Autopsy shows murdered nun drowned

A postmortem on the body of Sister Mary Paul Tacke revealed the elderly nun was still alive when dumped in a stream near Libode in June last year.

This was revealed by state principal forensic medical officer Dr Sylvester Babalo Qaba while testifying in the trial of two men accused of murdering Tacke currently being heard in the Mthatha High Court.

Qaba’s postmortem findings also revealed Tacke had six fractured ribs.

“I concluded that the cause of death was head injury, abdominal injuries, thoracic injuries, blunt trauma and drowning,” read his postmortem report.

The autopsy was conducted on June 19.

The 82-year-old Tacke’s body was discovered in a stream at Tyharha village near Nyandeni Great Place in Libode about 60km from Mthatha on June 16.

She had been kidnapped a day earlier as she finished delivering food to her children’s project, Thembelihle Home, in Norwood in Mthatha.

Qaba told the court that the nun was definitely alive when she was dumped in the river and subsequently drowned.

“The voluminous or massive fluid-filled lungs suggest that she was alive and breathing when drowned, hence the enlarged lungs caused by large amount of water swallowed during the drowning,” he said.

He said that there were bruises on both her knees, on her forehead, right jaw and right forearm.

Qaba said injuries to her head were caused by a blunt object.

“This on its own right can cause direct death, especially in frail people,” he explained to the court.

He added the fractured ribs could have also contributed to her death as she breathed with difficulty and would be in pain.

Defence attorney Fumanekile Noxaka informed Judge Lusindiso Pakade that he would not cross-examine Qaba but accepted the postmortem report.

Asiphe Ndikinda, 22, and Masixole Ndlebe, 21, were arrested in connection with US-born Catholic nun’s murder.

They face six charges of murder, kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances, possession of a firearm to commit an offence, unlawful possession of a firearm and unlawful possession of ammunition.

Both have pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

She came to South Africa from the US in the 1950s and taught at the Catholic missionary school Mariazell before moving to Mthatha.

She was the chairwoman of the board of Thembelihle Home in Norwood and had supported the facility since its inception in 1996. She was also a member of the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood.

The trial continues today. —


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