Circumstantial evidence (Zimbabwe)

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In the Commonwealth Magistrates Book this advice is to be found on circumstantial evidence:

Means, motive and opportunity are all examples of what is called circumstantial evidence. Where direct evidence of a particular act or state of affairs is not available, one may, and indeed must, have resort to indirect means of establishing the facts... Since the direct evidence of a witness is open to all the weaknesses of observation and recollection, ... evidence of a circumstantial kind may be less contestable and more easily relied on. To show that a defendant had the means, a motive and the opportunity may go some way towards convincing us of his guilt. It may raise a prima facie case against him which he is called upon to answer.

Where the conviction of an accused depends upon circumstantial evidence and the drawing of inferences from all the established facts, then the inference sought to be drawn must be consistent with all the proved facts and the facts should be such that they exclude every reasonable inference from them, save the one sought to be drawn: Blom 1939 AD 288; Edwards 1949 SR 30; Marange & Ors 1991 (1) ZLR 244 (S).

A person can be convicted of murder even if no body is found, on the basis of circumstantial evidence if that evidence is consistent with no other reasonable inference than that the victim is dead and was murdered by the accused. See Shonhiwa 1987 (1) ZLR 215 (S) and Masawi & Anor 1996 (2) ZLR 472 (S).


See Zimbabwe Criminal Defense Manual