14. QUESTIONS OF BALANCE

In a court of law, the metaphor of the judge ‘weighing the evidence’ is common, because it is apt.

A judge must decide not only what facts are established by the evidence, but also how relevant those facts are. In his self-appointed roles as Defence, and Prosecution, and Judge, Vine displays an inability (or perhaps even a calculated unwillingness), to distinguish between what is important, and what is not.

For example:

  • At 07:29, Vine asserts “The volatile state of the relationship forms a key part of the prosecution”. How or why this is “key” is not explained.
  • At 46:02 Mastaglio is shown saying “I think this is a major flaw in the investigation”. The context of his comment is not clear, but a knowledgeable observer might conclude that he was focussing on technical detail of the forensic report, not the overall investigation.
  • At 53:48 Vine tells us “…the CCTV contradicts crucial evidence in [Tongo’s] sworn statement”. The alleged “crucial evidence” is a 54 second call from Dewani to Tongo made the day before Dewani flew back to England. How this could be “crucial” is not explained.

Forensic Red Herrings

The question of whether Anni was leaning back or sitting forward, whether or not she was struggling, in a defensive position, or taking evasive action at the moment she was shot, proves nothing about the motivation of the gunman, but this is apparently lost on Vine and his expert panel. What Jeremy Vine fails to mention, is that none of the forensic detail he and his team so relentlessly criticise,  is central to the prosecution case. From 41:25, Jeremy and his experts spend nearly 10 minutes trying to cast doubt on these obscure details, which have already been dealt with by the courts during the trial of Xolile Mngeni, and which are at best peripheral to the major outstanding question of Shrien Dewani’s involvement.

Every issue, no matter how minor, is presented as if the whole case depended on it. Every potential flaw in the evidence, even the most minor discrepancy or lack of detail, is subjected to intense scrutiny, dissected, analysed, and criticised. The issues thus magnified out of all proportion to their true significance, are held up to view as alleged “proof” that “the South Africans” have not acted with due diligence.

 

Predictably, the exercise produces very little useful information. We learn from Paul Shepherd (47:53): “Anni’s looking towards the driver side of the car. Is she looking actually out of the door?  Is she looking actually out of the door? I don’t know. But she’s looking that way at the time she’s shot.” Although Mark Mastaglio points to flaws in the investigation, he actually barely differs from the official evidence presented at court in Mngeni’s trial: that the forensic evidence does not establish beyond doubt the location of the gunman, and the gun was fired from close range. Mastaglio says “potentially less than 5 centimetres” whilst in Verster’s opinion the gun was 5 to 10 centimetres away, hardly a major disagreement. Likewise, although Mastaglio’s colleague Angela Shaw criticises the forensic examination for its “limited approach”, she does not say that the information actually presented at Mngeni’s trial was incorrect.

We should also ask whether the experience of UK-based experts is necessarily applicable to South Africa.

Dr Richard Shepherd says at 46:37: “If it was a deliberate shot, I’d have expected the shot in the head, maybe over the heart, not one that struck the neck. It’s an unusual place for an assassination. So on that basis alone, and it’s a very weak bit of evidence, I would veer towards an accidental discharge rather than a deliberate shooting”.

But at least one local disagrees with Dr Shepherd. A South African reader commented to the Daily Mail: “…Reasonable research will show that for instance the murdering scum of SA like to look into the eyes of the people they slay.” (Hugh Robinson , South Africa, 14/5/2011 06:57”  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1386877/Dewanis-bride-victim-sex-attack.html)

Angela Shaw – 48:35 Vine: “One of the UK’s leading experts on gunshot residue, Angela Shaw, found no evidence the hijacker’s hands or clothes were tested. But it’s the lack of sampling in the taxi that concerns her most.”  It’s not even on Panorama’s radar apparently, that Qwabe wore yellow kitchen gloves?

Angela Shaw would have the police collect and analyze samples from every interior surface of the car, in order to determine exactly which seats were occupied when the gun was fired. This approach may be reasonable in the UK, where the firearm-related death rate is 0.04 per 100,000, but South Africa’s death rate is 17 per 100,000. Consider this: for each single case facing UK police, South African police are investigating 425. South African policemen probably have far more practical experience of assessing gun-related crime than the UK experts, for all their academic qualifications.

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