THE Farlam commission heard more evidence on Thursday that the crime scene in Marikana had been tampered with, and for the first time police acknowledged it.
Warrant Officer Patrick Thamae, a crime scene expert who had attended to the first scene, told the commission he found an unknown number of traditional weapons, allegedly belonging to some of the 34 protesters shot and killed by police on August 16, piled away from their original positions.
This was except for one body — that of Thembinkosi Gwelani — which was found with a stick lying next to it. The body was 210m away from the one recorded before it, that of John Ledingwane.
"The general rule is that every scene has to be preserved," Mr Thamae said. However, under exceptional circumstances, depending on the reasoning of the officers involved, a crime scene may be interfered with, he said.
The Farlam Commission was established to look into the events that led to the death of more than 40 people during a six-week long strike in August at Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana, near Rustenburg.
Police have previously said they shot the protesters in self-defence. However, last week it emerged at the commission that weapons may have been planted next to some of the 34 bodies in a bid to sustain the self-defence claim.
Police also did not have video footage of the second crime scene, a few meters away from scene one, where it is alleged that 14 of the 34 deceased protesters where shot execution style.
Mr Thamae said on Thursday he did not know who had piled the weapons away from the bodies. The only police officer known to have removed evidence from the scene was identified as Lt-Col Mere, who had handed over two firearms to Mr Thamae. "He said he personally removed them from the scene."
Following a fingerprints investigation, however, the results were negative. This meant there were no prints on those guns, Mr Thamae said.
He said he could not estimate the distance from which police had shot the protesters, but the shortest distance between one of the hundreds of retrieved cartridge cases and a body was 2.3m. This was the body of Mgcineni Noki.
A short distance between shooting police and armed protesters would confirm there was a close confrontation.
On Wednesday the head of the South African Council of Churches, Bishop Jo Seoka, said he believed Mr Noki had called him minutes before he was shot. Mr Seoka was at the crime scene trying to broker a deal between police, employers and protesters, and left just before the fatal shooting.
The voice on the cellphone, speaking in Xhosa, said something like "Bishop where are you? We are being killed by the police". Mr Seoka said he could hear some shooting in the background as well as noise from helicopters and people screaming.
His testimony suggested the caller was shot while he was still on a phone, contradicting the police’s version that they had shot the protesters in self-defence.