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Mom was burnt alive

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“There were burn wounds in her trachea and her bronchial windpipes were swollen. The injuries indicate that the deceased was alive and breathing prior to being burnt.”

THE YOUNG mother from Windsorton whose body was burnt beyond recognition, was set alight while she was still alive, while she also sustained multiple wounds as a result of being stabbed with a sharp instrument.

The accused in the matter, Michael Wyne Pieterson, appeared in the Northern Cape High Court yesterday for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Kantse Martha Mokgele, 25, and their baby, Neo Elias Mokgele, whose bodies were found hidden in the veld near the hydroponic plant near Windsorton on May 12, 2019.

The baby’s body was also badly burnt.

Testifying in the Northern Cape High Court yesterday, the head of forensic pathology at the Northern Cape Department of Health, Dr Lemaine Fouche, told the court that the cause of death of the mother was smoke inhalation and a head injury.

Fouche, who conducted the post-mortems of both the mother and her baby, added that the child died as a result of a stab wound to the face.

She explained that the 25-year-old deceased had inhaled hot air, as her tongue was bitten between the front teeth, while her epiglottis was swollen and red.

“There were burn wounds in her trachea and her bronchial windpipes were swollen. The injuries indicate that the deceased was alive and breathing prior to being burnt.”

She indicated that the deceased would have lost consciousness as a result of a knock to the back of her head.

“There were extensive haemorrhages on the frontal and occipital bones, on the front and back of the skull, that were mostly likely caused by an incision wound behind the left eye.”

Fouche stated that the deceased was wearing a night dress at the time of her death.

“The wounds were clean and indicate that a sharp instrument was used. There were various incise wounds on her face, chest, abdomen and right hip, while a two-centimetre incision wound penetrated her right flank, causing her small intestines to protrude. Her bowels had a cooked appearance.”

She added that there were burn wounds all over the body. “The front of the head, neck, front of her torso, chest, abdomen, arms and legs were covered in burns.”

Fouche said a linear fracture extended from the back of the deceased’s head to the left-hand side of the head.

“This would have been caused by a force that was exerted to the skull or by a hard object that hit her head. There was swelling of the brain.”

She indicated that without the stab wounds, her death would have been prolonged.

Fouche added that the brain of the one-year-old baby was so swollen that it weighed 1 200 grams. “The intracranial contents of a child’s brain usually weighs 900 grams.”

She said that the child suffered a stab wound above the left eye, as well as an abrasion above the eye that was inflicted by blunt trauma.

“The stab wound penetrated the underlying dura mater – the thick membrane that surrounds the brain. The brain was swollen.

“Burns covered the right-hand side of his face, the back of the head, torso, legs and right hand.There was a five millimetre by three millimetre chafe mark on his left cheek. There were no abnormalities on his chest, while his rib cage and sternum were intact. This implies that the baby was already deceased when the fire happened.”

Captain John Seeley, from the SAPS Search and Rescue unit, meanwhile indicated to the court that a blue overall jacket, a blue T-shirt and blue tracksuit pants, hanging behind the door of the accused’s residence and which appeared to have blood splatters on them, were placed in evidence bags.

“The clothes were hanging on a washing line made out of string or wire inside the house. A pair of black All Star sneakers, which were also wet, were found on the roof at the back of the residence.”

Seeley stated that the accused had explained to the police that the floor of his shack and his clothes were wet as he had done his washing.

The legal representative for the accused, Heinrich Steynberg, pointed out that the safest place for his client to hang his washing was inside his shanty as there was no fence enclosure or washing line outside.

He pointed out that All Star sneakers were commonly worn, while many people also used the path where the bodies were found as a thoroughfare.

Senior forensic analyst Captain Regina Cecilia van Rensburg, from the biology section at the SAPS laboratory in Pretoria, said that a blood stain on a T-shirt that was sent in for DNA analysis matched the DNA results of a female in a reference kit sample.

She indicated that they were unable to extract enough DNA to link an individual to additional exhibits pertaining to the case that were handed in, including a hoodie, a T-shirt and a jacket that were bloodstained.

The State prosecutor is advocate Ronewa Makhaga. The case will continue before acting Judge Willem Coetzee.