Evidence Fabrication in South Africa

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Evidence Fabrication in South Africa

Postby Pat A. Wertheim » Fri Nov 30, 2007 12:48 pm

The trial of Fred van der Vyver for the 2006 murder of Inge Lotz ended yesterday in a verdict of "Not Guilty" in Cape Town, South Africa. In rendering that verdict, the judge went a step further and found that each piece of evidence and each witness presented by the prosecution was without credibility and that Mr. van der Vyver could not have committed the crime. In his final words, the judge actually pronounced Mr. van der Vyver "Innocent" rather than simply "not guilty."

Fingerprint evidence was presented as having come from a DVD cover at the scene of the murder of Miss Lotz. That was significant because Mr. van der Vyver was at her apartment the day before her murder, but she had rented the DVD only hours before her death. The problem was that the latent print could only have come from a drinking glass, complete with curved edges, curved fingers, and even a lip print on the rim of the glass. Had there been any lift that could conceivably come from a DVD cover, a careless mix up may have been possible, but none of the eleven lifts from the scene could have come from a DVD cover.

Likewise, a bloody swipe mark on the tiled bathroom floor was presented by the police as being individualized to Mr. van der Vyver's running shoe. However, it could be seen from the earliest photographs that an appendage that supposedly "matched" the tread pattern in the shoe was absent altogether from the bloody swipe mark originally. Later photographs showed the appendage, which had all the appearance of having been made with a cotton swab.

In addition, an ornamental bar hammer (for opening bottles and breaking ice cubes) was seized from Mr. van der Vyver by the police and presented as the murder weapon. The police tested the hammer on a pig carcass to try to reproduce wounds on Ms. Lotz's body. The hammer bent on the first test blow to the pig, so the police bought a different hammer and continued their tests.

Finally, Mr. van der Vyver had an iron-clad alibi, as he was in a business meeting with other people all afternoon at his place of work an hour's drive from the murder scene. He never left the meeting, but would have had to have been gone for over two hours just to drive to the scene and back, much more to have committed the murder and cleaned up.

More information can be found by searching the names "Inge Lotz" and "Fred van der Vyver" through various search engines. This case has the potential of becoming a major scandal in the annals of evidence fabrication and more will doubtlessly be heard of this case in coming months.

http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1 ... 524C831474
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Postby Michele » Fri Nov 30, 2007 3:01 pm

Pat,

What an amazing thing it is to have helped someone win their freedom.

Congratulation on a job well done!!
Michele
The best way to escape from a problem is to solve it. Alan Saporta
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Postby Iain McKie » Fri Nov 30, 2007 5:01 pm

Congratulations to fingerprint experts Arie Zeelenberg and Pat Wertheim and the other forensic experts involved in giving evidence that led to the acquittal of Fred van der Vyver who had been charged with murdering his girl friend Inge Lotz in South Africa.

http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1 ... 524C831474

As Arie and Pat, David Grieve, Allan Bayle, Gary Dempster and others have shown in my daughter’s case, where injustice is threatened there are always experts of integrity and principle who are prepared to challenge their colleagues.

It is very re-assuring to know that when experts get it wrong, either through genuine error, incompetence or a criminal act the profession itself, or at least individuals within it, are prepared to stand up to be counted. For me this is the surest sign that your science is in robust good health. Thankfully it is well able to withstand the current challenges and retain its place as an invaluable aid to crime detection and prevention.
As always my thanks to all experts who have supported Shirley over the years.
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Postby Pat A. Wertheim » Fri Nov 30, 2007 5:56 pm

Mike Grimm did a tremendous amount of work and proved that the alleged footwear impression was not only NOT a footwear impression, the efforts to make it appear as such constituted fabrication of evidence. Although constraints at the time prevented Mike from testifying, Bill Bodziak and Paul Ryder both testified for the defense against the alleged footwear impression.

While Arie and I both testified regarding the fabricated fingerprint evidence, we were not the first to discover that it was fabricated. Mike Grace and Daan Bekker, both retired South African fingerprint experts, made that discovery. It was only after the South Africa Police Service investigated Daan Bekker's report and issued a subsequent report of their own confirming the evidence was correct and trashing the work of Bekker and Grice that Arie and I were asked to review the evidence.

The wound evidence was effectively debunked when the police videotape showing the hammer bend on the first blow to the pig was introduced at trial and the police admitted misleading the court by failing to advise that they had substituted hammers.

Mr. van der Vyver's alibi was proved conclusively by three facts. First, every entry/exit from his workplace has 24 hour video surveillance that showed he did not leave or reenter the building at any time during the period preceeding or following the murder. Second, coworkers testified that he had been present during meetings continually during the afternoon of the murder. Third, Mr. van der Vyver's cell phone records and email records proved that he had been in the office that afternoon. Only the lack of emails or phone calls for a two hour period provided the police with the time window that they claimed he had left, committed the murder, and returned to work.

Whether the South Africa Police Service investigates and deals with the problems, or covers things up as has been done in Scotland in the cases of Shirley McKie and David Asbury, remains to be seen. Restitution should be made to the van der Vyver family for the expenses they have incurred in excess of one million dollars US.

And not least of all, the investigation into the murder of Inge Lotz needs to be reopened.
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Postby Thomas Taylor » Sat Dec 01, 2007 10:10 am

Thomas Taylor,
The old man on the block.
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Postby Michele » Sat Dec 01, 2007 12:36 pm

I'm trying to add an entry to the terminology page but each article has the information a little different.

Can those of you involved confirm that this information is correct? Was there more than one latent print? Is the print available for us to view?

Thanks,
Michele

Fabricated Latent Prints, known cases of:
Fred van der Vyver (South Africa)
In March 2005 Fred van der Vyver was the main suspect in the murder of his girlfriend, Inge Lotz. Crucial evidence against him was a fingerprint identification labeled as being lifted from a DVD cover. The identification of the print was never in question. The question was whether or not the fingerprint was actually lifted from the DVD cover or from some other substrate. Fred van der Vyver maintained his innocence and provided an air tight alibi while the State denied any possibility of a mistake. The first person to suggest that the fingerprints were from a different surface was Mr Nico Kotze. Several other fingerprint experts, including Dr. David Klatzow, Mike Grace, Daan Bekker, Pat Wertheim and Arie Zeelenberg, reviewed the case. Daan Bekker was the first person to state that the latent print was lifted from a drinking glass. In December 2006, due to the experts’ findings, the South African Police Department announced that they were not going to pursue the fingerprint evidence. When the trail began, the fingerprint evidence was admitted as part of the evidence (along with other evidence that was suspected of being fabricated). Mike Grimm, Bill Bodziak and Paul Ryder were the footwear experts in this case. On Nov. 29, 2007, the judge accepting that the latent print evidence did not come from a DVD cover, found Fred van der Vyver not guilty of the charges against him. One article about this case claimed that the judge also slammed the testimony of several police witnesses who had given evidence on key forensic evidence, calling their evidence "untrustworthy", "unreliable" and "dishonest".
http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1 ... 223C761205
Michele
The best way to escape from a problem is to solve it. Alan Saporta
There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all. Peter Drucker
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Congratulations From Scotland

Postby Big Wullie » Sat Dec 01, 2007 2:15 pm

Pat and Arie

Once again you both have shown great courage and integrity in your field.
Once again you have both been involved in correcting an injustice and despite the odds once again stood up for justice and against other experts hell bent on fabricating evidence.

Worldwide people are taking notice of your great work and maybe these so called experts will think twice in the future before fabricating evidence in any case.

I have followed every aspect of this case available through Iain McKie's links in Scotland and i am deeply delighted at the outcome of this trial.

The outcome shows also that despite the fabrications (not only fingerprint expert but also Forensic evidence of hammers etc etc) The judge saw through it and came to the only conclusion a sane minded person could have reached.
Will any experts ever be charged with Perjury though?
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Postby Pat A. Wertheim » Sat Dec 01, 2007 2:24 pm

Michele,

Thank you for your additional notes regarding the earliest reviewers of the fingerprint evidence in South Africa. While my examination focused on the fingerprint evidence itself, you have obviously done your research into the history of the case and your contribution is important, as no one should be left out. It was Daan Bekker's formal report that the latent print was lifted from a drinking glass that led to a review of the evidence under the supervision of Director Botha of the South Africa Police Service (SAPS). Director Botha subsequently issued a formal report disputing the drinking glass conclusion and detailing experiments that "proved" the latent came from the DVD cover. The fact that SAPS would formally investigate and issue a written report supporting the insupportable was a big part of the basis for alleging fabrication of the fingerprint evidence.

After the Botha report, Mr. van der Vyver's defense team decided to approach experts from outside of South Africa. I was asked to review the fingerprint evidence and Mike Grimm was asked to review the footwear impression evidence. Unknown to Mike or me, they also asked Arie Zeelenberg to review the fingerprint evidence and Paul Ryder to review the footwear impression evidence. Working independently, we all reached the same conclusions.

Meanwhile, as the article suggests, Detective Bartholomew flew to the US to meet with Bill Bodziak regarding the footwear impression evidence. Bartholomew's disk would not open on Mr. Bodziak's computer and all Bartholomew had to show him, as I understand it, was an out of focus photograph with no scale. Mr. Bodziak refused to comment on Bartholomew's conclusions and told him what he would need to conduct a thorough examination. Bartholomew returned to South Africa and reported that Mr. Bodziak had agreed wholeheartedly and had congratulated him on an excellent examination. Bartholomew's superiors embellished on his report in sending their subsequent report up the chain of command.

Mr. Bodziak was asked by the defense to testify only after Bartholomew himself testified in the trial that Bodziak had agreed with him. Bartholomew has resigned from the SAPS, although it is too early to say whether any SAPS personnel will be disciplined or charged with criminal conduct in the case. A spokesman has said that SAPS administrators are reviewing the judge's statements and his verdict to determine their next step. Hopefully, they will conduct a thorough investigation, make the results public, and take appropriate action.

I will make a copy of my report in the case available to Kasey this week for him to publish on this website, complete with images of the latent print evidence and my experiments. Interestingly, I took a macroscopic view of the evidence, whereas Arie Zeelenberg took a microscopic view. He and I discovered completely different things about the questioned lift in the case, but all of our findings led to the same conclusion -- fabrication of fingerprint evidence.

Fingerprint experts who have researched fabrication will no doubt recall the news reports surrounding the New York State Police wholesale fabrication of fingerprint evidence in the late 1980's and early 1990's. This case has the potential of eclipsing that scandal. It all depends on the response of the South Africa Police Service.

Interested readers are advised to stay tuned for more details and developments as this situation unfolds. Now that the trial is over, those of us involved can discuss the case more openly.

Michele, thanks again for your research into the history of this case. It is important to be aware of these cases and preserve the history accurately if future cases of fabrication are to be prevented or detected.
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Postby Ann Horsman » Mon Dec 03, 2007 7:25 am

Well done to all involved!
~Ann

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if machines become our hands"


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Postby Pat A. Wertheim » Mon Dec 03, 2007 8:37 am

One thing I have learned in my overseas involvement is that the criminal justice systems and courts in other countries do not operate in ways familiar to Americans. In South Africa, for example, there is no jury system. A single judge hears and decides a case. A judge can assign two assessors with special training or experience to help him understand the evidence, but in the end, it is the judge alone who renders the verdict.

Another area in which we are different is that of civil damages. Other countries find it incomprehensible that we award millions of dollars in damages for what seem silly reasons, or that we award damages way beyond the actual dollar loss to a victim. The United States seems alone in awarding large amounts in civil damages. In Shirley McKie's case in Scotland, for example, the defense team carefully calculated Shirley's expected life income as a police constable based on anticipated promotions and pay raises, then deducted the income she might expect from a lower paying career. The amount for which she sued was £750,000, approximately the amount she would have lost in her lifetime as a result of the erroneous identification. As the case dragged on for years and the government dragged its feet in settling, she upped the amount to try and force a settlement. In the end, the government agreed to the £750,000 settlement as tacit acknowledgement of her lost earnings. Can you imagine what an erroneous identification in the US would be worth if you went through a decade of hell fighting an intransigent police force to have to prove your innocence? A lot more than the approximately $1,250,000 her settlement was worth at the time, I suspect.

To bring this discussion back to Fred van der Vyver's case, if he decides to sue for damages he will never be able to approach the amount for which we in the US would sue. Try to imagine what a lawsuit in the US would be worth if a national police force blatently fabricated several different types of evidence to convict an obviously innocent person. Fred's possibilities are much more limited and no decision has been reached yet on whether to sue, or how much such a suit should be worth. But here is a link to the latest news article in South Africa speculating on such a suit (the exchange rate last August was about 7 Rand to one US dollar, but with the rapidly falling value of the dollar, who knows what it will be if or when any civil suit is settled):

http://www.thepost.co.za/?fSectionId=&f ... 564C913014

Meanwhile, Kasey should be in possession of my full report on the fingerprint evidence at this point and should be able to publish images of the fabricated evidence and the results of my experiments in next week's Detail. Perhaps, following that, we can get Mike Grimm to send Kasey his report on the fabricated footwear impression.

I might also add that I anticipate presenting a detailed case study on the van der Vyver fabrications at the Nebraska and California Division conferences this year. If you would like to hear a full discussion of the evidence, check these dates: Nebraska will be April 8-9 and California will be May 5-8.
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Postby Pat A. Wertheim » Mon Dec 03, 2007 9:43 am

Others in South Africa are taking up the hue and cry.

http://www.blogsouthafrica.net/2007/12/ ... termath-i/
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Postby Justice Pie » Mon Dec 03, 2007 11:37 am

I just want to say congratulations and thank you for maintaining the integrity of this science and we all know the work that was done was very important and is appreciated.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
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Postby Pat A. Wertheim » Tue Dec 04, 2007 7:21 am

Another article of interest on the case:

http://www.int.iol.co.za/index.php?set_ ... 560C586055

The biggest task in cases such as those of Shirley McKie, David Asbury, Alan McNamara, Stephen Cowans, Fred van der Vyver, and a number of others is for the entire fingerprint community to stand up vocally and reject the unethical behavior of dishonest examiners in our ranks. In these cases, silence on our part is our biggest enemy because it allows dishonesty to survive. Silence in the face of dishonesty and unethical behavior can destroy our science more surely than honest erroneous identifications ever could.

In the Shirley McKie's case, for example, the petition signed by over 170 angry fingerprint experts from around the world did wonders to prevent the Scottish Government from sweeping the case under the carpet. Although things are not entirely settled yet in that case, the ball is still rolling. A full judicial enquiry can be expected sometime in 2008 and, hopefully, it will all be set straight.

In Fred van der Vyver's case, the South African government has been put on notice by the full text of the judge's decision that an innocent man was framed with fabricated evidence and perjury by multiple police officers. As soon as an English translation of the full judgement is available, it will be posted on this website. How the South African government deals with the source of this problem is now the issue. If they, as the SCRO and the Scottish Government, begin efforts to sweep it under the carpet, we must not allow that to happen. For the sake of our science, we must remain vigilant and keep this case in the forefront until true justice is achieved.

Thanks to everyone for the kind comments. Keep checking the chat board for new information and adding your comments or questions. We will keep you up to date on new developments in the case.
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Postby Pat A. Wertheim » Tue Dec 04, 2007 5:35 pm

The MURDER WEAPON -- this article has nothing to do with the fingerprint or footwear "evidence," but it will give you a good idea of the lengths to which the SAPS was willing to go in their quest to frame Fred:

http://www.thetimes.co.za/News/Article.aspx?id=649531
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Postby Big Wullie » Tue Dec 04, 2007 8:49 pm

Pat

170 Experts

Daktari must be shaking in his boots?
I only wish our own experts were so open as yourself and Arie etc.
The unfortunate thing in our Country is the Experts all seem to work for the Crown.
Our Legal teams when dealing with our cases here tend not to dispute the Experts evidence so it goes unchallenged in many cases.
In my own case my Defence Team never called what i consider crucial evidence.
See Here:
http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id ... 884&size=l

Evidence that the Police had Number 2 out his mouth before turning to view Parade.
Evidence that Muckle tried to conceal the fact that he was a police from the same station by giving his name and address, Something the police here never divulge.

The excuse from my defence Team was: They did not want to be seen to be calling the Police Liars.

Even to this day SCCRC tasked with investigating Miscarriages in Scotland are continuing to sweep my case under their carpet because it all reflects badly on the QC that defended Megrahi.

Cover-Up after Cover-Up continues in Scotland with many cases having evidence suppressed by Crown Office and the Police.
One classic example i think i should link is Allison and Johnston and can be found here:
http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/opinions/2006hcjac30.html

Despite the evidence of Fabrication and Malpractice i believe one of the policemen involved in this case enjoys a top security job and none have ever been charged.

Wonder if like in Shirley's case they are granted "Absolute Immunity"

These cases tend to disappear after a while either because of Gagging clauses or fear of losing compensation.

They have very thick Carpets in our Crown Office's
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