Web history of alleged foetus thief questioned

Johannesburg - A woman accused of faking her own pregnancy could not have visited pregnancy-related websites at work because she did not have access to the internet, the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg heard on Tuesday.

"It is the accused's version that she did not have any access to the internet [on that computer]," said Carla van Veenendaal, for Loretta Cook.

Cook is on trial for allegedly murdering Velencia Behrens in January 2011 by cutting her open in a bid to steal her unborn child, after faking her own pregnancy.

Cook is also charged with the attempted murder of the child, who survived.

Computer forensics expert Marius Myburgh testified that he examined the hard drive of the computer Cook used at the financial services firm, where she worked.

He said the user profile of the computer was under Cook's name and several sites had been visited in the three months before she took maternity leave in December 2011, including one for "pregnancy signs and symptoms".

"The computer was definitely connected to the internet and was on the internet," Myburgh testified.

Last week a doctor who examined Cook shortly after the alleged murder testified Cook was not pregnant.

Myburgh said he was "guided" by the investigating officer to look for any activity on the computer relating to pregnancy.

Myburgh also said he had found a few deleted word documents of relevance but the details of these documents were not revealed in court.

Van Veenendaal argued that her client worked in an open-plan office and anyone could have used the computer and that she was not required to enter a password to access her computer.

She asked Myburgh if he could accurately testify who had used her computer.

"I could see the user profile Loretta Cook was active and logged in, I cannot place a physical person behind the computer," said Myburgh.