Brains Behind Ballistics, CPT Viljoen Nabs Crooks

Captain Retha Viljoen is a police ballistics expert, whose job includes finding out which gun was used in a crime, and the reconstruction of crime scenes.

The 43-year-old, who continues to make a mark in a traditionally male-dominated environment, also assists as a ballistics expert witness in court cases.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) said they were putting Viljoen in the limelight as part of their celebration of women’s month.

“Today, we introduce the nation to Captain Retha Viljoen,” said SAPS.

“The member is a ballistics expert attached to the Forensic Science Laboratory in Pretoria.”

The Pretoria-born crime fighter has 21 years of service.

She holds a BA degree in Criminology as well as an Advanced Certificate in Forensic Criminalists, specialising in forensic ballistics.

“As a ballistics expert, Captain Viljoen analyses firearms, ammunition and similar ballistics-related evidence in a bid to solve criminal cases committed with the use of a firearm,” said the SAPS.

Captain Viljoen is responsible for examining firearms, ammunition, fired cartridge cases, and fired bullets and tool marks.

She has to determine which firearm was used in the commission of a crime.

Captain Viljoen also examines the angle and distance from where the gun was fired and reconstructs crime scenes using evidence at hand.

“The member has to date worked on and examined at least 6 346 cases that involved the use of firearms,” said SAPS.

“During her illustrious career, the member has assisted in securing multiple life sentences for those who were behind crimes involving the use of firearms.

“The member recalls a case that still remains etched in her memory, the 2008 Jeppestown Massacre that saw four police officers attached to the West Rand Flying Squad and K9 unit lose their lives.”

Captain Viljoen has been instrumental in a judgment that saw those behind the brutal killings being handed down life sentences.

SAPS says at the time of the incident, four police officers were responding to an armed robbery at a local retail store in Jshoot-out, Johannesburg.

“A shootout ensued, and sadly, four members of the SAPS were certified dead on scene, eight of the armed robbers were also killed in the shoot out, the remaining 15 gang members surrendered,” SAPS said.

Commenting on the shootout, Captain Viljoen said: “This case was the most painful crime scene I had to attend to because my fellow colleagues paid the ultimate price doing what they did best and that is to safeguard the people of South Africa.

“I’m glad at the end, each accused received four life sentences each.

“I am appealing to South Africans to report any knowledge of individuals in possession of unlicensed firearms to the SAPS Crime Stop number 08600 10111 or to send a tip-off on MySAPS App to stop the senseless killings of ordinary people living in South Africa”.

To qualify as a ballistics expert, an individual needs to have a diploma or degree in Criminology, and Metallurgical Engineering.

They also have to undergo the necessary internal prescribed training.

Colonel Athlenda Mathe says SAPS appreciates the work all other female ballistics experts do.

Captain Retha Viljoen