Who killed Inge Lotz? Her killer, who­ever that was, re­mains at large

LONG BE­FORE OS­CAR AND REEVA, THE MUR­DER OF INGE LOTZ – AND THE TRIAL OF HER BOYFRIEND, FRED VAN DER VYVER – TRANS­FIXED THE COUN­TRY. HE WAS AC­QUIT­TED IN 2007, BUT TWO VIG­I­LANTE IN­VES­TI­GA­TORS ARE OUT TO PROVE HIS GUILT. VET­ERAN REPORTER ANTONY ALTBEKER RESP

Marie Claire (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - WORDS ANTONY ALTBEKER

on 16 April this year, when Roger Dixon tes­ti­fied in Os­car Pis­to­rius’s de­fence, I tweeted,‘If any­one cares, Dixon’s re­port on the fin­ger­print in Fred’s case was key to con­vinc­ing the court that it was from a glass.’ It was a mo­ment of con­ver­gence for two of the big­gest mur­der tri­als that have taken place in South Africa to date.

By the hum­ble stan­dards of my Twit­ter ac­count, my time­line lit up af­ter I as­so­ci­ated Dixon with the de­fence of Fred van der Vyver, who was tried in 2007 for the mur­der of Inge Lotz. Within a few min­utes, there were dozens of com­ments and retweets, the tone of which, over­whelm­ingly, was,‘Yeah, well, Dixon mis­led *that* judge, just like he’s try­ing to do here.’

An ex­am­ple of this was from @Truth4Inge, the Twit­ter han­dle for two broth­ers – Thomas and Calvin Mollett – who’ve made it their mis­sion to prove that Van der Vyver’s ac­quit­tal was the re­sult of the ef­forts of ex­perts like Roger Dixon, who, they say, know­ingly mis­led judge Deon van Zyl. The Mol­letts’ claims have been made on their blog, in var­i­ous news­pa­pers, on Carte Blanche, in a se­ries of sub­mis­sions to the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion for Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion to have Van der Vyver’s in­ter­na­tional ex­pert wit­nesses cen­sured, and now in the sub­tly ti­tled book, Bloody Lies. It is a book – full dis­clo­sure – in which the Mol­letts say some un­true and li­bel­lous things about me. Still, if you’re in­clined to be­lieve them, you may be dis­in­clined to be­lieve what I have to say about their work, which is, by turns, mis­lead­ing and, not in­fre­quently, laugh­able. [Ed’s note: the Mol­letts, con­tacted for com­ment, ob­jected to Altbeker’s re­sponse to their work.A com­ment from them is in­cluded at the end of this story; de­tails of their claims can be found on their web­site Truth4Inge.com.]

To un­der­stand what the Mol­letts are do­ing, you need to un­der­stand some­thing about the case on which they have fixed their en­er­gies. On 16 March 2005, Inge Lotz was bru­tally bat­tered and stabbed to death in her flat in Stel­len­bosch. She was 22 years old, beau­ti­ful, the soloist in her church choir, and study­ing for a Mas­ters in sta­tis­tics. From the out­set, the po­lice were con­vinced that Inge had been mur­dered by some­one close to her: noth­ing was stolen from the flat, there were no signs of forced en­try, and the sheer vi­o­lence of the crime (she’d been sub­jected to a fe­ro­cious beat­ing to the head and face with a blunt ob­ject, fol­lowed by mul­ti­ple stabbings to her chest) sug­gested that there was some­thing per­sonal at stake for her killer.

At the time of her death, Inge was dat­ing a young ac­tu­ary called Fred van der Vyver. A scion of a suc­cess­ful farm­ing fam­ily,

he’d at­tended Grey Col­lege in Bloem­fontein be­fore be­com­ing one of the top stu­dents in Stel­len­bosch’s ac­tu­ar­ial science de­part­ment. Fred was in­ter­viewed by the po­lice on the morn­ing af­ter the crime, and was asked to give a full ac­count of his move­ments the pre­vi­ous day – es­pe­cially in the late af­ter­noon and early evening when Inge was killed. His story was a sim­ple one. He’d been at work at Old Mu­tual 40 kilo­me­tres away in Pinelands, where he had at­tended a day-long meet­ing with his boss and a num­ber of co-work­ers. Af­ter that he’d gone home where he’d had sup­per with his flat­mate be­fore the two of them vis­ited a neigh­bour.

It is im­por­tant to know that ev­ery­thing about Fred’s story checks out in ev­ery way. His boss and his boss’s boss, along with four other peo­ple who were at the meet­ing with Fred, all signed sworn af­fi­davits that he’d been there all of that day. In ad­di­tion, his cell­phone was linked to Pinelands tow­ers when­ever it was used that day, and records from his com­puter show that he used it at lunch and shortly af­ter the meet­ing fin­ished at 5pm. Most im­por­tantly, Fred’s of­fice – which is the head­quar­ters of one of the largest in­sur­ance com­pa­nies in the south­ern hemi­sphere – has con­sid­er­able se­cu­rity in­fra­struc­ture, and re­peated trawls through card-swipe records and CCTV footage of ev­ery exit re­vealed no ev­i­dence that Fred had so much as left the sec­tion of the build­ing in which his of­fice was lo­cated, much less left the Old Mu­tual cam­pus it­self.

From the out­set, the po­lice were con­vinced that Inge had been mur­dered by some­one close to her: noth­ing was stolen from the flat and there were no signs of forced en­try

De­spite this, in June 2005, Fred was ar­rested for Inge’s mur­der, a crime for which he was tried be­tween Fe­bru­ary and Novem­ber 2007. If the po­lice were never able to of­fer ev­i­dence that Fred had left Old Mu­tual, what they did pro­duce were three pieces of foren­sic ev­i­dence, each of which linked Fred to the crime scene. These proved, or so they claimed, that how­ever he’d done it, he must have left the of­fice that day. He must also have driven to Stel­len­bosch, com­mit­ted a bru­tal mur­der, cleaned up, and re­turned to work where his be­hav­iour seemed com­pletely nor­mal to every­one with whom he in­ter­acted. He also man­aged to do this with­out any­one’s notic­ing his ab­sence from a meet­ing at which only 10 peo­ple were in at­ten­dance. So what was their ev­i­dence for this? The first and most sig­nif­i­cant part of their case was Fred’s fin­ger­print which the po­lice said they found on the cover of DVD that Inge had rented just af­ter 3pm on the day she died. This was long af­ter Fred had left the flat that morn­ing, mak­ing it the only ob­ject in flat on which the pres­ence of his fin­ger­print would an­ni­hi­late his al­ibi. In ad­di­tion to the fin­ger­print, po­lice of­fi­cers also tes­ti­fied that a bloody mark on the bath­room floor could be matched to the sole of one of Fred’s shoes, and that the two sides of an or­na­men­tal ham­mer-cum-bot­tle-opener they’d found in his car matched the size and shape of the wounds to Inge’s head.

Theirs was a case that rested en­tirely on foren­sic ev­i­dence, one that sounds like an episode from CSI, but af­ter a marathon trial, Judge van Zyl’s de­ci­sion was em­phatic: not only had the prose­cu­tors failed to prove Fred’s guilt be­yond a rea­son­able doubt, their ac­count of how the mur­der hap­pened was ‘highly im­prob­a­ble, if not im­pos­si­ble’. This con­clu­sion was based on his ac­cep­tance of tes­ti­mony from a slew of in­ter­na­tional ex­perts that demon­strated prob­lems with the po­lice ev­i­dence. The de­fence, for ex­am­ple, had shown that, while the po­lice had tried to link the ham­mer to the crime through the sim­i­lar­ity of its size and shape to those of Inge’s wounds, the method used for prov­ing this was deeply flawed and that the pathol­o­gist’s re­port on the in­juries in fact sug­gested the wounds were far larger than the ham­mer.

In re­la­tion to the sup­posed shoeprint, the world’s lead­ing au­thor­ity on shoeprint im­pres­sion ev­i­dence, Bill Bodziak, a man who (lit­er­ally) wrote the text­book on the sub­ject and in a pre­vi­ous life was the FBI’s lead wit­ness in the OJ Simp­son case, tes­ti­fied that not only was the bloody mark not made by Fred’s shoe, it was al­most cer­tainly not left by a shoe at all. He also tes­ti­fied that the po­lice­man who tes­ti­fied about the ‘shoeprint’ had flat-out lied to the judge when he claimed that he (Bodziak) had sup­ported his con­clu­sions af­ter a meet­ing in his lab in Florida. In fact, he’d re­jected those con­clu­sions.

Fi­nally, and af­ter tes­ti­mony from two in­ter­na­tional fin­ger­print ex­perts, one of whom was the au­thor of In­ter­pol’s guide­lines on the han­dling of fin­ger­print ev­i­dence, the judge ac­cepted that the fin­ger­print had not been lifted off a DVD cover, but rather had come off a drink­ing glass. It could not, there­fore, prove that Fred had been in Inge’s flat af­ter 3pm on the day of the mur­der.

You need to read all of the Mol­letts’ var­i­ous writ­ings to get a sense of the strange mix of ar­ti­fi­cial ju­di­cious­ness and spit­tle-flecked para­noia with which they at­tack the claims of Fred’s ex­perts. Their es­sen­tial ap­proach, how­ever, is to throw as much spaghetti against the wall as they can, and see how much sticks. And, as you’d ex­pect,

based on the laws of prob­a­bil­ity, some does. They show, for ex­am­ple, that it is quite likely that the pathol­o­gist had mis­mea­sured Inge’s wounds, and that, in re­al­ity, they were closer to the size of the ham­mer than she’d recorded. That’s a mark in their favour. What they fail to grasp, how­ever, is that the only rea­son the de­fence fo­cused on the size of the wounds at all was be­cause that was the only link the po­lice posited be­tween the ham­mer and the mur­der. In fact, there were also ex­perts ready to tes­tify that if the ham­mer had been the mur­der weapon, they would have ex­pected to find traces of Inge’s DNA on it, if not on the metal sur­face, then in or un­der the rub­ber han­dle.As it hap­pens, the only DNA found on the ham­mer was Fred’s.

In ad­di­tion, the de­fence had nu­mer­ous foren­sic ex­perts ready to tes­tify that the wounds to Inge’s head and skull were not at all typ­i­cal of as­saults with a ham­mer – es­pe­cially a small one like Fred’s. This they say, would not have been ca­pa­ble of cre­at­ing some of the in­juries and would have left other kinds of tell-tale dam­age that wasn’t present. Against this the Mol­letts of­fer var­i­ous hy­pothe­ses about the struc­tural in­tegrity of the squamosal su­ture. But since they are, re­spec­tively, a civil engi­neer and a copy edi­tor by trade, it is hard to take this se­ri­ously.

The Mol­letts’ best work – and I use the term in a strictly rel­a­tive sense – con­cerns the fin­ger­print, where they go af­ter pretty much ev­ery claim made by ev­ery de­fence ex­pert about why one or other of its el­e­ments is not com­pat­i­ble with a lift from a DVD cover. They say the de­fence ex­perts are wrong about the ori­en­ta­tion of the fin­ger­prints and whether this matches how some­one would hold a glass rather than a flat ob­ject. They say the ex­perts are wrong about the claim that two dis­tinct lines on the lift are not com­pat­i­ble with the sur­face and edges of a DVD cover, but are com­pat­i­ble with a lift from a glass. They say the mark that the ex­perts be­lieve is a lip print is not a lip print at all, but sweat from the gloved fin­ger of a po­lice fin­ger­print ex­pert. They say the wa­ter marks on the lift are not ac­tu­ally com­pat­i­ble with hav­ing come from a glass, and more likely came off a DVD cover. They say it’s pos­si­ble for fin­ger­print pow­der to fail to ad­here to the plas­tic of a DVD cover (which would ex­plain the fact that the lift is rel­a­tively clean), even though the ex­perts say this is not pos­si­ble.

The list goes on and on, and oc­ca­sion­ally one or other of the Mol­letts’ claims does have a de­gree of plau­si­bil­ity. Their big prob­lem, how­ever, is that as much as they crit­i­cise Fred’s ex­perts for fail­ing to re­pro­duce ex­act du­pli­cates of the po­lice’s lift when con­duct­ing ex­per­i­ments us­ing glasses rather than DVD cov­ers, they have not been able to pro­duce a sin­gle lift us­ing a DVD cover as the sub­strate that looks even re­motely like the lift in this case. In fact, there isn’t a sin­gle image of a lift from a DVD holder in the hun­dreds of pages they have pro­duced over two years of work, much less one that looks like the lift the po­lice say came from Inge’s flat. Not one. Why not? I think it’s safe to say that it’s be­cause they can’t pro­duce one that doesn’t give the game away.

Roger Dixon, as read­ers may re­mem­ber, was a qual­i­fied ge­ol­o­gist, but he’d of­fered his opinion on all sorts of is­sues as­so­ci­ated with the phys­i­cal ev­i­dence against Os­car – bal­lis­tics, acous­tics, the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of blood splat­ter. Un­der mer­ci­less cross-ex­am­i­na­tion of Ger­rie Nel, how­ever, he was ex­posed as a non-ex­pert in all these ar­eas.

If Dixon was the non-ex­pert wit­ness ven­tur­ing into fields about which he knows too lit­tle in Os­car Pis­to­rius’s case, it is the Mol­letts who are the Roger Dixons of Fred’s case.

Antony Altbeker is the au­thor of Fruit of a Poi­soned Tree:

A true story of mur­der and the mis­car­riage of jus­tice, an ac­count of the trial of Fred van der Vyver for the mur­der of

Inge Lotz.

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