Tuesday, March 27, 2012

This Day in History: Mar 27, 1905: Fingerprint evidence is used to solve a British murder case

The neighbors of Thomas and Ann Farrow, shopkeepers in South London, discover their badly bludgeoned bodies in their home. Thomas was already dead, but Ann was still breathing. She died four days later without ever having regained consciousness. The brutal crime was solved using the newly developed fingerprinting technique. Only three years earlier, the first English court had admitted fingerprint evidence in a petty theft case. The Farrow case was the first time that the cutting-edge technology was used in a high-profile murder case.

Since the cash box in which the Farrow's stored their cash receipts was empty, it was clear to Scotland Yard investigators that robbery was the motive for the crime. One print on the box did not match the victims or any of the still-tiny file of criminal prints that Scotland Yard possessed. Fortunately, a local milkman reported seeing two young men in the vicinity of the Farrow house on the day of the murders. Soon identified as brothers Alfred and Albert Stratton, the police began interviewing their friends.
Alfred's girlfriend told police that he had given away his coat the day and changed the color of his shoes the day after the murders. A week later, authorities finally caught up with the Stratton brothers and fingerprinted them. Alfred's right thumb was a perfect match for the print on the Farrow's cash box.

The fingerprint evidence became the prosecution's only solid evidence when the milkman was unable to positively identify the Strattons. The defense put up expert Dr. John Garson to attack the reliability of the fingerprint evidence. But the prosecution countered with evidence that Garson had written to both the defense and prosecution on the same day offering his services to both.
The Stratton brothers, obviously not helped by the discrediting of Garson, were convicted and hanged on May 23, 1905. Since then, fingerprint evidence has become commonplace in criminal trials and the lack of it is even used by defense attorneys.


In South Africa: 27 March 1960 - Johannes Kerkorrel, Afrikaans singer and songwriter, is born in Johannesburg

Johannes Kerkorrel died in November 2002. South Africa lost one of its pioneer musicians, one of the first artists who could rock in Afrikaans and stood up against apartheid with his music. As an ex-journalist, he was more than just a musician and strived for what he believed in. Johannes Kerkorrel will be remembered as one of the great rebels in Afrikaner history. His work had an impact on a generation of young Afrikaners which went far beyond its musical value. The fact that Kerkorrel's work was very much accepted by Afrikaans students around the country told the government of P.W. Botha in the late eighties very clearly that it no longer spoke for them. Musically, Kerkorrel gave Afrikaners their own music for the first time, expressing their issues in their language. Through his work, Kerkorrel expressed a sense of frustration, despair and anger that had been building up inside a new generation of Afrikaners for a number of years. It allowed them to signal their support for the struggle against apartheid and for a new South Africa. Kerkorrel was the only white artist who performed in 1994 at the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as president of the new South Africa when he sang Halala Afrika.

He was working as a reporter on the South African newspaper Die Burger when he did his first live highly satirical political cabaret show in 1986 at the Green Room in Cape Town. In that same year he moved back to his native Johannesburg and collaborated with a group of writers in another political cabaret at the Black Sun in Berea. They performed songs such as Wat 'n vriend het ons in P.W. (What a friend we have in P.W.). 

In 1987 together with Koos Kombuis he acted in the theatre play Piekniek by Dingaan, Kinders van Verwoerd, that won the Pick of the Fringe Award at the Grahamstown Festival. The state-controlled provincial arts councils weren't too pleased about Kerkorrel so they declared him from then on as "persona non grata". Kerkorrel began to perform as a duo with Koos Kombuis and later a group of musicians joined them in the band Johannes Kerkorrel en Die Gereformeerde Blues Band. This was a provocative reference to the Dutch Reformed Church, as was Kerkorrel, which means church organ. That year Kerkorrel was fired from his job as journalist at the Afrikaans newspaper Rapport because of his political activism. He had to stop insulting the establishment with his music or leave. He chose the latter and started making music full time. 

Die Gereformeerde Blues Band and other artists performed a concert in 1988 in Johannesburg called Die Eerste Alternatiewe Afrikaans Rockkoncert. The musicians were part of a trendy urban young white generation who rebelled against the autocratic dictates of the apartheid state and they referred to themselves as a democratic and non-racist collective. Four thousand young Afrikaners were present at the concert to hear lyrics that cursed what Johannes Kerkorrel called the mindless authoritarianism that kept South Africa in an oppressed, barbaric state and attacked corruption and the maintenance of power through force. The concert was a show of solidarity for the liberation of Afrikaans from politics and received considerable support from the underground music scene, poets and people that were against apartheid. 

In 1989 Die Gereformeerde Blues Band released the album Eet Kreef! (Eat Lobster!), an attack on the luxurious lifestyle of the whites, and nearly all songs were banned from airplay by the SAUK (Suid Afrikaanse Uitsaai Korporasie/South African Broadcasting Company or SABC). The Voëlvry (Outlawed) Tour followed, which was a nationwide tour of campuses. Nearly all the Broederbond-controlled Afrikaans campuses banned the tour. The issue of freedom of speech was at stake and the students who rebelled against the bans organized alternative locations so the tour could go on uninterrupted. At the University of Stellenbosch, the heartland of Afrikaans, the ban led to one of the biggest mass meetings in the history of the campus. The security police harassed and intimidated them by constantly interrupting them to search for drugs, filming the audience, slashing tyres and letting off stink bombs. Still the locations that they were forced to play at were always packed. Two days after Stellenbosch the Voëlvry concert filled the Three Arts Theatre in Plumstead, Cape Town. This capacity had not been achieved in fifteen years because the cultural boycott ended tours by overseas artists.
In 1990, after the banning of his songs on radio, Johannes Kerkorrel went to Belgium and the Netherlands where Eet Kreef! had just been released. Initially he stayed with a group of exiles in Amsterdam. The song Hillbrow from Eet Kreef! became a radio hit in the Low Countries and this "white South African" became the object of considerable media attention. He was invited for a solo tour in Belgium and after several interviews with newspapers, magazines, radio and tv, explaining time after time that not all white South Africans support apartheid, Kerkorrel was the first white Afrikaans singer who became completely accepted by the media and public. He performed at the Dranouter Festival after Donovan and he was surprised to see that fifteen thousand people sang along with his songs. In September 1990 he returned to South Africa to record his second album Bloudruk. The Blou Aarde Tour in South Africa ended with a great celebration at the Houtstok Festival because Mandela had just been released from prison. 

In 1992 he started to work as the South African correspondent for the Belgian Radio 1 programme Het Einde van de Wereld where he had a weekly column. In the beginning of 1993, Dutch singer Stef Bos came to South Africa to write and record with Kerkorrel, the single Awuwa / Zij wil dansen (She wants to dance) (with Tandie Klaasen) was released in South Africa and the Benelux. The song became a hit in the Low Countries and Kerkorrel and Bos performed it live with Princesse Mansia M'bila - an authentic princess from Zaire- who took the place of Ms. Klaasen for the overseas tv-programmes. Later that year Bloudruk was released in Europe and Kerkorrel was invited back for a tour of Flemish and Dutch Summer festivals with his Antwerp-based band. This tour proved to be hugely successfull and Kerkorrel was to be seen and heard on nearly every radio- and tv programme, and two documentaries were made about him by Belgian TV. In Flanders he played at the Marlboro Tour circuit. As a solo pianist, he played "De Piano" on the town square of Bruges and "Boterhammen in het Park in Brussels. By that year he started to get invited to perform at special one-off concerts in Belgium such as double-billing with singer Wannes Van de Velde in Ghent for the NGO's and government-representatives at the “Nationale Honger Solidariteitsdag” and the launch of the “Vlaams/Zuidafrikaans Intercultuur Fonds” where he was named Cultural Ambassador. 

In 1994 his third album 'CYANIDE IN THE BEEFCAKE' was released and again he toured South Africa solo and with his bandmembers Mauriz Lotz, Didi Kriel, Andre Abrahamse, Reuben Samuels, McCoy Mrubata and Barry van Zyl, Barry Snyman, Andrew Cleland and Amagugu Akwazulu). In the same year this album was released in Europe and this time, Kerkorrel did a theatre-tour which ended at the “Nekka Nacht” in the Sportpaleis in Antwerp where he performed in front of an audience of 14.000 people.

In 1995 he won the FNB Sama Award for best pop music performance and Speel my Pop a documentary on him made by Ken Kirsten for SABC 3, featuring three videos from the Cyanide project, won an Artes. In the same year he played at “Les Halles de la Villette” in Paris at the “L'Afrique du Sud Festival” a celebration of music from the new South Africa, with Hugh Masakela, Vusi Mahlasela, Sankomoto, Johnny Clegg, Bayete et. al. Kerkorrel played the Grahamstown festival regularly as well as the Klein Karoo Kunstefees. In adddition, he did regular solo- performances as well as big concerts with his band from the Warehouse Theatre in Windhoek, to Cape Town, Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban and the Observatory Theatre in Bloemfontein.

Documentaries about him and his first band the Gereformeerde Blues Band have been broadcast in Germany, Holland, England, America, Belgium and Sweden. His fouth album Ge-Trans-For-meer written while living in Cape Town, saw him recording his own version of the traditional Afrikaans song Al lê Die berge Nog So Blou. The show, with the same title, featuring material from his new album quietly sold out all over South Africa. The CD won two FNB SAMA Awards: one for best Afrikaans performance and one for Best Male Vocalist. The CD Tien Jaar Later, a compilation of his best songs, was released early in 1999 to celebrate Kerkorrel's 10 years on the stage. Also in 1999 Johannes Sing Koos du Plessis was released and again, was nominated for a FNB SAMA Award. His last album Die Ander Kant (The Other Side) was released in September 2000

During 2000-2001 he toured the country with his show based on this album. Die Ander Kant reflected a new era. It was the first album written in its totality in Cape Town in the house. The title track reflected how he left the city and its craziness behind and he now lives on the other side. In October and November 2001 he toured the Flemish theatres again with a Flemish band. He won two Geraas Awards for the album Die Ander Kant, in Best Pop Album and Best Arranger categories in January 2002. In July 2002 he performed solo in London. He played at Dranouter Festival in August for the third time, unique in the history of this festival. All through the year he was busy working on his new (unreleased) CD Die Hart is ‘n Eensame Jagter. The show, with the same title, premiered at the KKNK in Oudtshoorn to much acclaim and also ran at the Aardklop Kunstefees in September.
In 2002 he wrote his last newspaper article for Die Burger on the crying need for environment-friendly housing, the immoral contrasts between the rich and the poor in the Cape. This sharp analysis of present-day South Africa regarded as representative of Kerkorrel’s political will.

Johannes Kerkorrel commited suicide at the early age of 42 on 12th November 2002. The country that had alternately loved and loathed, repelled and inspired him, celebrated his life in a wave of tributes. In parliament, the deputy minister of Arts Culture Science & Technology, Bridgette Mabandla said: “… he espoused nation-building, tolerance and acceptance of our diversity. His standpoint against the order inspired many people, he will always have a place in the cultural history of South Africa.”.

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