Hair today‚ worthless tomorrow? Forensics on trial in Van Breda courtroom

Hair analysis went on trial on Tuesday during the Henri van Breda trial in the High Court in Cape Town‚ with Judge Siraj Desai labelling it “inexact”.

Colonel Henry Stewart‚ the forensic analyst in the triple murder trial‚ explained how “everything changes under the microscope”‚ and how the mechanism of peer review ensures the accuracy of this forensic approach.

However‚ under cross-examination from accused Van Breda’s defence counsel‚ Piet Botha‚ Stewart wavered‚ conceding that – unlike fingerprinting – there was no listed number of similarities that had to be registered before someone could declare there was a “resemblance” between strands found on a crime scene and reference samples.

It also emerged that two strands of hair‚ which had “two presumable hair roots”‚ were found on the scene of the murders lof Martin‚ Teresa and Rudi van Breda‚ at their Stellenbosch home‚ and sent for DNA analysis.

Results‚ however‚ had to date not been sent.

Botha said Stewart could have been saved a day-and-a-half in the courtroom had those results been forthcoming.

“If the DNA analysis excludes my client‚ it will place a very big question mark over your statement‚” he told Stewart.

Stewart replied: “I can only testify on what I did and what I found.”

This came after a gruelling day on Monday during which Stewart was often berated by Botha‚ who referred to him on Tuesday as “a supposed expert”.

It was also clear as the morning unfolded that Stewart‚ who spoke directly to Botha on Monday‚ addressed Desai almost exclusively on Tuesday.

The case continues.

Leave a Reply