I differ, however, with the magistrate’s finding that “there was no foul play”. The probability that the magistrate is correct may well be extremely high, but it is not a certainty. By his observation, there was very little for the forensic pathologist to test as most organs, blood included, had been incinerated.
Nothing therefore, can exclude the fact that the general could have been drugged to unconsciousness, but still breathing, before being burnt. And nobody needed to have been in the farmhouse other than the deceased on his last day alive. The fire ignition could have been remotely triggered, if not the drugging as well.
Modern day terrorists and organised crime syndicates have this ability now, just like most, if not all armies. Before the 10 terrorists attacked the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai in November 2008, they had used Google Earth to explore 3-D models of the target to determine optimal entry and exit routes, defensive positions and security posts. Foul play therefore cannot be ruled out completely.
Criminals are usually a step ahead of law enforcement agents. The family should be allowed a second postmortem in which trace analysis for narcosis agents is carried out. It will also give his family peace of mind. Dismissing the South African pathologist’s misgivings as “textbook” questioning is unfortunate and most probably misguided given the police pathologist’s own admission that he did not have all the equipment he needed.
In fact there may be a case for the family lawyer to approach the Judiciary Services Commission for a charge of moral cowardice to be preferred on the magistrate who presided over the inquest.