State of the heart the fo­cus of Maqubela trial

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - FA­TIMA SCHROEDER

THE ques­tion of whether late Act­ing Judge Pa­trick Maqubela was mur­dered or died as a re­sult of hy­per­ten­sive heart dis­ease was the fo­cus of this week’s pro­ceed­ings in the trial of his widow, Thandi Maqubela.

On the wit­ness stand was de­fence ex­pert Pro­fes­sor Gert Saayman, head of foren­sic medicine at the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria, who was cross-ex­am­ined af­ter giv­ing his ev­i­dence-in-chief ear­lier this year. Saayman’s view is that, in all prob­a­bil­ity, the act­ing judge died as a re­sult of hy­per­ten­sive heart dis­ease. He based his view on some re­ports be­fore the court, but did not have the en­tire docket in his pos­ses­sion – an is­sue which was raised by State ad­vo­cate Bon­nie Cur­rie-Gamwo.

Saayman said: “Whether or not I would’ve come to a dif­fer­ent opin­ion if I had ac­cess to the en­tire docket, I have no means of an­swer­ing.”

From what he had be­fore him, though, Saayman con­cluded that the act­ing judge’s heart was en­larged.

“An en­larged heart places one at risk of sud­den death,” he said.

The heart weighed 369g, when the mass range for a nor­mal heart was be­tween 240g and 350g. While Cur­rieGamwo pointed out that it was only 19g above the range, Saayman said that, in his view, the act­ing judge’s heart should have weighed sub­stan­tially less than 350g be­cause peo­ple lose mus­cle mass as they age. While Saayman could not rule out as­phyxia, he said his view was that “the prob­a­bil­i­ties are” that it was heart fail­ure that killed him.

When ques­tioned about the fact that the act­ing judge’s doc­tor had given him a clean bill of health about two weeks be­fore he died, Saayman said there were many peo­ple who ap­peared to be in good health, but dis­tinc­tive patholo­gies emerged dur­ing au­top­sies.

Saayman’s view is in stark con­trast to that of State ex­pert Sipho Mfolozi, who per­formed the au­topsy on the act­ing judge’s body.

Thandi Maqubela is charged with health prod­ucts agent Vela Mabena, who was in­volved in a busi­ness she worked for. Both have pleaded not guilty to the mur­der. Maqubela has also pleaded not guilty to fraud and forgery for al­legedly ma­nip­u­lat­ing her hus­band’s will.

The State al­leges that Maqubela was killed on June 5, 2009 and, while a pre­cise time of death has not been pre­sented, the ev­i­dence of pre­vi­ous wit­nesses points to his fail­ure to ar­rive at court that morn­ing, where he was to pre­side over an ap­peal. His reg­is­trar at the time, Joy Ely-Hanslo, tes­ti­fied last year that she re­ceived a call that morn­ing from a woman, who iden­ti­fied her­self as “Amanda”, and who in­formed her that the act­ing judge had been ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal.

Telkom ex­pert Her­manus Vis­agie pre­sented records that showed that a call re­ceived at his cham­bers at 10.30am that morn­ing em­anated from the act­ing judge’s Cell C num­ber. Ev­i­dence of the ac­tiv­ity of Thandi Maqubela’s cell­phone num­bers, her hus­band’s num­ber, and the MTN num­ber linked to Mabena was pre­sented. Records for the act­ing judge’s Cell C num­ber were com­pared to the records for num­bers linked to his wife, and showed they were all trans­mit­ted from the same ar­eas at around the same time.

In ad­di­tion, it emerged that her num­ber sent SMSes to his Cell C num­ber at 2.30pm, 3.18pm and 5.04pm on the day he was al­legedly killed – all in the vicin­ity of the Pres­i­dent Ho­tel, close to the apart­ment com­plex where the act­ing judge’s body was found.

The court also heard of strife in the cou­ple’s mar­riage, with the act­ing judge’s nephew tes­ti­fy­ing that the act­ing judge had men­tioned di­vorce. In ad­di­tion, there was ev­i­dence that Maqubela had been speak­ing to a news­pa­per about ex­pos­ing her hus­band’s in­fi­delity. Ear­lier in the trial, Jus­tice Min­is­ter Jeff Radebe tes­ti­fied that Maqubela dis­cussed the ex­tra-mar­i­tal af­fairs with him, and that she was in­tent on ex­pos­ing him.

The trial re­sumes on Tues­day.

ON TRIAL: Thandi Maqubela stands ac­cused of killing her hus­band.

BIG HEART: Pa­trick Maqubela’s heart was over­weight, says pro­fes­sor.

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