‘Significant force’ caused Cullinan’s head wound, court hears

Neel Ramlall is confronted by protesters as he arrives at the Simon’s Town Magistrate’s Court.

The head wound sustained by a Simon’s Town bee researcher, allegedly during an assault by a local businessman, would have “required significant force as the human scalp is quite thick”.

This is according to Dr Steven van der Merwe, who testified in the Simon’s Town Magistrate’s Court, on Thursday January 26, in the continuation of the trial of Neel Ramlall, who faces a charge of assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm.

It is alleged that Mr Ramlall struck Jenny Cullinan repeatedly with a stick on July 31, 2021, on the mountain near Cape Point.

Dr Van der Merwe, who has been a general practitioner for 27 years, told the court that he had completed the J88 form – a document that records medical evidence that is used to obtain a conviction in an assault case – after examining Ms Cullinan on the day of the alleged assault.

The court heard that Ms Cullinan had a 2cm laceration on the side of her head that was approximately 2mm deep, a bruise on the left side of her forehead that looked like a haematoma, and a laceration on the outer side of her right arm.

The head wound required three stitches.

Dr Van der Merwe said the wound, which he described as “straight”, was caused by the sharp edge of an object such as a knife, a piece of metal, or wood.

He said significant force would have been needed to cause such a laceration; the wound was clear of “debris” and so was not consistent with a fall and Ms Cullinan’s hand injury was similar to her head injury but had not needed stitches.

In cross-examination, Sonja van den Heever, representing Mr Ramlall, asked if Ms Cullinan had any other injuries during her follow-up exam.

Dr Van der Merwe said he had seen Ms Cullinan four days later for a wound check, and other bruises that had not been visible on the day of the alleged assault had then been visible.

Ms Van den Heever said Mr Ramlall would testify that Ms Cullinan’s head injury had potentially been caused by falling while he had been trying to protect himself from her.

During the trial in September last year, Ms Van den Heever said that Mr Ramlall would testify that Ms Cullinan had been the aggressor after accusing him of stealing plants and threatening to search his pockets.

He had used his walking stick to keep Ms Cullinan “at arm’s length” after she had pushed him and she had sustained her injuries by falling over after he had pushed her away with the stick (“Attack traumatised bee researcher, court hears,” Echo September 22, 2022).

Dr Van der Merwe said that while he was not a wound expert, such a straight wound could not have been from the fall unless Ms Cullinan had hit her head against the straight edge of a tabletop but not from falling on a rock.

Ms Van den Heever said her client would testify that he had used a stick with a sharpened end to defend himself.

She asked Dr Van der Merwe if it were possible for Ms Cullinan to have sustained her injuries as a result of Mr Ramlall using a stick to push her away.

“Not to the back of the head,” he replied, emphasising that “quite a lot of force was required to cause a laceration in this area”.

The case was postponed to Wednesday March 29.