DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: AUTOPSY OF LATE WIFE SHOWED PAST TRAUMA

Read previous post on case here.

 

Trial continued today in the case of Mr. Lekan Shonde who is accused of killing his wife in their home in Lagos on the 5thof May 2016 with the prosecution calling two additional witnesses – the pathologist who carried out the post mortem examination on the body of the deceased and the first investigating officer on the scene.

The pathologist, Dr. Sunday S. Soyemi, a Consultant pathologist with the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja testified first. After giving his credentials and qualifications, he stated that he has been a medical practitioner since 1994, a pathologist since 2004 and has conducted over a thousand post mortem examinations also referred to as autopsies. He testified that he has carried out autopsies on fresh bodies, embalmed bodies and exhumed bodies both in other states of the Federation and outside the country.

In respect of the case of Ronke Shonde, he testified that within the time in question, i.e., between May and June 2016, he was in the department of pathology and forensic medicine in LASUTH Ikeja when the body of Mrs. Ronke Shonde was brought to the autopsy table from the LASUTH morgue. The autopsy was carried out on the 12thof May 2016 and before the autopsy commenced, a Sergeant Akpan, the investigating police officer and two of the deceased’s uncles, identified the body. Furthermore, a nametag was on the deceased’s right ankle.

Dr. Soyemi testified that at autopsy, the first thing that is done after the removal of the clothing is general examination and the general examination in this case revealed a bruise at the left jaw as well as black eyes medically referred to as a darkening of the periorbital areas.  This darkening is usually an indicator of brain injury.

He testified that after the general examination, he and his team opened up the body and brought out the organs. They also opened up the skull to bring out the brain and saw a blood collection in the brain and on bringing out the brain discovered that it was filled with fluid, medically referred to as cerebral edema or brain swelling. He testified that all the organs of the deceased’s body were dissected and a sample was taken from each organ for further forensic tests.

At the conclusion of autopsy, death was ascribed to: 1a) Respiratory failure; 1b) Cerebral edema (brain swelling) and 1c) blunt force trauma to the head. Explaining the different causes of death, Dr. Soyemi testified that he has adopted the international standard of death certification in his testimony. In this standard, 1c caused 1b, which in turn caused 1a. Thus in this instant case, the blunt force trauma to the head caused the cerebral edema and the cerebral edema caused the respiratory failure. He explained that once there is swelling in the brain, it affects the area of the brain that controls breathing. He further stated that the evidence of the blunt force trauma is the bruise on the left jaw and the blood collection at the temporal region of the skull.

After concluding the autopsy, he wrote an interim report stating the cause of death which he gave to the Investigating Police Officer and a week or two later, he signed a Full Post-Mortem Report. He testified that in his professional opinion, the death of the deceased is not self-inflicted but rather that the deceased was killed. He added that from the sample of the brain of the deceased that was taken, they ruled out epilepsy. The death could therefore not have arisen from an accident arising from an epileptic fit.

He further testified that the sample taken from the blood collection showed a combination of old and recent hemorrhage, i.e., bleeding in the brain. He explained that the old hemorrhage was from bleeding occurring days or weeks before while the recent hemorrhage was from bleeding occurring hours before her death. This showed that there was past trauma on the head. He however stated that he would not be able to ascertain whether the old hemorrhage was self-inflicted or not.

Under cross-examination by counsel representing Mr. Shonde, Robert Clarke SAN, Dr. Soyemi stated that he was not informed by the police or shown any weapon that might have caused the bruise on the jaw. He testified that the bruise could not have been self-inflicted but could have occurred by accidentally hitting a wall or the floor. He however stated that both injuries were on one side and based on the size of the two wounds that are similar, it is very likely that the same object was used to inflict both wounds. He admitted that it could have happened if the deceased hit that one side of her face on the wall.

He further testified under cross-examination that when they carried out an autopsy on the body, it was mildly decomposed but this did not affect their findings. When asked whether he was informed of the mucus oozing from her nostrils when she was found, he answered in the affirmative. He testified that the mucus had disappeared during autopsy. When asked why he didn’t make a note of the disappearance of the mucus in his post-mortem report, Dr. Soyemi stated that the mucus is the result of what is medically referred to as post-mortem purging and is a natural occurrence with no serious medical significance beyond helping in confirming time of death. He stated that it disappears after about ten hours after death.

 

The prosecution also called Inspector Samuel Imana who was the officer detailed to carry out preliminary investigation at the police station at Idimu when the case was reported on the 5thof May 2016. He testified that about 0800 hours, a Mrs. Tiemo Evelyn in the company of Mr. Walters came to report a case of sudden and unnatural death. He took the statements of both Mrs. Evelyn and Mr. Walters and thereafter visited the scene of the crime with a police photographer. At the scene, he saw the deceased lying dead in the living room and on a close observation of her body, he noticed some marks around her neck and thorax region, blood coming out of her nostrils, and a substance like foam coming out of her mouth. He also noticed that her cheek was swollen, likely as a result of either a swift blow or a slap. The police photographer took pictures of the body and they then moved the body to LASUTH Ikeja for post-mortem examination.

He also testified that around the staircase in the house, he noticed pieces of cement on the floor as if someone or something had been hit there but there was no open injury on the head. He stated that before removing the corpse from the house, he and other officers called the husband’s phone. At first it was ringing and he didn’t answer it and after a while, he switched it off. He testified that being a capital offence case, the case file was transferred to Panti for further investigation.

Under cross-examination, Inspector Imana was asked if he investigated how many people slept in the house the night of the incident and he stated that one of the neighbors, Mr. Walters informed them that when they broke into the house, they met only the two children of the couple who stated that their daddy had a fight with their mummy the previous night. He testified that he didn’t question the children himself because when they got to the scene, they had been taken to their aunt’s place. When asked why he didn’t follow up and try to see the children, he testified that two or three days later, the case file was transferred to Panti for further investigation.

The prosecution asked for a further date to present their last witness. Mr. Clarke SAN hinted that the defence would be ready to open their case on the next date, as they would be calling on only the defendant himself. The case has been adjourned to the 24thof October 2018.

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