Expert Contradictions

We have dealt with some major contradictions between Wertheim and Zeelenberg on some other pages. We will recap them here and also look at some other contradictions. Like of that between Professor Gert Saayman and Michael Grimm.

Below are verbatim extracts from Wertheim’s report. Note our underlining:

36 E – An elongated semi-elliptical latent mark without ridge detail that appears to have been deposited while wet or damp, but was dry at the time it was powdered, adjacent to the latent identified as van der Vyver #7 and parallel to the curved edge of the substrate. This latent mark, deposited while wet or damp, is consistent in size, shape, and location with a lip print.

67 E – While there have been reported cases of lip print identifications based on the fine skin wrinkles in the lip, such latent lip prints require a moist but not wet lip print that reproduces those fine wrinkles in the latent lip print. The blotch in lift #1 is consistent with a lip print but because of excessive moisture on the lip at the time of deposition that prevented the latent lip print from reproducing the fine wrinkle marks, it cannot be positively identified as the lip print of Fred van der Vyver.

G – The experiments conducted by picking up drinking glass #2 with the left hand and pouring liquid into the glass with the right hand, then drinking from the glass, all resulted in consistent position of the lip print in relation to the left index finger. When the glass was put down and released from the left hand, then picked up with the right hand to drink, the lip print overlapped the latent print from the left index finger. The position of the wet smudge in lift #1 also overlaps the latent left index fingerprint. This overlap is consistent with a lift from a drinking glass, but has no equivalent in normal handling of a DVD case and is inconsistent with a lift from a DVD case.

A few things are clear from Wertheim’s report:

1. He admits the “lip print” does not have any ridge detail.

2. He tells us in black and white that the “lip print” is “parallel to the curved edge of the substrate”.

3. He says that the lip was wet (and excessively so) when it was deposited onto the glass.

4. On the basis of his experiments and of what he considers to be “consistent”, he states that it would be consistent to have the lip print overlapping the left index finger. This is now if you follow a method where you pick the glass up with your left hand, pour water in with the right hand, put the glass down, pick up with the right hand, and drink. Let’s call it a normal and natural handling action. What he claims here, then, is that it is “consistent” that the lip print would then normally be situated to the left of the right thumbprint – it would actually be normal to have it above the left index print. Thus, you will put your lip more or less in line where you initially put your left index’s first two phalanxes.

Zeelenberg contradicted Wertheim on nearly every single point.

1. Zeelenberg admitted the print is sloped, but he said that it should be sloped because lip prints are normally sloped according to him. He also has an explanation for the fact that the lip print is “not complete”. Not sure how to explain what he is trying to say, so rather have a look yourself. Look here.

2. He said that the reason why there is no ridge detail (creases) in the print, is because the lip was put on a condensed glass. The fluid obliterated the detail in the print. It is just interesting that all other prints seem to have stayed unharmed. And what is especially interesting is that even his own photos in his own report, show that condensation would not have been that high up on the glass. It only goes up to the waterline. (Below Slide 58 – Part 2 – from Zeelenberg’s presentation)

There simply would not have been condensation where the lip would be put. If you for a moment consider that the glass might have been filled up to the brim, then just imagine the spillage if you then drink with a 10 degree sloped lip. It is simply not reasonable behaviour. In such a case many of the prints and marks (such as the dried drops’ marks) would have been dissolved or obliterated by the spilled fluid.

3. Zeelenberg possibly did not like the “lip print” to the left of the right thumbprint (the position Wertheim claimed to be “consistent” with drinking glass handling). Zeelenberg then claimed a second right thumbprint. He gives us no reason why it can be considered to be a thumbprint, except to say that “finding two thumbprints in this position is consistent with drinking glass”. Whatever this means. See his Slide 10 (Part 2) below. (Please note the slide is in negative view.)

Now Zeelenberg had a thumb print in a more likely place. The “lip print” was now to the right of the (second) right thumb. But is that a thumb print to start off with? We investigate it here.

Zeelenberg and Wertheim, while maybe not even realising it at the time, also contradicted each other on the left index print.

Another few verbatim extracts from Wertheim’s report:

40 G – […] Such foreshortening and curvature is the result of the finger being wrapped around a curved surface. The shortness and curvature of the total fingerprint identified as Fred van der Vyver’s right index finger is consistent and would be expected from a print lifted from a curved surface. This shortening and curvature are completely inconsistent with a latent print deposited and lifted from a flat surface such as a DVD cover.

67 C – Shape of the latent (curved, on its side, and foreshortened) is inconsistent with a lift from a DVD case, but is completely consistent with a lift from a drinking glass with dimensions described above.

It is clear that Wertheim claims as a fact that the finger is foreshortened, curved and rolled onto a side. It is also clear that he implies that it should be like this if it was a drinking glass lift. The fact of the matter is simply that the finger is not foreshortened, curved and rolled onto a side (it is rolled onto a side only, which could be obtained on a flat surface too). Comparison with the known print will confirm this. This would then by default remove this particular claim’s support to the drinking glass theory; the left index finger can thus not support the drinking glass theory.

Zeelenberg said very little about the left index finger’s print. However, on his Slide 71 (Part 2) he shows that the Folien 1 left index print did not foreshorten, as Wertheim claimed. We must remember that the Folien 1 print was not deposited in such a controlled environment as the known print was – it was deposited while handling an object, therefore some minor friction and distortion can and should be granted. However, it is clear that no significant foreshortening took place (our red lines added simply to give rough reference, as the images were not lined up exactly). Tests show that when you handle a round and weighted drinking glass, the print will be about 18-20% shorter than the corresponding flat print (this can result in a foreshortening of about 5-6 mm). This foreshortening is inevitable because the glass curves away from the finger’s cushion, resulting in less contact. Remember, Wertheim implied that it should be foreshortened. Zeelenberg said nothing about the length of the print, except showing this slide (which shows the known print max 2 ridge count longer, the Folien 1 print thus being less than one mm shorter on scale – which is negligible.

Regarding the shape, Zeelenberg said that a triangular shape, where there is an “opening up” between the first and second phalanxes, would be consistent with the handling of a drinking glass. Wertheim said the finger will be curved downwards. Zeelenberg does not allude to any downward curvature. The “opening up” where he shows it, surely does not suggest curving in that direction (which is the downward direction).

Thus, Zeelenberg feels that a triangular shape – where the tip of the print seems to be pointing more towards the “top” – is more consistent with drinking glass handling. (As you look at the image above left, the top of the glass is to the right.) Wertheim suggested a curve downward (thus to the left). Be that as it may, and anyone can check this for themselves, when you pick up a drinking glass, the left index finger will show a tear-shape downward (to the left as you look at the print above left), not a triangular upward shape. Wertheim had the better idea of the two, but he was wrong in claiming that the print is foreshortened.

It is quite interesting that Zeelenberg refers to the outline of the known print. Surely it will be neater than a print that was deposited in action (while handling an object) and on a substrate of whose state at the time we know nothing about – how clean it was, for example). Obviously the quality (and hence the outline) of a print may depend on these factors. A known print is deposited under very controlled circumstances, also with a bit added pressure applied on the finger in order to get a neat and fully recorded print. This would also account for the fact that the known print may be a ridge count or two longer, since the outermost ridges simply record better under the added downward pressure applied. One can note this in the better recording of the ridges closest to the fold between the two phalanges, for example.

The fact that Zeelenberg wants us to believe that such a print (index holding a drinking glass) should rather be triangular (with the sharper point of it slightly upwards) than tear-shaped, is very curious. Check it yourself. Pick up a glass. Look through the inside, and note the shape of your index print when you handle it. Imagine what it would take to get a triangular shape print on the glass. And a print with such an irregular outline.

It is not the end of the world if two experts disagree on a certain issue, as long as some essential features overlap, one may argue. However, in this case one needs to wonder how two “world renowned” experts could have contradict each other so blatantly on so many important issues. If Wertheim is right, then Zeelenberg must be wrong. If Zeelenberg is right, then Wertheim must wrong. Who is right now? We can’t simply sweep these contradictions under the carpet. And what is especially interesting: Wertheim said that Zeelenberg peer reviewed his report. If this is true, how is it that Zeelenberg approved all these findings that he would later seems to contradict? We must remember that both filed their reports with a High Court. This should not be a menial matter.

Professor Gert Saayman and Michael Grimm, two experts for the defence, also had some major conflicting views regarding the headwounds. Saayman said the headwounds were inflicted by a cylindrical object – even something like a torch. Grimm said that it was inflicted by different portions of a semi-automatic handgun (barrel portion, back strap, magazine end, etc.). Saayman said the hammer was but only a “klein hamertjie” (small little hammer), and that it would not cause significant comminuted fractures in the skull. Grimm said the hammer would surely have penetrated more often. Grimm was adamant in his report that the wounds were consistent with wounds inflicted by a handgun, without showing us any comparative data (e.g. photos of similar wounds). Saayman did not compile a report but only showed a PowerPoint presentation in court.

Both relied heavily on the autopsy measurements, and although both admitted that it could possibly be a hammer, they said that the autopsy measurements dictated that the wounds were to big for the suspected hammer, and on this basis both excluded the suspected hammer.

We believe that we have convincingly shown that the autopsy measurements (of wounds 1a and 1b) are incorrect. Read more here.