During the afternoon of 16 March 2005 Inge Lotz was brutally murdered in her flat on the outskirts of the picturesque student town of Stellenbosch.
Somebody, generally assumed to be a person Inge knew well, attacked her from behind while she was lying on her couch. She was beaten with a blunt object – about 13 times – on the head and hand, and stabbed in the neck with a sharp object – about 20 times. There was an effort to carve her chest open.
A fingerprint lift called ‘Folien 1’ became a key piece of evidence. The police said and testified that Folien 1 was taken from a DVD cover that was found at the crime scene. Inge rented this particular DVD at about 3 pm on the fateful day, just before she was murdered, likely between 4-6 pm, which meant that prints on the DVD could possibly implicate a person to have been on the scene of the crime in this time period.
Folien 1 became a hugely contested piece of evidence after the police matched the prints that they took from Inge’s boyfriend at the time, Mr Fred van der Vyver, with the prints they claimed came from the DVD cover. This would put Fred on the scene after 3 pm on the 16th. He denied this, and said that he had been at work in Pinelands about 48 km away at the time and that he was not in Stellenbosch any time after about 10 am the morning of the 16th.
The defence argued that Folien 1 was not lifted from the DVD cover but rather from a drinking glass, and that the police intentionally mislabelled the print in order to frame Fred. His prints on a drinking glass would not necessarily put him on the scene, as he could have touched it e.g. the previous day.
Another piece of evidence was the ornamental hammer which was found in Fred’s vehicle. This is a hammer with a bottle opener on the side where the claw normally is. Defence experts argued that the sizes of two of the head wounds did not match the size of the striking face of the hammer and that the hammer could therefore not have inflicted the wounds. It was also argued that the hammer could not be the murder weapon, as Inge’s blood was not found on it, and also because it bent when it was used in experiments on a pig’s head.
Two bloody marks in the bathroom were also contested. The prosecution argued that the marks were made by a shoe that belonged to Fred. The defence argued that the marks could not have been made by a shoe because they were not typical of transfer marks made by a shoe (i.e. tread marks), other transfer marks towards these marks were absent, and that there were no blood source that the shoe had tread in in order to leave marks. They also denied any correspondence with the particular sole of the suspected shoe.
Fred van der Vyver had a remarkably strong alibi. He claimed that he was at work from about 11 am to 6 pm and that he did not leave the building at any stage between these times. The defence submitted seven signed affidavits from his co-workers (obtained by a private firm) supporting his alibi, and also claimed that security videos and turnstile security records confirmed that he did not leave the building. The main alibi witness, Ms Shahana Toefy (now Asmal), did not testify in court. She was actually pulled as a witness by the defence at the last-minute.
Fred van der Vyver was acquitted on the charge of murder in the Cape High Court in November 2007.
In 2010 Fred won a R46 million civil case against the South African Police Service for what he claimed to be malicious prosecution. In 2013 this ruling was overturned in the Supreme Court of Appeal after appeal by SAPS. Fred subsequently took the matter to the Constitutional Court, which declined his request to take the matter any further.
The following links provide more context: