Chris Watts: Inside the Criminal Mind

What goes on behind closed doors? What happens underneath appearances, edifices and facades? Knock, the Bible says, and the door will be opened. So let’s knock on the brown door at 2825 Saratoga Trail.

frederick-community-12vo_frame_0 (1)

Today we’re going to deal with one of your questions on #Shakedown. It’s this idea that there’s “no why”.

Fullscreen capture 20180918 113903.bmp

There is a why, and it’s behind that door. Just because the door’s not opening, doesn’t mean nobody [and no why] is home. Is there a way we can get inside, without the door being opened? Actually, there is. But before we open that door, let’s look at part of Diana’s question:

“…when a pregnant woman is murdered or mysteriously just disappears, it’s almost always the father of the unborn child who’s responsible for her death/disappearance….”

This casual remark is startlingly close to the essence of what we need to get at, and why we can’t see what we need to see, why we can’t get in the door. The reason the door is staying closed isn’t because the door won’t upon, but because we’re not open. We must open our minds.

Taking Diana’s statement, the reason we’re defeated at the door is because we see this case through the prism of our own minds.

…it’s almost always the father of the unborn child who’s responsible…

If we want to see into Chris Watts’ mind, then we have to let go of what we know, of our standards for ourselves, our realities, and be open to someone else’s. In this case what that means is:

…it’s almost always the father of the unborn child who DOES NOT WISH TO BE responsible…

And then, in the aftermath of the crime, we see that habitual flouting of responsibility writ large. He won’t admit what he’s done because he can’t, because he’s been living a lie. For us, reality has caught up with him, but when you’re living a lie, reality never catches up, and liars – especially murderers – make sure it never does. That’s why they commit murders, to escape their reality.

All of this is very loosey-goosey though. What are we really dealing with though? Practically? We enter the door of Chris Watts mind by using a key I call True Crime Intertextuality. It’s a tool we use to begin profiling our killer’s psychology. We use it to decipher not only who he is, but who he isn’t.

Let’s use Diana’s first example. Christopher Coleman. How like Chris Watts is Coleman, and how like the Watts crime, is Coleman’s crime?

The Coleman Case

An attorney for Christopher Coleman, who was convicted of strangling his wife and two children in May 2009, is requesting a new trial.

Coleman was found guilty in 2011 of strangling his wife, Sheri, 31, and their sons, Garett, 11, and Gavin, 9, in their home in Columbia, Ill. He was sentenced by a judge to three life terms without possibility of parole.

But this week — almost seven years after that conviction — Coleman’s appointed attorney Lloyd Cueto Jr. filed a petition arguing that the jury’s verdict hinged on four explicit photos that were not properly reviewed by the court.

The photos were exchanged between Coleman and his then-mistress, Tara Lintz.

During the trial, prosecutors alleged that Coleman wanted to leave his wife to marry Lintz. Exposing his adultery, the prosecution said, would have jeopardized Coleman’s $100,000-a-year job as bodyguard for televangelist Joyce Meyer.

Prosecutors argued that lurid emails, texts, photos and videos between Coleman and his lover showed Coleman’s motive to kill his family and indicated the emotional intensity of the affair.

Defense attorneys asked that the images be banned because they could prejudice the jury against Coleman due to their explicit content.

Judge Milton Warton opted to allow some of the images but specified that the genitals in the photos be covered with black bars.

But during deliberation, thumbnail versions of the images that were not censored were let into the jury room on the back of a foam evidence board, according to Cueto’s petition.

The thumbnails included time stamps that were not entered into evidence, Cueto said.

Multiple jurors later told reporters from the TV show “48 Hours” and the Post-Dispatch that reading the time stamps with a magnifying glass was a turning point for some of the jurors in the 15-hour deliberation.

The dates on the photographs indicated they had been taken as early as October 2008, in contradiction of testimony by Lintz that the affair began two months later.

Ferrari told the Post-Dispatch the jury also came to believe the time stamps showed Coleman was deleting photos while police were interviewing him on the day of the murders.

Ferrari said several jurors were initially unwilling to find Coleman guilty, but the vote shifted after the discovery of the time stamps.

Coleman’s attorney argues the jurors should have never been able to see those dates and times.

“The jurors made their decision based on something that was never admitted into evidence,” Cueto said.

Cueto’s petition also points to the omission of other evidence during the trial including fingerprints and a shoe print that may have cast doubt on the prosecution’s narrative of events during the trial.

Monroe County State’s Attorney Chris Hitzemann must now review the petition and decide how to proceed, Cueto said.

Hitzemann was not in office during the trial that captivated the local community in 2011 with its combination of sex, religion and violence.

The region was so transfixed by the courtroom drama that the Monroe County Circuit Clerk told the Post-Dispatch at the time that there was a waiting list of 165 area residents hoping to sit in on the trial. The eventual jurors were bused in from Perry County.

Clearly a single news story about a murder is nowhere near sufficient if we’re looking to produce a psychological blueprint for our suspect. But we’re not trying to do that just yet, not exhaustively anyway. All we want to do right now is get a handle on the basic criminality.

A quick gloss through the red highlighted text below confirms that in many [but not all] respects, the Coleman case is a reasonably good fit for the Watts case. We can tick the following boxes:

  1. The manner [or mechanism] of death, for both Sheri and her two sons Gavin and Garett was the same – death by strangling. Follow this link to see the difference between cause of death and manner of death.
  2. The murders took place inside the residence.
  3. There was a secret mistress involved.
  4. The secrecy was important to maintain – Coleman stood to lose his job if he didn’t keep it secret.
  5. The adultery was well-established. It wasn’t merely a fling, it was a serious relationship.
  6. Coleman wished to establish a new life with a new wife but for known and unknown reasons, felt he could not do that in a conventional manner. The known reason is that he stood to lose his job. The unknown reason has something to do with religion.
  7. Coleman’s employment [as a bodyguard to an evangelist] was an important feature in the case.
  8. The motive according to prosecutor’s was the emotional intensity of the affair. Whether this is accurate or not, we see that emotional intensity on top of other key factors can trigger family murders.
  9. The lifespan and seriousness of the affair was undermined and underreported by the mistress, which is indicative that not only was Coleman reluctant to acknowledge what he’d done, but the mistress as well.
  10. Coleman was actively removing evidence while he was being investigated. Much of this involved destroying digital artifacts, especially photos.
  11. Jurors were initially unable or unwilling to find Coleman guilty.
  12. The court case ultimately turned on a factor that wasn’t even part of the court evidence [which had to do with the timeline of events, and also Coleman and his mistress lying about that particular aspect].

In sum the Coleman case involved a toxic combination of sex, religion and violence. We may say the odd element in this mixture – in terms of the Watts case – is religion. But before throwing the baby out with the bathwater, wasn’t Thrive the “religious” element in the Watts case? In Two Face I compared the activities of Le-Vel employees to those of a cult. With most cults it’s difficult to leave, and the costs associated with leaving – and staying – are enormous.

Another aspect that’s similar is the age and to some extent, the appearance of the victim. Sheri was an attractive blonde mother, 31 years of age. Shan’ann was 34, brunette and also attractive. Appearances – vanity – with regards to sexual attractiveness and the perceived sexual attractiveness of the murderer spouse, often figure highly in family murders.

The key element in the Watts case missing from the Coleman case is that Sheri wasn’t pregnant. Now let’s examine a case where the victim was pregnant.

The Hacking Case

The reference case below is longer and divided in two parts. It’s not necessary to read the entire script, simply gloss through the highlighted text.


7/19/04 Salt Lake City, Memory Grove Mark Hacking talks to the media on the first day his wife Lori is reported missing. He has now been arrested on charges of aggravated murder.

 Brian Hamilton became friends with Mark Hacking when they worked together in the children’s psychiatric unit of a Salt Lake City hospital. He said Hacking loved to entertain the kids at the hospital.

The couple had just learned Lori was five weeks pregnant, friends say. And they were about to embark on a cross-country move to North Carolina, where Hacking said he would be starting medical school“It seemed as though they had their life planned, chapter by chapter,” says Hamilton.

On Thursday, July 15, Lori emailed the Hamiltons with their new address. But the day after she sent the email, Lori received a phone call from the University of North Carolina. She left work early in tears. Apparently, she’d just learned that Mark’s big plans for medical school were all a lie. He’d never even enrolled with the school.

A few days later, on Sunday evening, the couple went to a convenience store. It’s the last place where anyone would see Lori Hacking alive. As seen in surveillance footage from later that night, Hacking returned to the store around 1 a.m. – but this time, he was alone.

Now that Hacking has allegedly confessed to killing his wife while she was sleeping, people wonder, after seeing these images on the surveillance tape, had he just murdered his wife? Or was he about to?

The next morning, Hacking reported his wife missing. He said she never came home after going for an early jog in nearby woods. Hacking said he went searching for her, but later that day, police learned that he’d been shopping for a new mattress before he called 911. That was the first sign that Hacking’s concern for his wife was all an act. And it was the first of many lies to come.

“My name is Mark Hacking,” he said in a press conference. “And I have so much gratitude today for the friends, the family, the officers, the search-and-rescue people. Everybody. It’s just been the worst day of my life; it’s good to feel some comfort from the community.”

Later that night, Hacking was admitted to a psychiatric hospital after he was seen walking around outside, naked. “He kept his shoes on – his sandals – that’s not generally something we see in someone truly psychotic,” says Candace DeLong, who was an FBI profiler for 20 years.

Does she think he was faking his condition and setting up a defense? “I think there’s a very good chance he thought that might work,” says DeLong. In the days following Lori’s disappearance, while hundreds of volunteers searched for her, it became apparent that Hacking had been making up stories for years.

“We were under the impression that Mark had been accepted to medical school and just found out a few minutes ago he never even applied to medical school at North Carolina,” says Mark’s father, Douglas Hacking.

In fact, Hacking had never even graduated from college. He stopped attending classes at the University of Utah three years ago, and Lori, and Mark’s family, found out.It’s a story that’s never been reported in detail.

“His mother called their house and left a message asking why he wasn’t enrolled in school, ’cause she had attempted to pay the tuition and it wasn’t– he wasn’t in the — enrolled,” recalls Hamilton. Lori heard the voice mail first, and when Hacking came home, she confronted him. He took off in his car, and when Lori couldn’t find him, she called the Hamiltons. “She was just crying on the phone,” says Hamilton. Lori later found out Hacking was at a hotel an hour away.

“We didn’t really think anything of it because the next day, Jennifer talked to Lori and she said, ‘Oh, yeah. Well, we went and we reconciled things and made up,” says Hamilton. “And the way that it kind of played out was that he had made a mistake or he had forgotten to register. I think that’s how it went. We thought he went back to school.”

And apparently, so did Lori. And from then on, Hacking’s lies just got bigger and more elaborate. “I remember for the last two-plus years, the extensive preparations for medical school,” says Lori’s brother, Paul Soares. In fact, Mark went so far as to fly to Manhattan, and pretend to interview for medical school, while staying with his cousin. “He got up in the morning, put his suit on — like day before, she drove him by where Columbia was, so he’d know where it’s at,” recalls Soares. “And– left– went to do his interview and came back a few hours later and talked about the interview and how it was.”

“He talked a little bit about his deception to us, how it all got started a few years ago,” says Mark’s father, Douglas Hacking. “He has two brothers who are high achievers. He felt pressure to excel as well.”

The real tragedy is that many believe Lori would have loved Hacking, no matter what he did for a living.

“As long as he was doing his best, she would have loved him with all of her heart,” says Soares. “And he didn’t have to be a doctor, a president — whatever it was. As long as he was doing his best, she would have loved him.”

And Hacking may have been the only person who didn’t truly believe this.

“Failure just was not an option. It almost seemed like– he couldn’t handle the idea of letting her down,” says Hamilton. “Basically, I think that maybe he was just so sad or so distraught about the idea of letting her down that maybe something did snap. I mean what that was, I don’t know.”

There’s a lot there, but it’s not the half of it. We’re looking for more insight into Hacking’s psychology, and we find plenty more of that here:

According to Mark’s friend Paul [no surname given], Mark Hacking’s double life began when he was not accepted into a bachelor’s degree program at the University of Utah. Rather than tell his father that he had been rejected, he pretended that he had been accepted.

The desire to please his father, Paul said, was driven by a sense of inadequacy. Mark Hacking’s father is a successful pediatrician. A brother is also a doctor and another brother is an engineer.

Paul said Mark Hacking’s father – who he claimed to have known well for years – was not overbearing or demanding, and did not create the pressure Mark supposedly felt. Paul described Mark Hacking’s father as a wonderful man.

At any rate, when classes began at the university, Paul said that Mark Hacking bought the requisite textbooks and studied them, while telling his wife, parents and friends that he was a student. Paul claimed that he and Mark Hacking were routinely together during the time Mark was supposed to be in class. This happened semester after semester.

According to Paul, the entire charade was meant to keep Mark Hacking’s father from learning about his son’s academic difficulties. When asked why Mark Hacking lied to his wife, Paul said of Lori Hacking, “His wife is … the stereotypical ‘good Mormon girl,’ and she would have told his dad.”

The description sounded contemptuous as Paul said it. He also said that Lori Hacking would have been angry that her husband had lied to her. Which was apparently the case on the last weekend of her life. On Friday, at work, she accidentally learned from officials at the medical school her husband claimed to have been accepted to that he was not a student. The couple had made plans to move across the country the next week so that he could go to school.

Co-workers describe Lori Hacking as being very upset. And Paul says that when he went to the Hacking apartment on Sunday night Mark Hacking told him that he and Lori had argued angrily earlier in the evening. He also said the Hackings had argued other times in their marriage as well.

“She is a little spitfire,” Paul said of Lori Hacking. The description, again, sounded contemptuous as Paul said it.

He described Mark Hacking as extremely agitated that night. Paul said that he seemed frantic and at his wits end. The upset, though, was primarily from the fact he feared his wife would tell his father about his fraud, rather than that she had said she wanted a divorce.

Another previously unreported aspect of this story, if Paul’s account is correct, is that Mark Hacking – after claiming to have graduated from college – worked as a psychological counselor, something which he was apparently unlicensed and unqualified to do. Paul said that he and Mark Hacking had discussed Mark’s fears that he would be caught for that and sentenced to “five years in prison.”

Paul said that he counseled Mark Hacking to “disappear” for a couple of years, to escape his lies. Paul said that when he returned his father would be so glad to see him that he would forget about the deceptions. Additionally, the institution where Mark Hacking had supposedly performed the illicit counseling would sweep the matter under the rug, to avoid the embarrassment of having employed an unqualified person.

Paul also said that family statements that Lori Hacking was pregnant at the time of her murder are true. He said that Mark and Lori were ecstatic when she became pregnant. “He did not do this because she was pregnant,” Paul said of the murder.

Paul also said that Mark Hacking did not use drugs or alcohol, but that, rather, “He fits the stereotypical sociopath.”

Paul said that when he first heard media reports that Lori Hacking was missing he presumed that she had left Mark. Later that day, however, when he saw Mark Hacking on TV, claiming that his wife was missing, he said he knew Mark Hacking was lying and he turned and told his wife so at the time.

Concerned, Paul went to the volunteer search headquarters and told a police officer that he knew Mark Hacking and believed that he was lying. The officer took Paul’s name but did not seem interested. Paul was eventually interviewed by police a week later.

Paul also said that, contrary to rumors, he did not believe Mark Hacking was involved with pornography. And while Mark Hacking told Paul that he believed in his family’s Mormon faith, he felt that he couldn’t live it, but would later on, repenting of his wrongdoing.

Paul said that Mark’s plan was to move to North Carolina and pretend to go to medical school. He intended to keep up that charade and eventually “graduate” and go practice medicine with fraudulent credentials.

There more than twice as many boxes to tick here, than in the Coleman case. We won’t tick all of them, but let’s pluck the low hanging fruit and then see how the Hacking case stacks up to the Coleman case, and why Watts is more like one than the other.

  1. It’s one thing to talk about someone “living a lie”, isn’t another to actually see how it might play out in their lives. It’s impossible to feel the drama, desperation, intrigue and emotional intensity in the idea of someone else living a lie. But when we see the extent of it, and the absurdity of it, and the scale of how it plays out, we see just how destructive and consuming something as simple as a lie is. In Hacking’s case, the lie was that he was [or could be] successful. In the Watts case it’s the same. Of all the analysis posted on the Chris Watts case on Shakedown, this one is one of the most important, and the most overlooked. We see where he came from, not only humble beginnings but dirt poor. He wanted to keep his house, keep his idea of success, and Shan’ann was destroying it.
  2. Inadequacy. In the same way that some people are inadequate about their weight, or being bald, or being poor, or being unsuccessful, it doesn’t tend to mean very much unless it’s you. Unless the inadequacy is yours. Often we laugh at the inadequacies of others, but do we laugh at our own, or tried to hide them? The more inadequate people are the more they lie. The more lies the more the tendency to live a lie. And the murder is just a natural end to that process, which is why after the murder, it’s so easy to lie about what happened as well.
  3. Our identities – who we are – are built on what we do for a living. Chris Watts either felt a sense of crisis about what he was doing, or what Shan’ann was doing, but probably both. It’s not a one-way dynamic, it’s a two way dynamic.
  4. Curiously in the Hacking case, the murders have nothing to do with a mistress, though one could argue that the secret medical school fraud was his mistress. It’s the thing he felt guilty, insignificant and inadequate about.
  5. We see a mirror in the confining Mormon faith on the one hand, which artificially forces the marriage to remain in place, and the contempt Mark apparently feels for his demanding Mormon wife. An analogy for this in the Watts case are the artificial forces of the Thrive cult, and the impact of strictures and expectations that had on him. In the Hacking case, the Coleman case and the Watts case, there’s a an overarching belief system that causes the men to feel trapped into their own lives.
  6. Hacking didn’t murder his wife because she was pregnant, but the pregnancy undoubtedly had an impact of the dynamic, heightening expectations, stakes and the levels of alertness and aggravation for all involved.
  7. In the Hacking case we see a clear precedent for a scenario of lies which he got away with [the psychological counselling] and this then sets the tone for a much bigger set of lies. It’s unclear what set the precedent for Chris – whether it was the MLM, or his own sexuality, or the affair, or some subset of deceits we don’t know about yet.
  8. In the Hacking case there’s also the initial suspicion that Lori had left her husband because of acknowledged marital strife. In the Watts case there’s no sign of marital strife in the narrative until Shan’ann’s dead. Then it’s invoked as something that happened on the morning of her death. Had they  really never argued? Or was this pressure to pretend to never argue the real pressure cooker in the Watts family dynamic?
  9. Hacking apparently believed in his family’s Mormon faith, but couldn’t live it. Chris Watts probably found himself in the same dilemma. He believed in the idea of his marriage, but couldn’t live it. Why not? Refer back to point 1.
  10. Many of us look at the Watts case, especially the interview on the porch, and we can clearly see that his goose was already cooked then. But that’s not what we need to see to figure out this case, and the man underneath Christopher Watts. See – he couldn’t see it. There were so many lies he was still buried under them. In the same way, even though Hacking couldn’t hack medical school, he had every intention of pretending to enrol, pretending to take classes, pretending to graduate and pretending to be a doctor. He had no problem with that. The problem was, his wife did. She was exposing him for the very thing he was trying to hide – a fraud, a cheat, an imposter, a victim of his own inadequacy. When the lie is big enough, the desperation can be just as big to defend it.

That’s ten, that’s enough.

There should be some inklings, by now, what lie Chris Watts was trying to defend. It wasn’t a small lie, which is why he went to such extraordinary efforts to do what he did.

Between the Coleman case and the Hacking case we have plenty of blueprint material. One family murder involves a mistress, a mother and two children [but she’s not pregnant], while the other has no mistress and a pregnant mother, but no children. The one case involves the fear of losing a job and an income, the other involves a man who’s afraid to lose an idea of himself. 

While Watts and the Watts case is similar in many respects to both Coleman and Hacking, it’s obvious that Chris Watts is much closer to Hacking’s psychology than Coleman’s, isn’t it?  What this reveals is that unlike Coleman, Watts wasn’t stuck in a religious or quasi religious dimension, in fact, the crime probably happened because of it, to extricate himself out of it.

Fullscreen capture 20180917 112038

Like Hacking, Watts felt contempt for Shan’ann. The thing burning him, see, was that she was exposing his inadequacies – as a man, as a father, as a success, to the world [via Facebook, via the marriage, via the whole parenting debacle].

Despite her glowing endorsements on Facebook, Shan’ann had confided to a friend that “he has no game”. Well, he was determined to prove that he did.

Did he?

Has he, so far?

Fullscreen capture 20180918 162730

Fullscreen capture 20180907 111718

Two Face is available exclusively at


GIVEAWAY! Watch out for my discussion with A Dark and Stormy Book Club this Saturday about The Murder of Vincent Van Gogh

Fullscreen capture 20180914 221538-001

Is Henri van Breda’s motive “a culmination of a festering of a perceived injustice”? + 5 Easy Insights from the Carte Blanche Show

At the time Carte Blanche aired their coverage of the Van Breda trial I was doing an interview with A Dark and Stormy Book Club podcast on my book The Murder of Vincent van Gogh. I was angry that Carte Blanche were releasing crime scene footage in a “South African television first” when I had directly and repeatedly petitioned for the release of those same records, in the court building, in person but to no avail.

I was also gobsmacked that an award winning investigative show would interrogate motive without contacting someone who’d written five books specifically interrogating that subject, especially when no one else had.

View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Nick van der Leek (@nickvdleek) on

You might imagine this is sour grapes, but from an investigative perspective, do you really think you can come into a narrative when it’s all over and pick a few brains over 5 minutes and gain any insights, when ultimately those same brains didn’t answer the question of motive in prior court appearances, or to the media? So why would they be in a position to know more now?

I assumed of course that when Carte Blanche sold their show on why Henri killed his family that they would actually do that. As is typical in investigative shows these days, they hype up the exclusive reveal of “why”, of motive, and then when it comes down to it, they either say “we’ll never know”, or they shovel the same shit that’s been shoveled by the accused since the beginning. In short, they don’t deliver on their premise or their promise. They sell their show on why and then they shortchange their audience.

Now, I did get to watch a repeat of the show during their Monday broadcast. For me the most revealing and important moment came over a few seconds right at the end. State advocate Susan Galloway was careful to emphasize [twice] that it was her personal opinion that Henri’s motive amounted to:

…a culmination of a festering of a perceived injustice…

You can watch that moment below, but notice the way Galloway says it. There’s a slight smile, and a slight stuttering and pausing in the way she communicates it.

The reporter then tries to draw out a little more. “Over a period of years though?”

Galloway confirms this, repeating: “Over a period of years.”

When Andre van Breda, Henri’s uncle [Martin’s twin brother] is asked the same question, he basically inverts it, repeating that he’s been asking the same question over and over to himself. “I still want to know why…I don’t want to think about what happened in that room. I can’t imagine. I can’t imagine.”

At the end of the clip the reporter offers the van Breda family comfort, saying: “May the Van Breda’s find the answers they need.”

The thing is, isn’t that the job of an investigative show, and investigative reporters? Wasn’t that what the show explicitly claimed to be providing?

It’s been the question many have been asking: why did Henri brutally attack his family with an axe? This Sunday, in an SA television first, we look at the actual crime scene footage & @Devi_HQ speaks to Henri’s uncle to try and make sense of this tragedy.

So did they? Did they make sense of the tragedy?

I’ve written extensively on the subject, especially in Diablo and Diablo II, so I’m not going to rehash all of that here. I do want to pluck a few low-hanging fruit, if only to expose just how lazy the thinking is, including by the mainstream media.

It seems to me that sometimes influencers are absolutely incapable of thinking. You run to an expert and an insider, and if they can’t do your thinking for you, then…well…it stays a mystery.

View this post on Instagram

#VanBreda #bylmoorde

A post shared by Nick van der Leek (@nickvdleek) on

So without further ado, here are 5 Easy Insights from the Carte Blanche Show:

  1. The reporter asks the pertinent question: Why would someone murder their family members in such a brutal way. The question isn’t just why Henri murdered his family, but why the brutality?  Judge Desai referred to it as “unbridled violence”. Why did Henri feel justified in being so gratuitous, so cruel, about dispatching each of his three family members?
  2. Advocate Galloway goes some distance to answer this question, although the distancing of the language she uses is hardly helpful:…a culmination of a festering of a perceived injustice…So, placing the semantics side by side, Henri’s brutality towards his family was as a result of a culmination of something. Or: Henri’s brutality towards his family was as a result of a perceived injustice.
  3. And that injustice took place over a period of years…
  4. What could this distancing language possibly imply, because that’s precisely what it does do. It says something without saying it. So what’s it saying? On December 3rd 2017, an extract from Julian Jansen’s book was published in the Sunday Times. It was appropriately titled Who is the real Henri van Breda…? The answer to why a middle child, and second son harbored violent intentions not just to one member of his family, but all can only be addressed by addressing the family dynamics. In the Carte Blanche interview Uncle Andre addresses the family dynamics, but not very helpfully, because naturally he’s part of that family. So there’s the mismatch between Henri being a wonderful almost perfect son, and then this horrible crime. When Andre van Breda says he can’t imagine what happened in that house, in terms of the crime, there’s some psychological mirroring of him also being unwilling or unable to imagine what went on in the house before the crime. In terms of discord. Julian Jansen, however, addresses it.Fullscreen capture 20180905 082316Now, did friends visiting the family in the week before the murders know better, have better insight than the Uncle living in Pretoria? You’d think so, wouldn’t you? In this tiny little snippet are big answers, though incomplete answers, to the riddle of why. The first is so obvious it’s almost ridiculous. Henri was laboring under acute sibling rivalry. Whether you want to call it a sense of his brother being favored by his father, or Henri himself being jealous of Rudi, it’s the same thing. It’s sibling rivalry that’s at the center of a crime, and thus, it’s the key to seeing why Henri’s attack started where it did and with whom: Rudi in the boy’s room.

    Fullscreen capture 20180905 084144

  5. Just as Galloway’s semantics are distancing and don’t really reveal the emotional heart at the center of this case, and this crime, talking about sibling rivalry is the same thing. It’s throwing out words but not really feeling them out, not testing them in scenarios and contexts that were playing out during the real life timeline of this family, their lifestyle, their expectations, their culture and Henri’s individual experience within all that. We only get a handle on the subtle and slippery family dynamics, we only figure that out by climbing higher through the true crime tree and getting beyond the low hanging fruit. That’s not easy. When I was in court I spoke to Galloway directly and mentioned my research, specifically into Rudi’s Facebook account, and suggested the key to understanding Henri was to see him through the eyes of a student, and a young man wanting to individuate, who wanted to be allowed to be himself in the world [whoever that may be]. In other words, to fathom Henri’s identity, who Henri really is within the context of other family members. Rudi provided a glimpse through extended social media posts to the world Henri either aspired to, or was jealous of. Julian Jansen touches briefly on this as well, this idea that the one son – the older son – is at university achieving, partying and progressing while the other is not. Henri pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes when he said he was not studying, and taking a year out because it was a Gap Year, and by choice. Really? Fullscreen capture 20180905 082320

To do justice to this question, and to answer it to completion, can’t be done in a single blog post. I devoted several chapters in Diablo and Diablo II to interrogating these issues.

What I will say here is that no matter how wealthy the Van Breda’s were, and no matter how much Martin favored Rudi over Henri, and no matter what the scales of Henri’s “perceived injustice”, sibling rivalry alone isn’t a sufficient explanation for Henri’s “festering” inadequacy. 

Virtually every family with siblings in this world has sibling rivalries. It’s absolutely normal and healthy for a sibling to be upset when another gets slightly more cool drink at a birthday party. If that wasn’t the case, people and animals wouldn’t survive the real world. They’d get trampled. We absolutely should demand and fight for what’s due to us in the family setting and beyond.Fullscreen capture 20180905 084302

So I believe there was another issue eating at Henri. The unacknowledged narrative – the hidden narrative – is that if Henri was on drugs and seriously compromised by them, then something was fueling that disproportionate need for soothing. We look at the drugs and say Aha, but what we miss is the thing chewing at him. And it wasn’t just sibling rivalry, although I believe it fed into that. It was, in a manner of speaking, a “perceived injustice”.

This something was disproportionate to Henri and this in turn was mirrored in the savage violence he visited on his folks. But what was it?

I won’t reveal what that thing was here, because that’s a narrative in and of itself, but it was mentioned in court, and it was rumored, just like the drug rumor, from the get-go. Once we intuit that narrative and its implications in the context of university student wanting to occupy his place in the world, we suddenly see the source of almost unfathomable rage coming into sharp focus.

The short answer to why this crime was so brutal, and why the axe murderer laughed while slaughtering his own flesh and blood, has to do with a person who on the one hand was pushed down [by his family and by other things], while on the other hand he’s out of his mind in some way. We experience this in the emergency call, where Henri oddly out of it; he doesn’t seem to be 100% in the real world.

How do ordinary people completely lose their inhibitions in the suburbs, on a daily basis? Not drugs, but…?

The 5 book Van Breda series is available exclusively on Amazon Kindle Unlimited.





Hold up, is that a SCRATCH on Chris Watts’ neck?

Fullscreen capture 20180818 111856-001

After posting the blog on lie spotting, MandyHVZ on REDDIT commented on a mark on Chris Watts’ neck. Check it out.

In some of the interviews Chris Watt gave, he’s faced away from the camera, like this one from CBS, where he says: “I don’t feel this is even real right now. It’s Earth-shattering. like a nightmare where I just can’t wake up from.”

The word “earth-shattering” is a colorful term. Watts volunteers this, but it’s a semantic Freudian slip because he’s buried his wife, and that required the shattering or breaking of Earth. These residues are in this mind as he’s being asked to share his thoughts and feelings. Some are slipping through.

The reality is there were several cameras, and thus several camera angles. The Denver7 Channel had the all-important side-view. It’s from Denver7 that the screengrabs below were taken.

Fullscreen capture 20180818 112747Fullscreen capture 20180818 114416Fullscreen capture 20180818 114416-001Fullscreen capture 20180818 121154Fullscreen capture 20180818 121154-001Fullscreen capture 20180818 111856-001Fullscreen capture 20180818 114416-001Fullscreen capture 20180818 121154Fullscreen capture 20180818 121154-001Fullscreen capture 20180819 130840Fullscreen capture 20180819 130847Fullscreen capture 20180819 130936Fullscreen capture 20180819 130955Fullscreen capture 20180819 131036

Although the autopsy results for Shanann are still pending, we know Watts strangled both his daughters. It’s likely Watts did the same to their mother in a so-called “silent death”. During a death by strangulation/suffocation, two things happen:

  1. The killer is exposed to the death throes and thrashing of the victim of an extended period. It might be half a minute or longer.
  2. The killer is in close proximity to his victim, almost head to head. This means he’s also within arm’s range of the victim, and her natural response is to lash out in a mirror image to what he is doing. If she can’t remove his grip around her neck, she attacks his neck in a desperate attempt to fight for her life.

Right at the end of the interview, Watts purses his lips and raises his left hand to his chin, blocking the view of the scar. Just reflexive touching, or was he conscious of the scar right through the interview and right at the end, could no longer resist the urge to block it from view?

Fullscreen capture 20180819 131040

Sidenote: This reddish blemish reminds me of the same faded fresh scar on Amanda Knox’s throat, visible to all outside the scene of the crime but seen by none.


Also a lot of similar patterns in Knox’s situation and responses and Watts [see below]. Original Daily Mail article here.


Oscar Pistorius Anniversary: Revisiting Reeva’s Perspective


Who was Reeva when she lost her life? One of the more obvious ways of answering this question is by looking at the profile pictures she used on Facebook and twitter to present herself.

You might laugh and say a selfie really doesn’t say that much, but that depends on the depth or shallowness of the self in question. Reeva wasn’t shallow, and what’s more, as a brand ambassador, her social media was – and had to be – a tangible extension of Reeva herself. It was both Reeva, how she saw herself, and how she wanted to be seen.

How did she wanted to be seen? Well, like this:


This was the image Reeva used as her twitter profile, as well as her background picture on Facebook. As Reeva put it, “a classic model.” That’s how she wanted to be seen, and at 29 years of age, it made sense to have a more mature vibe about her.

On Facebook, Reeva was in the process of spinning off a public, less personal profile. Before she did, she used this image [in fact it was a composite] to communicate another, a more assertive, sexier femme fatale.


The message of this Reeva was black and white: I know who I am, it’s my time now, I mean business so don’t mess with me [wink].

The recent film told from Reeva’s perspective touches a little on Reeva’s softness and her assertiveness. But what did they base their premise on?

Have you noticed, Lifetime, the channel that made Blade Runner Killer have recently removed the words “told from Reeva and her mother’s perspective” from their description of their film?  The only record we have that they even used these words is from the media themselves, who cited this premise from their press release and website.

Odd isn’t it, to have the movie premised on Reeva’s perspective, and then to edit out your premise?

Irrespective of whether your film’s premise is edited in or out, it still remains the same, doesn’t it? Blade Runner Killer is the first film about this case told from Reeva’s perspective.

In any event, in July 2014, shortly after publishing Revelations, the first narrative to explicate in detail a referenced timeline making the case for premeditated murder [not even the state did that], a description of the murder from Reeva’s perspective provided at the very end of the book, I gave the following interview.

The timing was ominous – Oscar’s PR was going into high gear, hoping to sabotage the court narrative with the “poison apple” of the re-enactment video.  If the prosecution had referred in any matter whatsoever to the broadcast on channel 7 [which Oscar’s defense claimed wasn’t authorized by them], Oscar’s advocate could have asked the judge to declare a mistrial. If a mistrial had been declared, Oscar would have been set free, and could then set about pursuing his accusers…like me.

It was in this “knife-edge” scenario that I gave the following interview…

Modelling Reeva’s Fall Behind the Door

Here’s the proof! Reeva Steenkamp fell to her left as she was shot, and what it means changes everything…by Nick van der Leek

When an eye doctor asks you to look at a chart, it’s first with one eye covered, then the other eye covered.  This is to make sure your vision is 20/20 in both eyes. The danger in seeing with both eyes at the same time, is that one might fill in details that aren’t actually there, but you think they are.

That’s what happened in this case. The analogy for looking at the chart of letters with both eyes is the crime scene, with Reeva’s blood explicitly dripping all over the toilet.


The message, in scarlet letters is simple and obvious: Reeva died while sitting on the toilet/Reeva was found dead lying slumped over the toilet.

Fullscreen capture 20180124 122502

Reeva Steenkamp [Toni Garrn] after being shot inside the cubicle, as presented in the 2017 film Blade Runner Killer.

In the analysis below, I cover one “eye” of the narrative, and then the other “eye”, before revealing an extraordinary new truth, and one that changes everything.


Channel 7 did the first fully-fledged reconstruction of the entire crime scene when their exclusive documentary premiered on Australian television on Sunday July 6th, 2014. I remember that day because it was the coldest night of the year in South Africa, and I was recording a radio interview on my research into the Pistorius case that Sunday evening with OFM’s Johrne van Huysteen.

But Channel 7’s was hardly the only reconstruction. The first reconstruction wasn’t done by Channel 7, who got it from The Evidence Room [hired by Team Pistorius in October 2013].

The first reconstruction was done by the police.


Note the toilet  door has been pieced together with the blood evidence still in place. The window blinds are down and the slats closed in this in situ reconstruction. The toilet cubicle light didn’t work. The lazer scanner is positioned approximately hip height, right beside the entrance wall to the bathroom. From this perspective, with the door open, the angle of the bullet through the door is difficult to appreciate.

In hindsight, we may not think much of it, but if the cops didn’t salvage the door, the planks, the detritus and fragments, if they didn’t confiscate the door and reassemble it, we might never have found out what really happened to Reeva behind the door.

If the cops accepted Oscar’s tears and his bullshit story, if they didn’t suspect Oscar to begin with, [and let’s face it, he was a beloved South African celebrity at the time] the precise mathematics recorded when 4 bullets zipped through those fibres may have been lost forever.

Arguably, the official Dolus Eventualis verdict handed down by the Supreme Court of Appeal in December 2015 confirms that we’re still in the dark not only about what happened and why, but we’re still no closer to knowing how Reeva was shot.


Through various narratives and lines of inquiry I’ve followed, I’ve endeavoured to change that, and I’m satisfied I’ve made progress in terms of providing insight into the why and the what of this case.

For some time, however, I’ve maintained that the Holy Grail in this case was to animate the scene using the precise mathematics – the geometry of angles and trajectories – and matching these to the autopsy evidence, and allowing the science of gravity and falling bodies to colour in the rest.


An authentic, high quality render would reveal the pace of the shots, and precisely how Reeva reacted to them and where she came to rest in the cubicle.

Intuitively I’ve always felt Reeva did not land with her head on the toilet, as per Oscar’s and Mangena’s versions.


“Intuitively” may sound wishy washy, but it’s that same instinctive “gut-feel” that drove the cops to remove the door from its hinges, collect the planks and splinters, and test the evidence against Oscar’s version of events.  They could just as easily have taken Oscar’s word for it, just as Masipa did. So don’t be too quick to dismiss intuition.

Despite my intuitions, and despite sketching the scene, researching the trajectories, and making a few forays into hiring animators, I never finalised my research into this area.  I thought I would deal with it, finally, once Oscar’s sentence was finalised prompting the final narrative [Justice Eventualis]. And I guess that’s ultimately what’s happened.  I have tested these intuitions to completion within the context of the Justice Eventualis story. But I was offered, serendipitously, a new angle on these issues via a completely different trial playing out while the Pistorius case was coming to its end.


It was while sitting in on the Van Breda case in November 2017 that a fresh idea took root. I was watching the 23-year-old triple murder accused modelling his testimony in court, on a man the prosecutor claimed was about the same height as Henri’s phantom.

That’s when the thought occurred to me: why not do the same thing in the Pistorius case?  Why stop at the door and the trajectories when the most important part of the scene – Reeva – isn’t there. Everything about the Pistorius case is about trying to re-envision Reeva, so why not do so in the most critical part of the crime scene – the cubicle?  Why not have a real person, a model of similar height, stand in behind the door for the murdered model? Why not use the cosmos of angles and lines and see how they lined up not only with the impressions on the opposite wall of the cubicle, but the wounds as per the autopsy?

One may say that Mangena already did that. Yes he did, through description. I want to do that through a practical demonstration, much as Galloway did with Henri and her model. The difference is, Galloway wished to discredit Henri’s phantom, whereas I wish to turn Pistorius’ nameless and shapeless burglar back into 29-year-old Reeva Steenkamp. She was, after all, behind the door, and she died, not some burglar.

Besides lining up the trajectories with Reeva’s injuries as they appear in the autopsy photos, I want to probe an area that’s missing from Pistorius’ story, from the state’s case and from the SCA’s judgment. How did Reeva fall, behind the door? What was the kinetics of it? What did the motion look and feel like – to her?

Does it matter? My intuition tells me that Reeva needed to move in order for her wounds to be inflicted where they were. And so, what does that mean?  I’m not sure, but I suspect it means something. Will this exercise dislodge any new insights, will any new secrets stubbornly hidden in the murk be revealed? All I can do is try and see…


Again, taking impetus out of the Van Breda case, I decided to set up the crime scene in my garage. I’d already compiled a scaled blueprint of the crime scene in order to figure out exactly where Oscar was standing. Using measurements provided by police ballistics expert Chris Mangena, and using the Mollett’s research as a reference, I bought a standard door, I traced the dimensions of the cubicle 1.4 metres x 1.3 metres] on the garage floor, and I measured out bullets A, B, C and D on the door.


Wooden door with scaled printout of bullet holes attached.

In order to be as accurate as possible:

  1. I made a colour print out of the most verisimilar photograph of the door, and scaled it up to real size. When I placed this photo over the door, I placed a small piece of wood the size of a pencil through the cubicle size of the door and noted where it punctured on the bathroom side of the door. The holes already drilled into the wood as per crime scene measurements perfectly matched the holes in the image.1-IMG_6282
  2. The angle of the holes through the 4 centimetre wide door had to be accurate as well. These angles were verified using data from the laser scanner used by the state, Oscar height on his stumps while holding a gun and his arms outstretched, and linking the holes in the door to the appropriate muzzle height at a distance of approximately 220 centimetres.
  3. Throughout the setup crime scene images were referenced in order to follow the “spirit” of the crime scene. Beside the downward and obtuse angle of the trajectory, the door is also located at the precise dimensions as it did in the toilet cubicle.

In terms of the 4 bullet holes I used the following data sets.

Fullscreen capture 20171213 021306 PM

Precise measurements of ballistics through the toilet door. Image courtesy Calvin and Thomas Mollett, Oscar vs The Truth.

A is the lowest of the 4 shots, at 93.5 centimetres from the ground, and 34 cm to the right of the left edge of the door. A hit Reeva in her right hip. A is the only bullet of the 3 that struck Reeva to be completely absorbed by Reeva’s body.

B is the highest of the 4 shots, at 104.3cm from the ground, and 13 cm to the right of A, or 47 centimetres from the left edge of the door. B was the only bullet of the 4 to miss Reeva completely and smash into the tiled wall and ricochet into the opposite wall. The damage to the wall inflicted by bullet B is used as a background image for the cover of Justice Eventualis.

C is lower than B, at 99.4 centimetres from the ground, but slightly higher than A. C is spaced equidistant from B as B is from A [.i.e. 13 centimetres]. C struck Reeva on the front of her right forearm, slightly above the elbow area.

A fragment of C sliced clean through the right side of Reeva’s black shirt yet missed her torso underneath. 3 fragments – presumably from C – were all found in the area of the magazine rack, where the talons separated as they tore through Reeva’s arm.

Given the volcanic opening on the back side of Reeva’s right arm, one would expect an eruption of flesh, a spray of tissue and meat, to paint the rear wall of the cubicle behind her arm. Yet there is no blood spatter directly behind her indicative of this.


Fullscreen capture 20160715 093316 PM

Notice the absence of any blood spatter from the bullet wounds to the arm on the wall above the magazine rack [brown rectangle]. There are only three possibilities to account for this: either the splatter was wiped away, or the arm was in front of the body causing the blood spatter to land on the vest [but still allow the bullet fragment to pass through without penetrating the torso – unlikely, or a combination of both.

D appears to be a minor variation of C, since it is just 5 centimetres to the right [B is to the right of A, C to the right of B and D to the right of C]. D is 97.3 centimetres from the ground, and 16 centimentres from the right edge of the door frame.  Of the 3 bullets, D is the closest bullet in height to A, but still slightly higher. D sliced through Reeva’s left hand, near the index finger, and then penetrated and exited her skull.  A fragment of bullet D remained in Reeva’s skull while another smashed through the other side. No spray of brain fragments – of the volume one would expect – is evident on the ball behind D either.

In effect, after wounding Reeva at A, the lowest shot of the 4, all subsequent shots were higher, starting with B which was too high, and then “modifying” to the more accurate C, and D, which were also both higher than A and both lower than B.  C and D effectively were “averages” of A and B, which implies “modification” or aiming.


Reeva was short for a model at just 1.71 metres. Her gutsy determination got her into the door with Ice Models, a trait we tend to forget in the text of this crime, and the crime scene itself. Reeva not only had plucky resolve, she was physically fit and not afraid of opposition.

After my first-choice – a slim matriculant – cancelled at short notice, citing the death of her grandfather [no joke], I asked my sister to stand-in. She’s 1.74 metres, so 3 centimetres taller than Reeva, but close enough.

I had my sister look at the autopsy images herself and then draw bullet holes on her right thigh, right arm and left hand. I also showed her the idiosyncrasies of the right side of the magazine rack “tower” [facing away from the toilet], and matched it to a bruise with a tail in the autopsy images, evident on Reeva’s right buttock.

Note the idiosyncrasies of the original magazine rack were not precisely duplicated in the model provided in court, in the reconstructed cubicle. This proved to be a costly oversight.

I showed her how the nicks on Reeva’s spine were also inflicted by the flaring of the right side of the magazine rack tower as Reeva fell against the magazine rack.

Fullscreen capture 20171213 021157 PM

Image courtesy Calvin and Thomas Mollett, Oscar vs The Truth.

Reeva’s fall against the magazine rack was the “sound of wood moving” Oscar spoke so often about in court, the sound he claimed was “someone coming out to attack me.”

Since she’s an architecture graduate, my sister is pretty good with angles, measurements and three dimensions. But the head wound is tricky, so I applied a toothpick, which I attached with sellotape over her hair at the appropriate angle and on the top, right side of her head.

To make the hip wound explicit, I gave my sister a piece of double sided tape, with one side of the adhesive exposed while leaving the bright blue surface as a marker. She then attached the marker to the outside of the grey Nike shorts I gave her. She also wore a sleeveless black top, though more figure hugging than the one Reeva wore on the night she died. And like Reeva, she was barefoot.


Once in the demarcated cubicle behind the door, I placed two white buckets inside to represented the toilet. This quickly limited the already limited space, and without telling my sister, she sought to avoid standing or sitting on the upturned buckets. Reeva likely did the same in terms of the toilet.

I handed my sister my phone. When I inserted a rod through Bullet A, it lined up perfectly with the hip wound. I took a photo at this point, showing that Reeva stood no more than a foot from the toilet door.

This was also more than enough space for her to be close to the door while holding up her phone in her right hand.

Bullet B, the only bullet that missed, was a lot more difficult to illustrate than Bullet A.  Although it lined up with the opposite wall, the difficultly lay in freezing Reeva’s movement at the time B flew through the door and smashed into the wall behind her. This difficulty was because Reeva was off-balance when the bullet flew harmlessly over her right shoulder. If Reeva remained in the same position she was in when A hit her, B would have sliced through the mid right section of her abdomen.

In order to have my sister in the right position, I gave her a large, purple Pilates ball to sit on. She needed to move slightly to her right, and back, and sit down on the ball in order to avoid the rod completely.

To reiterate: If she remained in the same position as she was when A struck her, B would have struck her in the middle to right of her abdomen. It may seem a small point, but Reeva was not static after being hit by the first bullet. Besides her movement, bullet B also gives us some indication of a pause between bangs A and B. The rod for B was inserted to its full length until it “hit” the wall behind her, immediately ricocheting against the adjacent wall.

For Bullet C, I inserted a small black table from my own bathroom, situated opposite my toilet, in the reconstructed toilet. It’s approximately the same height, but obviously it doesn’t hold magazines, and unlike the original magazine rack, this small table allows one to sit on it. In order for C to line up with my sister’s arm, she needed to be in an almost-sitting position on the magazine rack.

Let me explain what I mean by “almost-sitting”. Firstly, she is low enough on the magazine rack to be “sitting” on it, thus dislodging it, but only half of her is actually sitting on it [based on the bruise-impression].

This also suggests that Reeva’s back and head are almost in line with the rear wall of the cubicle as well. This stands to reason – in order for her to be sitting anywhere on the magazine rack, she needed to have fallen all the way back to the rear wall of the cubicle.

This suggests that prior to firing the third bullet, Reeva had already stumbled against the magazine rack, perhaps kicking it with the heel of her left foot as she fell backward, or falling onto it and prompting the wood to screetch and/or judder against the floor, thus alerting Oscar – in the pause after B – to her position.

In addition, Reeva likely screamed in agony after bullet A, and ironically, the scream that saved her [or alerted others to her plight] might have also doomed her, as the shooter was able to track her movement behind the door to the right from just 2 metres away.

Oscar knew his own home just as we know ours. So any sound from the magazine rack would have told him, a practised sharp shooter, exactly where Reeva was.

A final point to note about Bullet C – in order for the bullet to pierce her arm and pierce her shirt yet miss her torso, Reeva had to have turned slightly to her left. In other words, away from the toilet. While my sister’s shirt was skin-tight, Reeva’s was more baggy, and Reeva’s torso also had the classic hourglass shape which allowed a fragment to penetrate the shirt and yet miss her midriff.

Reeva’s motion behind the door now emerges as a rapid downward and [in terms of Reeva behind the door] right to left motion. This motion is in keeping with the width between Bullet A and B, and also Reeva’s ability to “dodge” B.

You will recall the distance at the door from A to B is 13 centimetres, ditto from B to C, making a total of 26 centimentres or ¼ of a metre. Remember the width of the cubicle from toilet wall to the opposite wall is 1.4 metres. [We’ll ignore for the moment that because of the toilet inside, that distance – the distance Reeva had to move from right to her left is actually less than 1 metre].

So the fan-shape of four bullets penetrating the door is 1/5th the width of the cubicle, or ¼ the width Reeva had to move in [taking the toilet space out of the equation].  However on the other side of the door the distance between bullets A and D is greater, closer to half a metre.


This is the view of the bullet trajectories from Reeva’s perspective – i.e. from behind the door. Notice the “fan” shape, indicating a very wide area of impact.

This means – effectively – that after Reeva was hit with the first bullet, she had to move from the point a foot away from the door where she sustained A in the hip, 1 metre backwards and half a metre to her left in order to be wounded on the right side of her head: Bullet D.

Reeva was struck by Bullet D as she was still falling. The impressions on Reeva’s spine are at a slightly off vertical angle, meaning the upper nick is almost in line with Reeva’s vertebra, while the lower nick is to Reeva’s right. If Reeva was falling down against the magazine rack, the lower nick would have inflicted first, followed by the higher. The crucial aspect here is that the higher wound is also slightly to the right, meaning as Reeva approached the ground, she was still moving towards her left [away from the toilet]. Let’s look at that image again, but more carefully and more closely this time.

Fullscreen capture 20171213 021157 PM

Image courtesy Calvin and Thomas Mollett, Oscar vs The Truth.

We can also see the height of the two wounds to her spine correspond to the height of the sharp flaring off the magazine rack, and the type of notches in the skin correspond to the beaked protrusion of the wood flaring.


The Mollett’s were right that these injuries were made from wood, and not as the defense claimed, from bullet fragments bouncing off the wall. However, they weren’t made by the cricket bat but by the magazine rack.

In my experiment, even though my sister is 3 centimentres taller than Reeva, she was still some distance off the ground when Bullet D struck the skull. I had to place a rolled up yoga mat under her in order to achieve the right height. Again, Bullet D and Bullet C were undoubtedly fired AS REEVA STRUCK THE MAGAZINE RACK.

Further, there had to have been a pause after Bullet A in order to allow Reeva to fall backwards, approximately one metre, and for Bullet B [which was well to the right of Bullet A] to miss her.

Since Bullet C was the same distance to the right as Bullet B, the only reason it struck Reeva was because it [and D] was fired quicker after Reeva passed the “starting line” of B’s trajectory, compared to A.  How much quicker?

Gravitational acceleration is 9.80665 m/s.

Reeva’s height is 1.71 metres, and she was shot in the hip at a height of approximately 1 metre. Bullets C and D were fired at a height of roughly 1 metre as well, but with a 5 degree downward trajectory. So how long did it take for Reeva to fall from 1.71 metres in order for her head to align with a bullet below 1 metre?  How long did it take her to fall 800 mm [0.8 metres]?

If she was free-falling, Reeva would have achieved a speed of 3.96 metres per second, and taken 0.4 seconds to fall from a standing position until her buttocks hit the ground.  But she wasn’t freefalling. She fell backwards one metre, and sideways about half a metre, as well as down 0.8 metres.

Falling backwards to the right height would require a [not vertical] distance of 1.2 metres, and taken close to half a second. But if she fell straight down she’d still be out of the trajectory range for Bullet D. To get to D, she also has to fall half a metre to the right.

This suggests that there is something impeding the free fall, besides her left leg which still provides limited heft and mobility.   Obviously, the magazine rack also impeded Reeva’s fall, which is why the bruise appears on her right buttock, and the nicks against her spine.

This bruise was also noted in the autopsy summary sketch, it just wasn’t sketched very well.

Fullscreen capture 20171213 021157 PM

Notice the autopsy image sketch records the bulb of the bruise to the right buttock, but leaves out the tail to the right, left by the magazine rack.Image courtesy Calvin and Thomas Mollett, Oscar vs The Truth.

Since I’m not a genius in geometry, and since the algorithm has now becomes complex, what we can say is that Reeva’s fall from A to D is interrupted by landing on the magazine rack, which delays her fall but allows the shooter to track her [Bullet C].

Since there are effectively “two falls”, from the door onto the magazine rack, and from the magazine rack off it, we may assume 2 x 0.5 second drops. We’re still left with “only” a second. Except we’ve left out another equation: reaction time.

Reaction time is easy to leave out of the equation, simply because we know all the other metrics except the most important one: Reeva. What was this experience like for her? What would it be like for you? If a bullet struck you, out of the blue, would you immediately know what to do, or instantly move? It may stand to reason, but even the world’s most reactionary people – 100 metre track sprinters – even when primed to respond to a shot, take time to react.

The best Olympians in the world have a reaction time of 0.15 seconds. Since Reeva, I believe, was alarmed and thus “primed” for an emergency, we can assume the first shot triggered an immediate movement. Not just falling back, but to her left, away from Bullet A and B. This is why C and D needed to modify to track her, to the right.

The total time between Bullet A and D is estimated at around 1.5 to 2 seconds. That is an eternity when it comes to firing 4 bullets. It averages out to around two bullets per second, or 1 bullet every half second. But the four bullets weren’t fired in one burst, there was a pause at B, resulting in a miss. In that pause, I believe, lies Dolus Directus; the intent to shoot again after a moment’s reflection and recalibration.  Had the prosecution done the math, and had the judge had an appreciation for mathematics, the entire trial could have been reduced to a time-stamped algorithm.

This could also have been demonstrated via a real-time to-scale geometrically-verisimilar animation.


None of the insights or reconstructions could have been achieved without the autopsy evidence, and obviously, that narrative is excised out of the trial testimony and for that matter, the media coverage.  It is this gaping hole, where one can join the dots through the door to Reeva’s wounds and to the ricochet off the rear wall, that allows one to really understand what it was like for Reeva behind the door.  No wonder Oscar smashed down the door the first chance he had. The door represents a vital link that allows us to reconstitute this crime in a way that few other high-profile crimes do.

In the Channel 7 reconstruction, ditto the Mollett’s, I noticed a plank was easily smashed out almost immediately. With one plank out it’s easy to unlock the door. So why did Oscar go on smashing until the entire door was smithereens?


Well, because there were four bullet holes to get rid of. The holes could not only show where Reeva was standing, and moving as she was shot, but also where Oscar was standing.

1-Fullscreen capture 20160803 124203 AMscreenshot-2014-09-10-07-19-57480

Oscar claimed the key was on the floor, this is why he had to smash the rest of the door down – so he could get to it.  But if you’ve dislodged a plank, what’s easier – to smash down a door or to reach in with the plank and move the key closer.

Fullscreen capture 20160711 091015 PM

Also, shouldn’t the key have fallen onto Reeva, if it fell, and if it did, if it was on the floor, wouldn’t it be covered in blood [it wasn’t].


The main takeout from this experiment wasn’t to try to assess the period between A and D, although that remains a vital piece of data missing from this case.  No, the reconstruction was intended to test the intuition that if Reeva was moving to her left, away from the toilet, and landed on the wrong side of the magazine rack, on the ground, while falling to her left, how could she have changed direction and ended up with her arm and head over the toilet bowl?

Additionally, if she had landed with the centre of her body in line with the far side of the magazine rack, could she still have slumped over onto the toilet? The answer is unquestionably no.

Irrespective of which direction Reeva was falling in, any situation where she was sitting on the floor would have made “slumping” over the toilet impossible. You can try it at home. Sit next to your toilet, and try to press your right ear to the toilet seat, and then when you relax, come to rest in this position. The position only be achieved, temporarily, if one is around 15-20 centimentres from the toilet, with nothing in-between.  But the magazine rack was there!

According to the state Reeva lay over the magazine rack with her head on the toilet seat. Everyone seemed to make the same mistake, assuming the blood evidence on the seat was the finishing line, and thus, trying to get Reeva to that finishing line.

My experiment demonstrates that Reeva fell the other way, so that her head and torso faced towards the wall opposite the toilet [the wall towards which she fell from the commencement of Bullet A].

If Reeva fell to the left, where’s the blood? Why are there planks in this area? And why are there no large splodges of blood behind Reeva, against the wall, where the black talon made scarlet sprays of Reeva’s tissue, both from her head and her arm?

The answer is that some artefacts of this blood evidence do remain on the walls, on this side.

So – how did Reeva’s blood end up on and in the toilet bowl?

The only logical explanation, as I see it, is that when faced with the holocaust inside the cubicle, the accused immediately went to word minimising it.  He had to make it look less bad than it did, and that meant getting rid of red paint on the walls, and on the floor. If he was going to claim Reeva went to the toilet, then she also needed to lay over the toilet, not on the wrong side of it.

How would it look if Reeva’s shot dead, and found like this? It would imply [correctly], that she wasn’t using the toilet, and if she wasn’t using it, how could it be an accident?


The state wrongly assumed that there was an innocent explanation for the light blood spatter on the magazine rack. This blood dripped from Reeva’s hair as she was hoisted over the bowl, and her blood from the wound on the right side of her head, and arm, allowed to drain directly into the bowl. There was also a flush to get rid of it, and perhaps to get rid of some pieces of wood too.

This is why there is barely one Coke can’s worth of blood in the cubicle and just outside of it.

If the idea of sanitising the crime scene seems extreme, consider that in no crime scene photos are there any clear foot or stump prints – in blood – leading to or away from the crime scene.  Why not?

Surely if Oscar beat down the door, picked Reeva up, was covered in her blood [so much so that he washed it off his hands and chest], surely he stepped in her blood at some stage? But he didn’t. Those prints should be there but they aren’t. 

There are no bloody stump prints in the passage of the carpet, in the bathroom, down the stairs, in the fabric of the carpet of Oscar’s bedroom, which he needed to navigate to go downstairs [while carrying Reeva].  So where are those bloody prints?

What happens when we put a real model behind the door?

Where is the remorse in someone who pretends someone is alive when they aren’t, and cleans up a crime scene moments after killing someone?

What happens when the real person re-emerges behind the door is that her murder is no longer trivialised. The opposite of minimising, or intentionally underestimating someone, is highlighting and emphasising who they were, and what happened to them.  Only when we do that is the true nature of the crime made manifest.

An Excerpt from DIABLO: Henri Van Breda

From the chapter

Into Darkness

John Harrison: You should have let me sleep! ― Star Trek Into Darkness


Henri ax

Exactly twenty minutes into the court session after lunch, Henri’s advocate draws another line through his checklist, and wraps up his direct examination.

BOTHA:  Did you kill your father with an axe?

The accused casts towards his Judge, and his lips seem to curl involuntarily as he wrestles them into a single, softly spoken word.


BOTHA: And did you kill your brother with an axe?


As Henri answers his advocate on these direct and dire accusations, something sinister has happened to his posture. There’s a dark look in his eyes. From the fig-leaf position, a classic defensive posture which he’s maintained throughout the day while standing, often pressing down on his right hand with his left, now suddenly his demeanour has transformed into something else. Henri looms in his grey suit, both arms brace the side of the dock in a kind of casual menace. He’s spread out, almost like wings, or the ears of Dumbo the elephant.

Having answered the second question, Henri briefly glances from the Judge to the quivering, key-tapping media gallery on the opposite end of the room. And then to his advocate.

BOTHA: Did you kill your mother with an axe?


BOTHA: Did you attack your sister with an axe?

HENRI [Mouth gaping]: No. [Henri almost seems to sigh as he answers that one.]

Look carefully and in each of the four ‘no’s’, Henri answers open-eyed while looking at the Judge, but in each case, blinks moments later.  So it’s no…BLINK, no…BLINK, no…BLINK, no…BLINK.

BOTHA: Did you change the crime scene in any way…?

HENRI [Shakes his head]: No, my Lord.

The throwing of the axe, and the hitting of the axe into the wall, is an incidental way of explaining away the absence of blood, touch DNA and tissue DNA on the leading edge of the implement, and fibres and fingerprints on the haft, throat and grip.

Just as we saw in the JonBenét Ramsey case, in a genuine kidnapping, one would expect to find the fingerprints of the parents’ on the Ransom Note. Didn’t they pick it up and read it?  Or if they wrote the note themselves, were they extra careful not to leave any traces of handling it?

In the same way, we’d expect to find Henri’s fingerprints on the axe based on his version of handling the axe.  This absence shows, perhaps, that in his care not to make a mistake, just as in the Ramsey’s case, he was too careful.

BOTHA: Did you have any reason to attack your family?

HENRI [Seemingly aghast]: No, none whatsoever.

It’s difficult to make out on the livestream, but Henri either glances down or blinks as he says the word “none”.  But Botha’s not quite done.  There are three additional cards he wants to put on the table.

1st Card: No Clean-Up

BOTHA: Did you attempt to wash away any blood on your hands, or body, through the course of that morning?

HENRI: No, my Lord.

Henri’s suddenly deferential again.  In the entire court transcript for October 31st …


The first installment of DIABLO is available now on Amazon

Fullscreen capture 20171103 105615 PM


The Dark Matter of the Oscar Behind the Great Pretender [White Horse II Review]

WHITE HORSE II: Oscar Pistorius

Review by Melissa Manzella, August 21, 2016

oscar 1

“A brilliant narrative, replete with super sharp observations of both the case and the characters, this narrative brings the truth into ever clearer focus, and does so by having a kind of running theme on the ‘real’ narrative, Oscar knowingly killed Reeva, versus the ‘bogus’ one, Oscar thought he faced an intruder, referencing both often. In doing this, one really sees the flaws in the bogus one.

These two have such a good grasp of the case, having sorted Oscar long ago, and that now applies to their narrative of what happened the night Oscar killed Reeva, and I consider it to be definitive. In this narrative, the reader is brought early on to what may be a fascinating juncture in the case, this involving the rescheduling of sentence date by Judge Masipa, a matter which otherwise might be seen as an ordinary one, except that it was sentencing and the author was in court and caught the face of surprise on Prosecutor Nel, who obviously wasn’t expecting it.

He also noted an awkward looking Masipa, whom he thought looked to be gazing Roux’s way, for some kind of direction. Perhaps guidance on that date? This is what occurred to Van der Leek as he watched this exchange unfold. She changed it from June 17th, to July 6. With this single observation by Van Der Leek, bewildered trial watchers the world over who’d witnessed two vastly different Oscars at the sentencing hearing as opposed to the sentencing, might have just received clarity. We’re talking about collusion here, or more appropriately, the possibility thereof.

Without giving too much of the book away, the author does establish a plausible nexus between the rescheduling of this sentencing date, and a particular activity Oscar was engaged in at the time, outside of the realm of court. Did it happen? Well, Van der Leek doesn’t commit to saying that it did, but does supply the reader with relevant facts that would support it, and leaves readers to draw their own conclusions. Who knows if there was trickery afoot? Who knows that there wasn’t?

Here’s what I like about Van der Leek, and Wilson too, for that matter. They see something that looks wrong, and aren’t afraid to say it. They’ve always called a spade a spade, and have gone where the evidence has led them. Nick also talks about where he thinks this case went wrong, and it’s his belief that Masipa might have had her limitations, with that said, might simply have been overwhelmed with so much evidence. He thinks the case could have benefitted from a narrative, something that might have served to help her focus. He wishes Nel might have employed such. I tend to agree with him. He mentions that as a legal matter, and especially before a judge, showing motive certainly isn’t required but in this case might have been helpful.

Oscar being the scoundrel that he is, did an interview for ITV weeks before his sentence, looked well as he lied and cried his way through it, and then wouldn’t bother to take the stand in court. Van der Leek considers Mark Williams-Thomas the king of the soft ball questions, noting his bias. This narrative also saw new evidence emerge to do with the blood, and the authors made a crucial find here to do with Reeva that is a real game changer! Wow. I’ve not seen what they found documented anywhere else, so leads me to believe they were first in this finding! Impressive.

Both lament the fact that the bogus narrative is now the legal one, and Nick was incensed at Masipa’s doubling down at sentencing, memorializing this joke of a conviction. I’m hearing now however, that there’s a chance for a counter that may be coming down the pike in White Horse III, and I definitely say cheers to that! Looking forward to that read.”

WHITE HORSE II is Available on Amazon

WH2 Cover

Our Conclusions In “Deceit” & “Dark Matter” And How Our Journey Took Us To Them

Originally posted August 2015, by Nick van der Leek

Albert Einstein once said, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

One of the tremendously rewarding experiences we [my co-author Lisa Wilson and I] have as authors is our research forces us to set up camp around questions.  We spend time: mornings, afternoons, days, weeks, even months asking questions and pursuing answers.  The amazing thing when it comes to True Crime, especially popular crime, is those answers are out there. One merely needs to go out and make the effort to look for them. And keep looking.  Seek and we do find!

What makes our narratives distinctive, I think, is that Lisa and I, more often than not, work as a team. How many other narratives have two researchers and authors, working from opposite sides of the Atlantic?  While Lisa provides a US perspective as a juror, a researcher and a True Crime buff, I’m most interested in the intuitive subtleties that underlie these cases.  The psychology, the economics, the motives. Human behavior is fascinating, especially when it drives people to the extreme. I’m also intrigued by what these intuitions reveals about us, and society.


I wasn’t always into True Crime, in fact, like Ann Rule, I sort of fell into it by accident.  While Rule worked with Ted Bundy, I was Facebook friends with the model, Reeva Steenkamp, that Oscar Pistorius shot dead in his bathroom.  I didn’t intend to write a novel, I simply started asking questions, and then penned a 12 000 word magazine article [intended as a 4 part series].  That narrative eventually became my first bestseller.

Although I studied law and economics, I left the corporate environment to freelance full-time as a photographer and writer. My great grandfather was a famous South African artist, and my brother and aunt are also both well regarded artists [and yes, freelancers] in their own rights too.  I guess there is something restless in both mine and Lisa’s blood that makes us want to dig beneath the surface, to see expanded perspectives beyond what the media serves us.

I need to not only explore the world beyond my door, but represent it to myself and others in a constructive and meaningful way. I feel passionate about meaning above all, and it’s gratifying to find so much in such grim a setting where someone has lost their life.  When we honor the victims, when we remember them honestly, something unexpected happens: we also set ourselves straight, we also get ourselves [and society to some extent] back on track.

In terms of the Amanda Knox case, I stepped into the bullring for the first time in April this year [2015].  I knew virtually nothing about the case other than it had been newsworthy around the world.  I knew ‘something’ had happened in Italy, and that Amanda Knox was somehow involved [or not] because she was a housemate of a murdered British girl [also a student].  Before I started studying the case I had no bias either way – I didn’t know whether she was guilty or not.  Based on the little media that came my way, there seemed to me to be equal parts bias that she was innocent and…suspicious.

As soon as I started examining the case, literally within a few minutes, my interest was aroused.  It was along the lines of: she’s hiding something.  It was also along the lines that Amanda might be complicit in some way, but probably not involved in the actual murder.  How could she? Why would she?

Again, it is easy to ask these questions and then walk away from them without investing time in their answers. And when they do come they’re…well…stupefying.

While Lisa was in Italy, for work and research, I started working behind-the-scenes on a narrative Lisa and I designed a framework for called DOUBT.  The plan was that Lisa would return and then we would work on the narrative together.  I got so caught up in my own research I started on the narrative and by the time Lisa returned from Italy, DOUBT was done.  Interestingly, upon Lisa’s return, she still wasn’t 100% convinced Amanda was directly responsible for the murder.  The topic resulted in one or two heated Skype calls between us.

A lie repeated often enough [there was no DNA] eventually becomes, if not the truth, then a kind of truism, doesn’t it? A truism isn’t the truth, it’s a platitude. It’s something you say to get rid of inquiring minds.

No DNA? Well, of course there is – at least five instances of it, mixed with Meredith’s blood.  What’s perhaps more bizarre, for example, is the lack of Amanda’s fingerprints in her own home.  A single print? How many of us could say the same about fingerprints in our own homes?  Our computers, door handles, kitchen areas ought to be covered with prints.  Coming back to DNA, not only is Amanda’s DNA present in the villa, but so is Raffaele’s in Meredith’s bloody bedroom.

What’s the chance that Raffaele was at the villa, in Meredith’s room, but not Amanda?  What was he doing there if Amanda wasn’t with him? And is it any surprise that Meredith’s bra, cut with a knife after the murder, also had Raffaele’s DNA on the bra clasp? This is a guy who had a knife fetish, and who was carrying a knife at the time of his arrest.

In DOUBT [which was banned at first by strident Pro Knoxers and then resurrected as DECEIT], I identified 28 Red Flags.  These were singular signals that seem to show patterns of inconsistency.  Things just didn’t add up.  Indeed, Amanda did seem to be [and still is?] hiding something.  In our follow-up narrative, DARK MATTER, Lisa and I brought a binocular laser-like narrative focus to the four days of intense police investigation following the discovery of Meredith’s body at midday on November 2nd, 2007.

This time, we identified an additional 100+ Red Flags.  In addition to these, we listed several other highly suspicious events amongst other increasingly odd behaviors – not only from Amanda, but also Raffaele. It’s when we pool all of these clues together that a picture begins to emerge.  Patterns emerge.  And suddenly the mystery becomes…less mysterious.

If my initial ‘gut feel’ was that Amanda was simply ‘hiding something’, by the end of DECEIT there was little doubt that there was a lot more going on than that.  In fact, I’ve suggested to Lisa that based on forensic evidence alone [if one threw away all the circumstantial evidence], Amanda would still a have a major case to answer to. Lisa would eventually agree.  Conversely, if one took the entirety of circumstantial evidence, including the on-again-off-again alibi, and simultaneously ignored the totality of forensic evidence, Amanda would still have a major case to answer to.  That’s my opinion.  Lisa’s too, now that she’s gone beneath the surface of this case herself.

The irony is this case is so large, so convoluted, so full of spin and counter-spin, that it is easy to get lost in the details. As we see so often in court cases, it is not a lack of evidence that is a problem, it is the volume of it that gets disconcerting, and frequently confusing.  Confusion and doubt [and ‘reasonable doubt’] go hand in hand.  Of course, being confused by a lot of information is not the same as uncertainty based on a lack of evidence, or based on ambiguous evidence. The evidence isn’t ambiguous.

As such it is Lisa’s and my mission to demystify the eight years culminating in Amanda’s and Raffaele’s ultimate acquittal.  Our narratives, especially the first two or three in the series are probably better suited to newbies [people like us].  In the many narratives to come, Lisa and I expect to be as well versed as some folks on forums and resources like the incredibly valuable True

Before wrapping up, I’d like to share a final insight based on our experience writing another true crime series.  It may seem like Amanda Knox, Jodi Arias and Oscar Pistorius are three distinct individuals, with nothing in common.  But when we look closer, we don’t simply see matches in certain defense schemes, we see entire patterns of conduct [including motive] overlapping, and doing so perfectly.

what you thought

In South Africa, we have a similar situation where the media profit from stories on Oscar Pistorius.  They are reluctant to declare him guilty as that would be slaying a potential ‘cash cow’, and with book deals hanging in the balance [an acquittal is literally worth millions], the media are hedging their bets.

As a person involved in the media, I’m appalled at this, hence our multiple narratives on Oscar, two detailing his motive and the method of what we speculate was premeditated murder.  In terms of Amanda Knox, we suspect a similar game play between the media and Knox.  Both seem to be involved in a kind of PR waltz which both stand to benefit from, if they can dance consistently to their own music.

It was once said of Lance Armstrong that one shouldn’t make Lance Armstrong angry.  Anger is what motivates Lance to win.  And then the punch line: ‘Beating Lance makes him angry.’  Lisa and I have been astonished at the level of organisation and aggressive militancy [and dirty tricks] employed by Amanda’s supporters.  If this was intended to dissuade us from writing, these folks couldn’t be more wrong.

We are not out to make money, Lisa and I, although we care that our narratives resonate and are successful.  What we really care about is justice.  The bottom line, whether one is a criminal, or the supporter of a criminal is you never look good trying to make someone else look bad. The venom and personal insults Lisa and I have endured in our reviews is impressive.  The strategy is clear – attack the credibility of the messenger [since the message itself is problematic].

Our credibility is simple to establish. For my part, I am a professional writer. I did not gain a twitter following of almost 14 000 based on bad writing.  I work and write in partnership with Lisa because her research is often deeper and even more thorough than mine.  For me, our credibility is based on just two tests:  our personal standards and our level of honesty towards ourselves and others.  What distinguishes our narratives from all the others out there is the level of honesty – including self disclosure – both of us bring to our work.

This is because we care about something beyond justice. Besides wanting our readers to have a meaningful and genuine experience reading about these tragic crimes, we – as authors – also want to be enriched.  When we make it a personal journey, the insights and intuitions are truly rewarding. We find how these folks – not only the victim but also the perpetrators – are not so very different from us.  In this sense, if we genuinely learn something from these true stories, Meredith Kercher’s death need not be in vain.

Follow Nick van der Leek @HiRezLife and Lisa Wilson @lisawJ13