Cop's instincts helps put killer behind bars
Quick thinking by a Free State investigating officer last year has led to the conviction and sentencing of a man who had strangled his lover to death.
Edward Pieterson was convicted and sentenced to 19 years in jail for the murder of his live-in lover Chantel Mitchel.
Evidence brought before the court was reminiscent of the television series Medical Detectives, in which the police rely on forensic experts to crack cases.
In this instance Sergeant Rudi Swanepoel also relied on a pathologist's evidence to bring the suspect to book.
Swanepoel said it took him less than a week to prove his suspicion that Pieterson, 35, could have had something to do with the death of Mitchel, 27.
According to evidence presented in court Pieterson staged Mitchel's death as suicide after he killed her.
"On August 14 last year I was called to a scene where a woman had committed suicide in a flat she was sharing with her boyfriend," Swanepoel said.
"I found Pieterson, who was calm, and he said his girlfriend had committed suicide with a piece of curtain hung from the ceiling.
"What made me suspicious was that the wood that kept up the ceiling was too weak to take the weight of an adult person, so an inquest docket was opened."
Days after the murder Swanepoel said he was present when a forensic pathologist performed an autopsy on Mitchel's body.
"My suspicions were proved right when the pathologist told me that the deceased had not committed suicide," Swanepoel said.
"Instead she was strangled to death as shown by the internal injuries she sustained to her neck. I headed for Pieterson's house and arrested him."
At Pieterson's arrest police confiscated four belts he had used to kill the mother of his twin daughters.
Pieterson had maintained his innocence throughout the trial and the state called forensic experts, who testified that there was no way Mitchel could have committed suicide using the ceiling. It was too weak to carry an adult human being.
Judge Corne van Zyl said Pieterson didn't show any remorse during the trial.
Van Zyl said the couple had a history of violence, especially after consuming liquor.
The couple's twins, aged a year and half, are now living with Mitchel's aunt.