Ballistics expert links Meyiwa murder weapon to Mncube

9mm found on accused no3 tested positive for Vosloorus shooting

Koena Mashale Journalist
Ballistic expect Major-General Chris Mangena testimony was also vital during the murder case against Oscar Pistorius who shot dead girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
Ballistic expect Major-General Chris Mangena testimony was also vital during the murder case against Oscar Pistorius who shot dead girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
Image: Thulani Mbele

Ballistics expert Lt-Col Chris Mangena has linked a gun found in possession of Mthobisi Carlos Mncube when he was arrested in February 2015 to the one that killed soccer star Senzo Meyiwa. 

Mangena told the Pretoria high court he was initially given a 9mm parabellum and bullets in an evidence bag but the gun was not linked to Meyiwa’s murder.

He testified that investigating officer in the Meyiwa murder case Col Bongani Gininda informed him that Mncube had been arrested and was found in possession of a 9mm parabellum. 

“He told me to check if it’s linked to our [Meyiwa] case. After following up on the case, I found that W/O Roelofse had tested the firearm and I then compared his test with the bullet that was found at the [Meyiwa murder] scene.

“I used eight test bullets, including two bullets of the same make as those used in W/O Roelofse’s test. This was to confirm that the gun in my possession was the one Roelofse had tested. 

“I can confirm that the gun that was used to fire the bullet found at the [Meyiwa] crime scene was the one that Roelofse had tested,” said Mangena.

Mncube was previously convicted of being in possession of an unlicensed firearm.

Carlos Mncube, left, one of the accused in the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial at the Pretoria High Court.
Carlos Mncube, left, one of the accused in the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial at the Pretoria High Court.
Image: OJ Koloti

Five men are currently on trial for the murder of Meyiwa who was shot at his girlfriend Kelly Khumalo’s home in Vosloorus, on the East Rand, in October 2014. They have pleaded not guilty to the charges. 

Mangena, who has investigated 5,620 cases, has worked on the reconstruction of high-profile cases like that of Oscar Pistorius and Babita Deokaran. 

He told the court he could not remember the exact time he arrived at Khumalo’s home but said it would have been after 11pm. 

“Upon examination of the kitchen, two potential instances of bullet damage were identified – one on the kitchen door and another on the floor tile. The initial bullet damage appears to have impacted the door without passing through, exhibiting characteristics of a ricochet or bounce effect.

“Similarly, the tile exhibits signs of bullet damage with visible traces of bullet fragments and lead surrounding the affected area,” said Mangena. 

He said he was informed that two spent bullets were recovered. 

“The first bullet was discovered on the floor adjacent to the lead-affected site and was retrieved by the local Germiston task team. The second bullet was located atop the kitchen cabinet and was recovered by the Gauteng task team. 

“I took the height of the bullet hole which was approximately 1.2m high. I did the same for the bullet hole on the floor. The distance from the wall to the bullet hole on the floor was 1.19m.”  

Mangena said he attended the autopsy done by specialist pathologist Johannes Steenkamp and he examined the clothing, stating that the hole on the shirt and vest of the deceased indicated that he [Meyiwa] was shot at close range. 

“The T-shirt and vest fabric’s torn edges provide evidence of the firearm’s extremely close proximity to the victim. The firearm appears to have made direct contact with the deceased, resulting in a contact wound, especially a loose contact wound.”

He explained that there are two types of contact wounds. 

“The contact can be classified as hard contact or loose contact determined how closely the firearm was positioned. Hard contact implies all gases and powder remain within the wound while a loose contact shot suggests the firearm touched the body without direct pressure, as observed in this case,” said Mangena. 

He said the exit wound was irregular shaped bullet wound. The entrance wound measured at 1.34m while the exit wound was at 1.26m. 

“Looking at the position of the wounds, it is a downward trajectory. 

He said after examining the crime scene and the body of the deceased, he determined that two shots were fired and one shot was fired directly to the floor at a 90-degree angle.

“If a person was close, they would’ve been hit by fragments. The other shot was fired in the direction of the door at a downward trajectory.

“The bullet’s trajectory wasn’t 90-degrees, causing it to ricochet off the door and land on the kitchen counter. The bullet’s instability might be attributed to passing through the deceased Meyiwa before striking the door. 

“The most probable position of the deceased would be standing upright in the kitchen with his back towards the door. The shooter was most probably in front of the deceased...The possibility of a struggle cannot be ruled out,” he added. 

Mangena said on different dates in 2020, he went for height assessment of potential suspects in the case.

“On June 1, I was asked by the investigating officer, Gininda, to assess the shooter’s identity based on height. I told him that it’s not feasible as people might react differently,” said Mangena. 

“On July 1, we visited Qalakabusha Prison to measure Sifisokuhle Nkani Ntuli [accused No 5], who refused to be measured. On July 6, at Leeuwkop Prison, we assessed accused No 4 [Mthokoziseni Maphisa], whose height was 1.79m. Another person of interest accused No 2 Bongani Sandiso Ntanzi, was assessed to be 1.86m.

“On June 30, we evaluated accused No 3 Mthobisi Carlos Mncube, who measured 1.63m,” Mangena said, adding that when he asked Mncube to take off his shoes, he said he has scars from his youth.

“I found [this] interesting because we didn’t tell him what we were looking for but he knew that I was looking for the scars and I realised that he might be a person of interest,” said Mangena.

Accused No 1 Muzi Sibiya’s height was 1.73m.

The trial continues.

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