Retaining of the scene and evidence

The scene of the crime is a valuable source of evidence and stock owners must know how to handle this scene and the evidence contained therein.

crime scene

Evidence may include the following:

  • carcasses
  • vehicles
  • firearms •
  • sources of DNA such as blood, bloodstains, hair, meat or other tissue
  • fingerprints
  • footprints
  • equipment used during theft
  • clothes

When a farmer realises that he was the victim of stock theft, the stock theft unit suggests the following:

  • Secure the crime scene immediately.
  • Do not shift or remove anything from the scene.
  • Do not try investigating the crime yourself – important evidence must be left in the kraal until officials from the stock theft unit have arrived and started their investigation. Important clues such as footprints and marks will be destroyed when the animals leave the kraal.
  • Footprints found at the crime scene must be protected from rain, wind, animals and people by covering it with a half a steel drum or cardboard box.
  • Stock owners must not follow the tracks or send out workers to look for and follow the tracks. Rather leave it to the police and their dogs.
  • Cut fences must not be repaired before fence samples have been taken
  • Cut chains and locks must be kept as evidence.
  • Slaughtered carcasses must not be removed until the meat has been sampled and the scene photographed.
  • If material that possibly belongs to the thief is found at the scene, it must not be touched or removed.
  • Unknown objects found at the scene must not be touched or moved until they have been shown to the investigating officer. The forensic laboratory of the SAPS can compare such items with evidence found at other crime scenes or in possession of criminals.
  • If a suspect is caught red-handed and makes comments to the owner of the stolen animals that could be a confession, mention this to the investigating officer. Be careful not to contravene section 35 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (Act 108 of 1996) and/ or section 39 of the Criminal Procedure Act (Act 51 of 1977) that deals with the arrest.

Do not assault the suspect. Any wrongful assault will render you liable to possible criminal prosecution. The investigating officer will take into account factors such as heat, cold, rain, wind and people who trample the scene. As a last resort to preserve evidence, the police can move evidence to a safer place. The original place where it was found must then be recorded clearly.

As many pieces of evidence as possible will be collected and processed by the police. Samples and pieces of evidence in forensic bags will be signed in at the police station for use during the investigation.