Open Letter to Pat Wertheim

Mr Pat Wertheim, a fingerprint examiner from Tucson, Arizona, was asked by Mr Louis van der Vyver, Fred’s father, to compile a report on Folien 1. At the time he had about 32 years of experience and considered himself the world’s leading expert in detecting the fabrication of fingerprints.

Louis van der Vyver, Fred’s father, visited Pat Wertheim at his home in Arizona where he and Wertheim conducted experiments for his report. This report subsequently formed part of Fred van der Vyver’s plea explanation that was filed at the High Court and it also served as the basis for Wertheim’s testimony, as a defence expert, during the criminal trial.

Louis van der Vyver, Fred’s father, sitting with Part Wertheim in Arizona, while Wertheim worked on his report that would form the basis of his testimony, and which was submitted to Court.

Mr Wertheim became a vocal supporter of Fred’s innocence and over the years engaged in various debates on a variety of forums to defend Fred’s innocence.

In this open letter to Mr Wertheim we’re asking him a few questions about his report, testimony and his overall ethical and professional conduct.

When you, the reader, read this, you must remember that Mr Wertheim was instrumental in cementing and nurturing the drinking glass theory – and in addition, became the chief proponent of the fabrication allegations against the South African Police Service.

Here is Pat Wertheim’s report:

For his report Wertheim conducted an experiment to ‘explain’ the prints on Folien 1. He used ten glasses for this experiment.

Keeping in mind that the ‘lines’ on Folien 1 are only about 80 mm apart, why did he use a glass with a height of 82 mm, with a top diameter of 79 mm and a bottom diameter of 64 mm (Glass #2) to report his results on? This while he had an 80 mm high glass (#6) at his disposal.

In his paragraph 55 he explains the methodology of the experiment:

55. A series of experiments were done in which each of the glasses was held with the left hand while water was poured into the glass from a pitcher held in the right hand. In each experiment, the glass and the water pitcher were then put down. The glass was then picked up with the right hand and the water was drunk from the glass. The glass was once again put down.

56. Each glass was then processed with aluminum powder. In each case, a lift was then taken with clear tape and placed on a black lift card.

57. The lifts taken from the ten glasses after handling in the manner described in paragraph 55 above were compared with folien #1. All ten experimental lifts showed the same relative position of the left index finger print, the right thumb print, and the lip print. The curvature and separation of the edge lines in folien #1 most closely matched the curvature and separation of the edge lines in the lift from glass #2.

58. More experiments were conducted with glass #2. It should be noted that glass #2 has an etched leaf or flower petal design around the circumference of the glass approximately 21 mm to 35 mm from the top lip of the glass. This design can be seen on glass #2 in the photograph of the ten glasses in paragraph 48 above. This etched design is clearly visible as background noise in all lifts taken from glass #2 but does not materially affect the relative positions of the fingerprints or the lip prints, either on the glass itself or in the lifts taken from the glass. The etched design merely adds background noise that differentiates lifts from this glass with lifts from other glasses.

59. In the additional experiments on glass #2, handling and drinking was done in the manner described in paragraph 55. The glass was powdered with aluminum powder and lifts were made with foliens. An uninterrupted video clip was made of one performance of this experiment and is available for review.

Wertheim then reported his results by way of two test lifts. We will see them later and we will establish if they are indeed truthful and honest reflections of the supposed and reasonably expected results.

But let us test it ourselves.

We constructed a model of Wertheim’s Glass #2 – we built it from carton – so that it has the exact dimensions – 79 mm top diameter, 64 mm bottom diameter, and 82 mm high. We wrapped a transparent sheet around this glass to facilitate the recording of any prints.

We then handled this glass exactly in the way Wertheim proposed in paragraph 55 of his report, and then took the sheet with the prints thereon off.

We then compared this (our) result with both of the results Wertheim showed in his report. See the full report of our duplication of the experiment here:

Above: An overlay of our transparent sheet on a scaled photo of Wertheim lift #1 of Glass #2.

There is clearly a substantial difference, and the following questions come up when we look at his lift #1.

Was it Pat Wertheim’s intention to at all cost create a lift that resembled Folien 1?

So, Mr Wertheim, some questions:

– When repeating your experiment as you proposed in paragraph 55 of your report, it works out that your left fingers should have been about 3 cm further from your right thumb. How did you manage to get your left fingers so close to your right thumb? Did you perhaps intentionally rotate the glass between planting the left fingers and the right thumb in order to get the left fingers closer to the thumb in order for your lift to resemble Folien 1 more closely? Isn’t such an undisclosed action called fabrication of evidence?

– How did you get your little finger so high up on the glass? Considering your index finger is already ±18 mm down from the top, with a normal drinking action using a glass 82 mm high; the small finger might not even touch the glass, may curl underneath the glass, or at best touch the glass right on the bottom rim. Considering that the distance between the index and small finger is ±55 mm, it is physically impossible to get a small finger’s print ±18 mm from the bottom edge on a glass 82 mm high, with the index print 18 mm from the top edge. Was it important for you to get a little finger there because you claimed a little finger on Folien 1?

– Why did the second phalanx of your middle finger not record on your folien? Perhaps because there is no such print on Folien 1?

– Why do your lip print and thumb print intersect/overlap? How is this possible in this one-time/single drinking action?

– What made powder accumulate along the bottom edge of a glass in such a neat line? Did you perhaps smear it there with your finger for it to record as such? Why does it stop short on both sides? Because it looks like that on Folien 1, perhaps?

– Why is your bottom line not consistent with the radius necessary for it to have been made by Glass #2 and why does your bottom curve not have the same epicentre as the top curve? We performed a regression analysis on the top line to calculate the radius and coordinates of the epicentre. We found the radius to be almost identical to what it theoretically should be. We then performed a similar regression analysis on the bottom line – the radius is almost twice what it should be and the epicentre is not the same as that of the top curve – as it needed to be if it was part of a concentric unit made by the same glass. Did you perhaps add this line mechanically?

Then some other questions:

– It seems very impressive to perform an experiment, which is designed to incorporate data collection, results, and subsequent analyses based on information gathered from 10 glasses. But let’s be honest – how many of these are actually good test objects? Half of them have funny patterns on them or have odd sizes and shapes. There is only one glass that would fall in the height range that Folien 1 would suggest had Folien 1 been taken from a glass – Glass #6. What is the point of e.g. Glasses #3 or #5? Glass #5 is clearly not a tumbler as you throughout suggested. What is the point of this glass? Or of Glass #4, which is a full 10 mm higher than the glass that supposedly made Folien 1?

– Why did you crop both your lifts as well as Folien 1? Was it to make them look more like each other? To hide obvious differences? We remind you of your comment in the McKie case (from your Precognition dated 26 May 2000):

And yet it appears that you have extensively cropped images in order to try and show similarities and hide dissimilarities.

We will tell you why you may have engaged in this tactic to deceive. Through basic geometry it is possible to calculate the radii of the circular curves that the top rim and bottom edge of Glass #2 would have left on your lift. Now, if we overlay the calculated curves over the curves on Folien 1, then it becomes apparent that the evidence hidden by means of your cropping, had it been left for consideration by the court, should have revealed the following, important information: that there is absolutely no consistency between the curves on your lifts and the lines on Folien 1. The differences are quite staggering, don’t you agree?

You concluded:

63. This sequence of the latent print components in lift #1, matching the exact sequence of similar components in the test folien on glass #2, combined with the curved edges of the top and bottom of the glass, is the strongest proof that police folien #1 (lift #1) came from a drinking glass and NOT from a DVD cover … (underlining added for emphasis)

On what sound basis have you drawn these conclusions as there was no consistency between the line features on Folien 1 and the circular curves on your test lift? To say “curved edges” is not good enough – they have to be circular curved edges – and the lines on Folien 1 are simply not concentric circular curves, and thus also not a concentric unit as they need to be.

Above: Some closer images of the bottom “line”. Clearly not a curve of any sorts (therefore it is not supportive of your postulation) and certainly not consistent with the type of line a bottom edge of a round glass would leave. If it is not a curve and if it is not concentric to the top curve, then this line was not made by a conical round glass. It is not concentric because it is not a curve.

OK, let’s cut to the chase, was it your mission to at all cost reproduce a lift that would look like Folien 1? For that, you needed to get the left fingers and right thumb closer to each other? So you performed an undeclared rotation of the glass or an unnatural wrist-twisting action at some point in your process? You did what had to be done to get prints more or less in the same relative position as they are on Folien 1? Even get a clear bottom line?

Even these lifts are cropped. Why? Did your handling process not produce a left thumb? Why did you crop that out? Because Folien 1 does not have a left thumb?

Let’s look at this: When one handles a glass as you proposed, then the left thumb would sit just to the right of the right thumb. When you produced your lift – was there no left thumb on your glass to be lifted? If there was one (and why would there not have been one?) – then why did you crop it out? Perhaps because there is no left thumb on Folien 1? There would have been ample space on a 12 cm folien to lift it. Instead it looks like you cropped your folien to hide that which was not on Folien 1.

(Just this: It is not certain from where you cropped. If you cropped only on the left side, then the question is why you started to lift only from the right thumb when you lifted the prints from your glass. Surely you had to show us all the prints that were on your glass after your method, or at least the greatest number of prints a 12 cm folien could possibly record. It would have been possible to get the left fingers and left thumb in. If you do not want to accept Swartz’s account of how he lifted Folien 1, then you can only speculate that he moved the folien to only pick up from the right thumb. That, anyway, is irrelevant. You had to show us what was on your glass first and foremost, otherwise what was the purpose of your test? If you first showed your whole lift and then cropped it in an attempt to explain what Swartz possibly did (according to your own theory), it may have been excusable. But this was not the case. It rather seems that you chose, wilfully, to produce a construction containing only the prints that would resemble the spatial placement of whatever was on Folien 1.)

Why did you need to draw bold colourful circles around features – to make them look more the same? These objects detract the eye from minor detail – making things look more similar than usual.

So here is the question. Yes or no? Did you fabricate this lift in order to favour your report?

– You admit that Mr Louis van der Vyver was present with you when you did these tests? He admitted it on CLPEX. Do you consider this ethical conduct?

Mr Wertheim, yes, you are a private citizen of the world as well, but you were an expert witness in a murder case. With this come some ethical and professional responsibilities – and unfortunately some limitations. Over the last couple of years you used various platforms to make statements about the case – such as on internet forums, in IAI publications, and at IAI conferences. Your conduct ventured way beyond reasonable interest and fair commenting – you were out to accuse people of fabrication and misconduct without any proof – you were out to clear the name of the accused. Although you are entitled to your personal opinion, it is surely highly irregular and unprofessional to become so involved in the case when you performed a duty in Court as an expert witness on a particular subject – which was fingerprinting – and not alibi, motives, etc. This seriously raises questions about your objectivity during the trial.

In the process you fabricated stories and told blatant lies. You were out to create false, unfounded, and vicious perceptions with no regard and consideration for how it may affect innocent people and their families.

Let’s look at some:

On April 8, 2008, Pat Wertheim presented information about the Inge Lotz murder case to attendees of the Nebraska IAI Conference in Ashland, NE.

During this presentation Wertheim told several lies which we will outline below:

1. That at 10:00 am on the day of her murder Inge had lunch with her Fred.

Fact: Inge did not have lunch with Fred van der Vyver at 10:00 am. She had lunch with her friend Wimpie Boshoff at 12:00. Just after 10:00 Inge met with Fred van der Vyver to give him a conciliatory letter after they had a massive argument that morning.

2. That at the time of her murder Fred van der Vyver was at work in meetings, all afternoon with 30 other people who all offered an alibi for Fred.

Fact: Fred was in one “meeting” with 9 other people. Alibi statements were taken from only a few people who attended the meeting by a private security firm hired by the father of Fred van der Vyver. Many of these witness statements were later recanted. (“Meeting” is not even the right word but we will deal with this elsewhere.)

3. That Fred’s workplace was one hour away from Inge’s apartment (2 hours round-trip).

Fact: Fred himself, in his plea explanation, submitted that it typically took him 77-80 minutes to drive to Inge’s apartment and back.

4. That the police only printed five surfaces.

Fact: More than 5 surfaces were dusted but clear prints were only obtained on five surfaces

5. That Fred’s latent prints on the DVD cover were only located six weeks later.

Fact: The prints on the DVD cover were lifted at the crime scene and the lift was scanned into AFIS about 3 hours later. The prints on the DVD were matched to Fred’s prints on 12 April 2005 – about 28 days later – not six weeks later.

6. Stated that there was a bloody print on the sink and that the police denied it.

Fact: There is no evidence of a bloody palm print on the sink – not in the crime scene video nor in any of the crime scene photos taken by the police and private investigators.

7. That a semen stain was found and that police denied it.

Fact: There is no evidence that a semen stain was found at the crime scene, nor is there evidence that a semen stain was tested by the Forensic Laboratory or any laboratory to confirm that it was indeed semen.

8. Stated that during the hammer experiment on the pig’s head, pictures were taken by the tool mark examiner and that an overlay was placed over the hammer imprints on the pig’s head. Mr Wertheim informed his audience that these pictures were taken at an angle so that the pictures presented an altered view and not a correct presentation of the hammer head size and imprints left by the hammer.

Fact: The tool mark examiner did not use overlays on the wounds on the pig’s head. The disputed photos that were supposedly taken at an angle were of Inge’s head wounds taken during the autopsy. The examiner used an overlay of the hammer striking surfaces over the autopsy photos.

9. Stated that after the first strike to the pig’s head the hammer bent.

Fact: Only the bottle opener part of the hammer bent, and it didn’t happen upon the first strike.

10. Stated that the hammer bent after a test to determine if it was strong enough to produce the extent of the injuries suffered by the victim.

Fact: The object of the tests on the pig’s head was to investigate tool marks; not to test the strength of the hammer.

11. Stated that the police obtained Fred’s fingerprint after they provided him (Fred) with a glass and pitcher of water and that they then lifted the prints from this glass and then labelled the lift as being from a DVD cover.

Fact: There is not a single shred of evidence to support this theory and this theory borders the insane.

12. Stated that the night before the murder Inge made a big tin of lasagna and that there was a lot left. At the scene of the murder, the tin was found empty and in the trash. His opinion is that the killers stayed in the apartment and ate the lasagna.

Fact: Inge did not cook the lasagna. She had taken it from her mother’s home the previous Sunday. The tin was not very big and could have been finished by Fred and Inge in one sitting. There is no evidence of the existence of any leftovers on the morning of the day she was murdered.

Below is an extract from the NEIAI Newsletter Winter 2010:

If you look at the last sentence, it seems like Mr Wertheim gets the sole credit for the acquittal.

Let us quickly look at: “The fingerprint was found to have been taken from a drinking glass that the suspect was given during a police interview”.

Mr Wertheim, care to tell us where was this “found” to be a fact? Or is it rather a story you concocted because up to this day no glass with 80 mm height has ever been found or brought forward – even despite Supt. Roger Dixon’s flawed attempt to implicate such glasses in Inge’s flat. We’d rather not ask you to give your opinion on why the police would decide only hours after the murder to frame someone they knew nothing about – whose alibi they had not yet checked out. And if they so desperately wanted to frame Fred, why did they not rather plant blood on his shoes, for example? Why send Folien 1 for verification to a SAPS member if they had fabricated it?

Read more about Mr Wertheim’s claims in the NEIAI Newsletter Spring 2008 edition.

Please note that this is the type of behaviour the IAI endorses . . . that a member can come to their conferences and spread unfounded and vicious lies.

Below is an extract from CLPEX:

This is the type of propaganda Mr Wertheim would relentlessly post on CLPEX. Full of utter lies.

– Firstly, the judge said in Afrikaans “hy word onskuldig bevind” – “onskuldig” is the Afrikaans legal term used in a Court for “not guilty”. From where do you get your particular translation “innocent”, Mr Wertheim? (Semantically and in a certain context “onskuldig” can also mean “innocent” since Afrikaans does not have an equivalent to “not guilty” – but clearly the judge simply used the recognised legal term for “not guilty” (i.e. the State could not prove their case beyond reasonable doubt).

– We know this is what you sold to the Court, and we will look at some of the issues below, but both lines are not curved, there are no curved fingers on Folien 1 and there is no lip print on Folien 1. What exactly did you do to prove a lip print? Just said so?

– Regarding the “appearance of a cotton swab” – so you admit that the rest of that particular semi-elliptical mark fitted? Can you explain how the police were able to so meticulously draw a mark to fit into an area of a shoe if they only found the relevant shoe two weeks after the mark “appeared”?

– The hammer did not bend on the first blow – and more importantly, the purpose of the test was NOT to test the strength of the hammer. We can show you Maritz’s instructions in black and white. The bottle opener side bent, it was repaired and more tests were done. An additional hammer was purchased to continue investigating the type of marks a hammer would make. This hammer was NOT tagged as the implicated hammer. Fred’s hammer was Exhibit #2 and the additional hammer was Exhibit #23.

– It is not an hour’s drive from Mutualpark to Stellenbosch and not a two-hour return drive. Even Fred admitted that it takes about 40 minutes to drive one-way, and his timeline for the morning of the 16th confirms this. Who told you that it took one hour to drive one way? And why?

– You are dead right that this will cause a major international scandal, but because of you and not the police. The day has arrived that your fraudulent and vicious actions are exposed fully, even if the IAI proceeds and persists to cover for you.

Some questions relating to your report:

Verbatim from your report:

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. (our underscoring)

Mr Wertheim, do you care to tell us what about this print is “parallel to the edge of the glass”? Quite the opposite is true.

Then, please tell us why you seem to have an opinion, which is the polar opposite of the opinion of your colleague, Mr Zeelenberg, who said that the absence of creases is due to a dry lip on a wet glass. You said it was an “excessively moist” lip on a dry glass. Any idea on how one would get such a wet lip? What exactly does one need to do to get such a wet lip?

Any opinion as to why the print is sloped and incomplete?

Will you place it on record that the print to the left of the right thumbprint (in positive view) is the more natural position for a thumbprint to be? What if a blind test with ten unsuspecting people prove otherwise?

So, please tell us about a wet lip that made a sloped and incomplete print on the unlikely side of the thumb. And a lip without discernable creases.

According to your theory, by implication, this lip print must belong to Fred van der Vyver. Have you made any attempt to match this lip print to Fred’s lip so as to verify the correctness of your statement that it was made by a lip? And moreover, by his lip? You had access to Fred. It would have been the easist thing in the world to do. Why did you not do it?

Would you agree or disagree with the fact that Mariaan Booysens’s finger in the images below fits the mark exactly? In case you can’t remember – Mariaan Booysens was the police officer who dusted the DVD cover found on the coffee table at the murder scene.

You perhaps now remember the time on the stand when you said that though it may look like a finger in a glove, a finger would be too big. Fact is that Mariaan Booysens has a short finger and it fits. Read more here.

Mr Wertheim – without any scientific method and by visual observation alone you declared the top and bottom lines of Folien 1 as “curved and parallel”. Not so?

Well, we know you did not employ any sound methodology, but please tell us what it is about this line that makes it a “curve”?

If you want to challenge us on this, we will provide you with detailed plotting and regression analysis to prove that it is not a curve of any sort. Just as the top line is also not a circular arc as it should be if it represented the rim of a conical glass.

The fact that the top and bottom lines are not a concentric unit – EXCLUDES a drinking glass. Immediately. Period. Even on your own premise that curves infer a glass . . . so if they are not curves (as they proveably are not), then it shoots your own argument out of the water. Unless you care to prove those are any type of curves.

Mr Wertheim – in your report you say the left index finger is “curved, foreshortened and rolled onto a side”. Isn’t that so? So you admit that it must be like this if Folien 1 came from a glass.

What do you make of the fact that the finger is not foreshortened?

This means two things: You were incorrect to say it is foreshortened, and, 2) a print on a glass – as you yourself implied – will be foreshortened – but it is not – thus it excludes a curved surface and confirms a flat surface. It defies your own argument. Again.

What do make of the positions of the core and delta? And about the fact that there is no congestion of ridges due to friction that the gravitational pull of a weighted glass would have caused?

Tell us again why you believe that the prints were made on a drinking glass?

And tell us again why the drops are consistent with drops on the vertical surface of a drinking glass. Please, this time support it with evidence.

You simply said that the few visible drops on Folien 1 are “consistent” with drops on a drinking glass. You failed to show us comparative and supporting data. What do you make of these other drops on Folien 1? Considered that the alleged glass would have been fairly clean – and would have been washed often and most probably recently? What do you make of the random shapes, direction of flow and white rims? And about at least two partial drops (drops cut in half)? By the way – it is simply lazy to assume glass = drops. A DVD cover can also come in contact with all sorts of spatter and is not cleaned as regularly as a drinking glass.

And: Any proof that ANY of the drops on Folien 1 are water drops?

Mr Wertheim, you considered as one of your stronger arguments the black background of Folien 1. Said that glass does not hold powder. The black background favoured your theory.

You said nothing about Folien 2 in your report, but maybe you can tell us now why Folien 2 (above) – which we know came from a glass (above to the right) – is so white. And – considering the same type of powder was used at the crime scene to develop both Folien 1 and Folien 2 – why is there such a fundamental difference in the background colour of Folien 1 and Folien 2 if they were both glass surfaces?

Mr Wertheim, you claim that Mr Zeelenberg peer reviewed your report. Do you think it is prudent and ethical for a colleague who reviewed your report to later act alongside you as a defence expert witness (who came in with a personal, separate report – which, interestingly, in many cases contradicted your claims – the very claims he reviewed)?

Mr Wertheim, please be advised that anything that you say may be used against you when we flag up your conduct of possible obstruction of justice to relevant authorities. This includes taking the matter up with the US Justice Department. We respectfully suggest that you tell us what happened here.

Herewith the Reports of Professors Visser and Professor Chris Theron, both of who, independently, found that Folien 1 was not lifted from a conical drinking glass:

Fingerprint Expert Franswa Stassen Review of the Mollett Reports on the Fingerprints:

Open Letter to Roger Dixon

Open Letter to Arie Zeelenberg

Bizarre Explanations