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Test: Lamp could not have killed Harabin

When ex-minister and ex-judicial official Štefan Harabin claimed someone tried to kill him, a newspaper created an experiment to verify his accusations.

Štefan Harabin(Source: SME)

One year after the alleged assassination attempt aimed at former justice minister and former head of the Supreme Court and the Judicial Council, Štefan Harabin, bare wires are still hanging over the desk meant for the accused in the disciplinary panel’s trial room of the Supreme Court. Since the alleged attack, nobody has bothered to install a new lamp.

Beginning in 2017, the National Criminal Agency started dealing with the case, investigating it as an attempt at premeditated murder. The lamp cover fell on the spot where Harabin had sat shortly before, during a break in the disciplinary proceeding against him. He immediately reported the incident as a murder attempt. Apart from other claims, he also accused Interior Minister Robert Kalinak of the Smer party: “Did Kaliňák have a motive to eliminate me in a sophisticated way, thanks to a pre-arranged accident?” Harabin asked the General Prosecutor Jaromír Čižnár to days later in a letter criticising the General Prosecutor’s Office for not starting a criminal prosecution.

The glass lamp cover which fell weighs less than one third of a kilogram.

Experiment

Police have not commented on the case, as it in the course of investigation. Harabin revealed, however, that the investigation ordered expert evidence recently.

Investigators will have to investigate if it is even possible to kill a person with a lamp cover, spokesman of Police Presidium Martin Wäldl told Sme. In such cases, a so-called investigation experiment is usually done. In artificially arranged conditions, experts check whether the event could have taken place in the way claimed by the injured person. Also, new facts important for criminal prosecution are inquired into.

The Sme daily tried to simulate this investigation experiment – which will be done, with all probability, also by an expert addressed by the investigator. In their test, the newspaper tried to determine how serious an injury could be caused by the cover if it fell on somebody’s head from two-and-a-half meters.

When studying possible head injury and damage, first the force with which a lamp cover would hit the top of the head must be calculated. Data and theoretical calculation suggest that the fall of the lamp cover would not suffice to seriously injure anyone’s head.

Peter Markoš of the Faculty of Mathematics, Physics and Informatics of the Comenius University points, however, to many other factors that could impact the result. If the lamp has a sharp tip in the bottom part, it could break the head, he opined for the daily.

Moreover, the material on which the lamp falls has its influence on the result, too. But even if the experiment was made with a board instead of a solid floor, the force would not be sufficient, by far, to seriously damage the skull. However, scratches and minor skin wounds caused by shards could not be avoided.

Apart from a skull fracture, another threat in such an accident is a concussion. The time of impact was very short – three thousandths of a second - which is a factor in considering potential harm, too. A short impulse is less critical than a longer one.

Exploring intentions

Another thing necessary to be proven during the investigation is whether it was possible to commit this accident as a crime in practice: i.e. whether the cover can be fastened so that it get loose in a certain moment and fall off the lamp. "I can imagine that the cover falls by itself; some glasses do not fit quite tightly to the lamp itself, and after some time, one or more of the clamps can unscrew,” Marek Letko of the Mopntáže Svietidiel company pointed out.

Theoretically, it is possible to fasten the cover so that it falls after some time. Letko says that some lamps have metal bases – and if the bulb is too strong, the metal expands and in a certain point, the lamp cover can get loose.

However, the chance that someone could set the glass cover deliberately in a way to make it fall in a pre-arranged moment is very improbable, according to the expert on installing lights.

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