To thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
— William Shakespeare, Hamlet, act I, scene iii, lines 78–80

Truth in media. Truth in justice. A word that occupies the minds of many academics and has flowed through the annals of Australian justice. Think of Lindy Chamberlain and a multitude of famous cases.

A legendary South African forensic scientist, Dr David Klatzow, has bookmarked his new tome Steeped in Blood with this quote from Hamlet. Klatzow has spent his life searching for the truth — often at a risk to his own life and to his own reputation, particularly during the height of the Apartheid regime.

On the surface this book may seem to be irrelevant to the Australian reader. It’s not. Apart from the many ex-pats now resident in the “lucky land”, the stories Klatzow tells and the questions he asks are pertinent to the search for justice throughout the world.

Written without descending into a legal tome of dull prose, Klatzow and his fellow scribe, Sylvia Walker, take the reader through a fascinating dissertation on many of the landmark forensic investigations with which he has been involved. Klatzow takes the reader through several high-profile cases and, probably, the one that  has the most appeal beyond the legal fraternity is the South African Airways Helderberg 747 crash in 1987. Drawing on evidence and with some quite exceptional forensic work, he uncovers the massive cover-up by the apartheid government. It makes for absorbing reading.

The author relates numerous examples of how conflicts of fact had to be resolved during the cases that he was involved in and that in most of them, his opinions were accepted by the judges presiding.

In his foreword, Advocate George Bizos SC of the Legal Resources Centre and noted defence lawyer (of Mandela fame) states: “No trial lawyer, senior investigating officer or potential expert witness can afford to ignore this book.” To this we should add, anyone who believes in the truth.

The details: Steeped in Blood is published by Struik and can be purchased directly from the author via email.

Peter Fray

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