Prints tested for first time
SPELLBOUND LOCAL DRAMA HISS OF DEATH MONEY MATTERS 8 19 24 34 Lotz: minister appeals against R46m damages for boyfriend
Full 5-day forecast FINGERPRINTS lifted nearly eight years ago from the scene where Matie student Inge Lotz was killed are to be tested for the first time in an effort to track down who killed her.
The news of the new tests comes as the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) decides whether the Western Cape High Court was correct in ruling that the minister of police is liable for damages suffered by Lotz’s then-boyfriend, Fred van der Vyver, who was arrested for her murder and, after a lengthy trial, acquitted.
Van der Vyver sued the minister for about R46 million in damages and won in the High Court. However, the minister has taken the case on appeal to the SCA in Bloemfontein.
One of the central issues in the appeal was fingerprints which police said, during the criminal trial, had been lifted from the cover of a DVD Lotz hired – evidence which placed Van der Vyver at the scene. However, in the light of expert evidence from the defence, it was found that the fingerprints were lifted from a glass, not a DVD cover.
At the hearing this week, Appeal Court Judge Fritz Brand and Van der Vyver’s advocate, Dup De Bruyn, SC, debated whether inexperienced police sergeant Elton Swartz made a mistake or committed fraud when he made incorrect entries about the fingerprints.
Brand peppered De Bruyn with questions about the fingerprints and appeared irritated with De Bruyn’s replies.
De Bruyn sweated and tapped his feet constantly as Judge Brand continued to shoot down his arguments, or shrug them off as “insignificant” or “irrelevant”.
Although Van der Vyver’s father, mother and brother were at the court to hear the arguments, Van der Vyver was absent. Bloemfontein attorney Jan Jordaan represented Lotz’s parents. He said he attended the hearing so he could give the Lotz family proper feedback.
The SCA is expected to make a decision in the next six weeks.
Meanwhile, news of the new fingerprint tests was the main topic of conversation between people close to the case during the past few weeks, since it became known that they were found to be suitable for testing.
Weekend Argus understands that the fingerprints will be tested by different experts, including at least one foreign expert, in an effort to avoid a repeat of the fingerprint controversy during Van der Vyver’s trial.
Outside court, the big topic of conversation was when the test results would be out. One of the investigators said: “I can just hope we get lucky and get a positive result.”
He explained the police had apparently, “for the sake of convenience”, never tested these prints previously. “Or if they tested it, they never recorded the results. It’s possible they looked at it and reckoned they don’t belong to Fred.”
Among the fingerprints being tested were those found on fast food packaging and others believed to have been lifted from a number of items, including the cover of a Shape magazine found across Lotz’s ankles when her body was found.
ACQUITTED: Fred van der Vyver
KILLED: Inge Lotz on the night of her matric farewell