This comment sets out to re-examine the problems associated with circumstantial evidence in instances of murder where there is no trace of a body or corpus delicti. This curiosity has been rekindled by the recent decision of Rooney, Ag. C. J., of the High Court of Swaziland in the case of King v. John Spokes Lawrence Madeleke. Besides the bizarre events which characterize its details, the case has brought to the fore once again the need to re-examine the principles underlying circumstantial evidence. Of particular interest is the basis of relying on such evidence as well as the weight to be attached to it particularly if it is the only basis on which a conviction on charge of murder is sustained. It is also contended that the decision in the Madeleke case, the first of its kind in Swaziland judicial history, has implications which go beyond its jurisdictional boundaries. Swaziland's juridical ties with Roman-Dutch law make the arguments interesting, especially for those concerned with comparative jurisprudence in the neighbouring states including South Africa.
It is first important to review briefly the relevant facts. In Madeleke the accused was charged with and subsequently convicted of the murder of his wife, Sheila, on the night following 17 January, 1991. The case for the prosecution was that Sheila was dead, murdered by her husband. To establish this proposition the Crown relied entirely upon circumstantial evidence. The most significant was that given by Thulie, the domestic servant of the accused.