the skull with no associated bleeding suggest that these fractures occurred after death.

I say "with intent and intensity" in the light of the defence's effort to imply that she was attacked by a stranger in her car. But this is simply not the type of injuries one would sustain in such an attack. A robber would just do enough to get your car or purse, and it is not their modus operandi to go into such an over-attack. The combination (i.e. jaw and skull) is also more indicative of a directed (and intentional) attack, i.e. fueled by rage - the type of wounds that would be seen in domestic violence cases. (Generally there is a noticeable difference between the type of injuries sustained in random attacks (like in robberies) vs those in passion crimes.) Given the wounds' location and distribution, and on a practical basis, an attack through a car's window can be discounted.

No soot in her airways and no carbon monoxide in her blood, is indicative of the fact that she was dead already by the time she was set alight - as her lungs at that time did not inhale any smoke.
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