The sins of Roger Dixon

Roger Dixon – who can forget his stellar performance as a paid defence expert in the Pistorius case? One just has to search for #rogerdixon in Twitter to get an idea of what the public thought of his conduct in court. For example:“We should have a new scale for rating disasters. 1 to Dixon. Where 1 is fairly bad and #Dixon is earth-shatteringly abysmally dreadful.”

When State prosecutor Advocate Gerrie Nel said that Roger Dixon was the worst witness that he had ever experienced in court he had good reason to say so. Roger Dixon thinks it is quite acceptable to testify under oath in areas that he admitted he is not qualified in, such as for example pathology and ballistics. He didn’t produce any written documents and reports describing his studies, methodologies, assumptions, equipment, results, conclusions, limitations, etc. For example, Dixon was tasked to observe the light conditions in Pistorius’ house. Dixon did some of the observations on a night when the moon was full, while on the night of the shooting it was new moon and much darker.

Another example is when he was asked to study what Dr Stipp would have seen of Oscar through the open bathroom window that night. So what did Dixon do? One night he stood outside the Stipp house in the street – to observe a person standing on his knees inside the bathroom in front of the open window. It turns out the person on his knees was about 20 cm shorter than Oscar on his stumps – and while Dixon did his observations standing in the street Dr Stipp was standing on the balcony – about three metres higher than Dixon. The problem with this set-up is so obvious hat it doesn’t even need to be explained.

The question on many people’s minds must be – why did the defence employ the services of Roger Dixon?

Perhaps to answer this question we need to look at the Dixon’s involvement in another high profile case in  back 2007 – State vs. Fred van der Vyver – who stood accused of the brutal murder of his girlfriend Inge Lotz.

During a break in the proceedings of the Pistorius trial Roger Dixon made a very insightful comment to a well-known journalist, Debora Patta. He said that he was instrumental in getting the accused in the Inge Lotz murder (i.e. Fred van der Vyver) acquitted.

Let’s see how he accomplished this:

Shortly before the trial started in early 2007 the State approached Senior Superintendent Roger Dixon, at the time a Control Forensic Analyst at the Scientific Analysis Unit of the Forensic Science Laboratory in Pretoria, to examine a fingerprint lift (Folien 1) in order to determine whether it was lifted from a DVD cover or from a drinking glass. If the print was from a DVD cover Fred van der Vyver would be guilty, and if the lift came from a drinking glass the case against Fred van Der Vyver would have been severely weakened.

In late 2006 Roger Dixon conduct various tests on DVD covers and drinking glasses supposedly “collected from Inge’s flat”. Then through a process that “required skills in image analysis and comparison” he compared the lifts with Folien 1 and came to the ultimate conclusion that in his opinion Folien 1 was not lifted from a DVD cover but instead from “one of four glasses found in Inge’s flat”.

Dixon’s conclusion verbatim:

In my opinion the back folien described in paragraph was not ‘lifted from a DVD’ but instead from one of the four glasses described in paragraph 6.4. The features observed on the folien match test lifts made from the glasses, and not those made from the DVD covers.

The black folien Dixon referred to was Folien 1 and the four glasses were those numbered 1, 6, 7 and 8 in the photo below.

Dixon reported his results in a signed affidavit, dated 12 December 2006, in terms of Section 212 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1977 (Act 51 of 1977).

This affidavit compelled the Director of Public Prosecutions to, on 13 December 2006, send a letter to the Advocate Dup de Bruyn, Fred’s lawyer, which said: I hereby confirm that the State no longer intends to proceed with evidence concerning your client’s alleged fingerprint on the DVD holder.

This affidavit was accepted as prima facie evidence by the court. Roger Dixon did not have to testify in court.

Judging from Judge Deon van Zyl’s verdict below Dixon’s affidavit was crucial to the outcome of the case. It dealt the legitimacy of Folien 1 a severe blow.

[140] It follows that the state in no way submitted sufficient evidence to affect the prima facie case, as contained in Senior Supt Dixon’s affidavit in the least. This prima facie case was indeed strengthened considerably by the highly expert presentations of Mr Wertheim and Mr Zeelenberg. ...

 [141] In their comprehensive reports and impressive testimonies, did they affirm and expanded on Senior Superintendent Dixon’s findings in his affidavit point by point.[…] They were both of the opinion that its (Folien 1) came from a comical drinking glass about 80 mm high. …

The problems with Dixon’s affidavit are severe – and renders it completely inadmissible as prima facie in court. The fact that the court accepted it must be seen as a legal error – which could have been used by a willing and competent Director of Public Prosecutions to successfully appeal the verdict of the Criminal Court.

The Section 212 affidavit does not comply with the strict provisions of Section 212 of the Criminal Procedure Act

We had Dixon’s affidavit reviewed by a legal expert with extensive knowledge of Section 212 of the Criminal Procedure Act. These are his words verbatim:

My initial view was that the affidavit could only be used as toilet paper and nothing else. I am still of that view.

One of the most critical shortcomings of the affidavit is that the 11 drinking glasses which he used in his experiment had no chain of custody documentation. In fact, evidence and undisputed court testimony suggest that the 11 drinking glasses were not collected by the police from Inge’s flat. Where these glasses came from is still a mystery to this day. Without proper chain of custody documentation, Dixon could legally not refer to tests conducted on them in his Affidavit.

Roger Dixon’s Section 212 affidavit contains calculated mistakes, omissions and lies

The two “curved” lines on Folien 1 – supposedly made by the top rim and the bottom edge of a conical drinking glass are about 80 mm apart. In other words, if the drinking glass made these lines then the glass had to be 80 mm tall. Fact is that the drinking glass Dixon said made the lines is actually about 83 mm tall. In the photo below observe how Dixon ignored the “gap” between the short edge of the ruler and the zero mark.

In his affidavit, Dixon says that he actually met Const Elton Swartz – the officer that lifted Folien 1 at the crime scene – claiming that Constable Swartz demonstrated to him how Folien 1 was lifted and that he then used the same method in his experiments.

The fact is that the method Dixon used was incorrect – because he never met with Const Elton Swartz. Constable Swartz has never demonstrated anything to Dixon. A clear case of perjury.

These are just but a few examples of the problems with Dixon’s affidavit. Please read an Open Letter to Roger Dixon on our website regarding the Inge Lotz case –

So what picture do we get of Roger Dixon? He seems to be a person that is quite willing to overstep legal boundaries when it suits him. He has no concept of what it means to be an expert witness and what his duties to the court are. The defence saw in him a person that would be a real team player – that would have no qualms to say whatever they needed him to say to support Oscar’s version. He has an over-inflated sense of his own abilities and firmly believes that his opinions – even when not backed up by real scientific research, analysis and investigation – can and should be accepted as solid evidence in court.