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The headwounds - Photo angle

 

The defence claimed, without any proof at all, that the photo below was taken at such an angle that it distorted the circular wounds from "30 mm", as the autopsy report recorded, down to ±20 mm on the 2D pane, as the included ruler suggests.

The problem originally stems from the fact that the autopsy report recorded these wounds as both being 30 mm. While the 2D photo clearly show they are ±20 mm when scaled to the ruler.

What should one rather believe, a report or a photo?

We must remember the implication of this. Both defence experts, Prof Gert Saayman and Mr Michael Grimm, mainly excluded the hammer because they said wounds 1(a) and 1(b) were too big compared to the striking face of the suspected hammer. They blindly relied on the incorrect autopsy measurements.

The above arguments, where we use very basic methods, explain why the head was not at a significant angle in relation to the camera.

The image below shows how wounds would distort with an increased photo angle.

Over the last year we have used various methods to show that the respective wounds could not have distorted from 30 mm down to 20 mm, as the defence claimed was possible and happened. We used dummy and human heads, photographing them in increments as they turn and took respective measurements. It confirmed over and over again that such distortion is not attainable or even possible. Now recently we decided to test it on a digital 3D model. Let us first get a very basic premise right. As you view the head turn in the above image, you will see that the wounds distort as the head turns. There is no dispute about that. The wounds will get more oval in the 2D pane (what you see on a flat image like a photo). However, if we want to consider the argument of the defence, we must establish the angle the head actually turned (or the so called "photo angle"). Below we show what the photo angle was more or less, and it can be confirmed against the actual headwound photo as well. The angle is slightly from below and from behind the ear line.

Now, let us just quickly explain the 3D modelling. The programme allows for the slope and rounding of the head. Thus, if you put a 30 mm circle on it, it will "distort" (get more oval) as the head turns and according to the contours. It will thus also adapt to the contours of the skull. We must also just explain 3D vs 2D first. An actual human head in real life (of which this model is a representation) is 3D. Even while this model is on screen, in the design programme it is 3D, you can turn it all around. 2D is what you actually see on a flat pane, like a photo. And that is part of the issue here. The defence said that in 3D (real life) Adendorff measured the wounds as 30 mm, but after the photo angle distorted their sizes in 2D view, they only measured 20 mm in 2D - but that they actually were 30 mm in real life. Again, 2D is what you see as you look at the photo. An oval may therefore measure 20 mm in 2D but in 3D it is actually 30 mm. That we grant.

What we have done below, is to put two 30 mm circles on the areas wounds 1(a) and 1(b) were, in a no-angle position. We therefore started from a flat 90 degree view with the wound sizes the defence claimed. Then we turned the head into the position it was when the headwound photo was taken. You can look at the exercises right at the top and further below: we used the view of the eyebrow and nose and ear to get perspective of the wound positions and the photo angle. Then we took a measurement in 2D, because that is what you would see on a photo.

So, let us start with a straight flat view of the two 30 mm circles. Both circles were digitally drawn in as 30 mm (in 3D measurement) - the one to the right may look sligthly smaller, but the programme automatically accounts for the slight slope it is on and adapts it accordingly. So while in 3D it is 30 mm, in 2D it looks a bit smaller. (Due to space here the images have been reduced in size, but ratios remain intact.)

Now, let us turn the head into the position the headwound photo was taken. Remember, the computer now does the work and it automatically adapts the sizes according to not only the photo angle, but also the rounding and contours of the head.

After the head was turned into the eventual position, the sizes only decreased with between 1.5 and 2 mm - and this is very much in line with the results of previous experiments.

We have done a similar exercise where we started with the turned head and put a 20 mm circle on (in 2D measurement, because 20 mm is what you see on the photo) and then turned the head back into a straight view. If the defence's argument held up the circles needed to go back to 30 mm in the straight view (3D). They didn't. Similarly it will enlarge by only about 1-2 mm. In 2D we have measured the actual two wounds on the headwound photo, and they measure (after turn) about 18 and 19 mm. Thus if you turn them back, they both will fit just around 20 mm in the straight view.

We can now say without any doubt that the autopsy measurements are wrong and that wounds 1(a) and 1(b) are around 20 mm and not 30 mm. This means the wounds sizes fit the striking face of a hammer which has a striking face of around 20 mm. The suspected hammer has an average diameter of about 20 mm. This also put these wounds in line with the other circular wound which Adendorff measured 20 mm - the one on the forehead.

Above: The round wounds clearly stayed circular and did not become oval as would have been the case if they were photographed at an angle of more than 15 degrees (see image below how wounds become oval after significant turn). Note that it really only becomes significantly oval after the nose and eyebrow disappears (which is about 15-20 degrees turn).

Wounds inflicted with a hammer will not always be a full circle, as it can depend on how 'solid' the blow is, as well as on the impact angle. However, these wounds all have a circular nature, not an oval one.

Wounds 1(a) and 1(b) are just around 20 mm and not 30 mm and a hammer with a striking surface of 20 mm should never have been excluded on the basis of the autopsy report's incorrect 30 mm measurements.

Can we with all certainty say that it was the suspected hammer that was used? No. But it is the same type of hammer and a hammer with very close dimensions regarding striking surfaces. Obviously we can also not say who used the hammer to inflict the wounds.

What we can say is that these ornamental bottle opener hammers are extremely scarce in South Africa. It is a novelty and fairly unique. We could not find one in Cape Town area and had to import one from the USA.

To summarise:

The real-life exercise above also confirmed that:

1. Wounds 1(a) and 1(b) could not have reduced 10 mm in size considering the marginal angle of the photo.

2. If there was any significant distortion due to an angle, the wounds would have become more oval shaped. The shapes of the wounds do not suggest any significant angle.

3. If there was any significant angle, the nose and eyebrow would not have been visible, and you would have seen more of the back part of the ear.

4. This exercise confirms the results of the digital 3D modelling, which without any doubt confirms that a 30 mm wound cannot distort down to 20 mm when you consider the angle of the photo.

Prof Chris Theron's Report - proving wound sizes to be closer to 20 mm than to 30 mm

WHY DID THE HAMMER BEND?

For now, only the first 33 pages of a report of about 130 pages will be provided here (at the yellow link above).

New: Forensic Pathologist Review

 


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