Saturday, April 28, 2012

Griekwastad Tragedy – UPDATE (Part 2)

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This article (posted in 2 parts) will explore a triple-murder scene, equivalent to the Griekwastad case and based on information the media has already made public. The emphasis will be mainly on ballistic-related evidence and phenomenon.

Author’s Qualifications:
I performed my duties as Forensic Ballistic Specialist for the last 18 years of my police career, after completing a 3-year in-service training programme, based on the standards and requirements of the Association of Firearm and Tool mark Examiners (AFTE) - USA. Other forensic-related qualifications include a  Diploma (Fss Dip) awarded by the Forensic Science Society (UK) and various certificate courses, among others, a firearm-related Forensic Chemical Investigations Course, and various Assessor/Moderator courses related to the use of handguns, shotguns, rifles and hand machine carbines. Prior to that time I had 7 years experience in various other police departments. My total service-period in the SA Police was thus 24 years. I accepted the government’s voluntary severance package at a time when Jackie Selebi was still the National Commissioner. This fact should already provide informed readers with a hint as to why I left the Farce.


With the Griekwastad case it appears that the police abandoned all thoughts of searching for unidentified suspects, moments after the initial inspection of the scene. The scene was found in a reasonably undisturbed state. There was also an unlocked safe in the house containing a large amount of cash, and nothing appeared to be missing. As a result, robbery, theft and housebreaking were immediately dismissed as motives for the murders. Consequently, the focus shifted towards the likelihood of a family tragedy, with the prime motive being jealousy and revenge.

The police have announced that they’re not divulging any further information, and will make an arrest based on statements, conclusions of the post-mortem examinations, as well as forensic and ballistic examinations.

Although the factors mentioned above (unlocked safe with cash, etc.) do not warrant a discontinuation of a search for a suspect, the police have, up till now, not revealed why the search was discontinued so soon. There are numerous questions that the police have not disclosed, for example: Where were the keys for the safe found? Was any verification found that, besides the sole survivor (Don Steenkamp), no other person(s) were on the scene on the same day the murders took place? If there were such persons, were they regular known visitors, or not? Were any spent cartridge cases and/or spent bullets found which, at first glance, did not match the calibres (class characteristics) of the two firearms?

The only logical conclusion one can make from this is that these questions, combined with other factors (for example: suspect profiling **), are fundamental in establishing a motive for these murders, hence the deafening silence on any progress.

** Suspect Profiling?
There are various methods of profiling a suspect. A deductive profile is set up based on the suspects actions before, during and after committing the crime. Then there's psychological profiling of which the primary aim is to reveal the behavioural make-up of a suspect. Readers must please forgive me for not expressing my opinion as to how this will relate to the Griekwastad case, except to say that I presume it will include details relating to the suspects age, specific skills (eg. firearm competence), IQ, social interests, mental health status, family relationship and family background.

Of all the many media reports concerning this tragedy, there is one that makes the most informative revelations of them all (from a forensic ballistic point of view), and that is the Volksblad report, dated 2012-04-16, compiled by two journalist: Jana van der Merwe and Charné Kemp.

The report published almost a week after forensic experts attended the autopsies and also re-visited the actual crime scene, reveals that there was apparently only one shooter, and that all three victims were shot at close range. According to the report both firearms, the .357 Magnum revolver and the .22-rifle were apparently used, but I suspect these preliminary conclusions were based on visual inspection of the gunshot wounds on the deceased persons.

In my experience - the .357 Magnum revolver would have been the killer’s weapon of choice, and also the weapon that inflicted the fatal gunshot wounds. In other words, the shots fired with the .22 rifle may have occurred after the initial fatal shots were fired.

The Volksblad report, dated 2012-04-16, also includes a rough sketch of the Griekwastad scene, which was drafted by Theuns Kruger (Grafika24). I have no idea how accurate this rough sketch is, but I believe it will suffice for purposes of this article.

The original graphics can be downloaded here - (PDF 3,830 kb).
Or you may click on the modified version below for a larger view.

  • A – The location where the three dead bodies were found in the openplan TV-room of the farmhouse.
  • B – Points out a location where more blood-splatter was found, in the kitchen, washing-room, walls, and on the outside veranda.
  • C –The location of the farmhouse in relation to the overall bigger picture.
  • D – The location of the shed, which is about 31 meters from the house. The sole survivor in the case, a 15-year old juvenile, was apparently busy in the shed when he heard the shots.
  • E – The location where the 15-year old juvenile claimed he picked up two firearms, which he then handed to the police. The two firearms were a .357 Magnum revolver and a .22 calibre rifle.

The condition of the two firearms, at the time they were handed in to the police, will in my opinion form a crucial and integral part of the investigation:
  • Were the firearms loaded with ammunition, or not?
  • Did the cylinder of the revolver contain spent cartridges? If so how many were discharged?
  • When last were the firearms cleaned?
  • Was there any blood found on the firearms? If so, whose blood?
  • At the actual crime scene: Was there any corroborative evidence found at the exact site where the sole survivor said he found them? (For example: impressions in the soil, marks, or tracks.)

(In cases involving contact or near-contact wounds, a special type of high-speed blood spatter, known as “backspatter” or “blowback”, will sometimes be detected on the exterior of the firearm. Examination for blood should be both visual and chemical, as the “backspatter” may not always be visible to the naked eye.)

The firearms will obviously also be subjected to further forensic tests in a laboratory to determine trigger pressures, workability, et cetera.

There is also a possibility that the investigation is being delayed due to factors pertaining to the microscopic comparisons of test-bullets with evidence-bullets. This aspect will be dealt with in PART 3.

Click here for part 3

Related Post:  The Strange Case of the Steenkamp Triple Murders (Northern Cape)


Anonymous said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

Waar is die kluis geleë in die huis?

Tia Mysoa said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

Daar word nêrens in die media genoem presies waas die kluis geleë was nie. Hulle noem net dat die kluis oopgesluit was. Ek het ook gewonder waarom dit nie in die media se grafika voorkom nie. Dit sal wel in die amptelike polisie-sketsplanne en foto’s voorkom.

Anonymous said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

Hi daar,
Ek het al baie gewonder oor die familie friend "Ben" wat die kinders afgerig het en waar Don gaan bly het na die moord. Dit is nou wel ver van Griekwastad af, maar wat is sy alibi en kon hy dalk 'n motief gehad het. Ek het ook opgelet die koerante se Don het by Ben gaan bly, en nie by Ben en sy gesin nie. Maw Ben is "single" ? ? Het hy 'n gesonde verhouding met Don? Dis sal goed wees om dit van daardie kant ook te bekyk. Veral omdat die Pa soms agressief / baie streng was volgens die plaaswerkers.

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