Trial: Pathologist says cause of housemaid’s death unascertained

A Pathologist, Dr Sunday Soyemi, said on Friday that the cause of death of Ms Joy Adole, a 19-year-old housemaid, could not be ascertained.

Soyemi made the revelation at an Ikeja High Court while testifying as one of three prosecution witnesses, during the trial of a couple over Adole’s death.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Fortune and Stephen Nwankwo, employers of the deceased, are facing a four-count charge of conspiracy, involuntary manslaughter and accessory after the fact to murder in the case.

Soyemi, led in evidence by the prosecutor, Mr Yusuf Sule, told the court that the housemaid’s cause of death could not be determined because her corpse had been embalmed.

He said Adole’s corpse had been embalmed at a morgue in Yaba before being brought to the facility at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) for the autopsy.

The autopsy was supervised by a Forensic Pathologist, Prof John Obafunwa.

“We did the autopsy and the saddest thing was that the body was embalmed, and in this case, the body should not have been embalmed,” he said.

The Pathologist said when Adole’s remains was examined, there was no bleeding, injury and boney fracture on the neck structure.

He said the body was also skinned to reveal any signs of physical abuse.

“We skinned the body to look under and there was no bleeding anywhere in the body.

“We looked at all the organs including the brain and no pathology was found throughout the body.

“Against this background, cause of death was unascertained.

“Earlier, I said the body should not have been embalmed because in these cases, samples of blood, fluid in the eyes, the gastric content, the urine should have been retained for toxicology.

“This will help us to look at other possible causes of death.

“But because the body has been embalmed, we could not get any of these samples.

“This is also coupled with the fact that there is no lab in this country that can do toxicology analysis.

“The cause of death was signed out as unascertained,” Soyemi said.

He said he is a lecturer at the Lagos State University College of Medicine and a Consultant Pathologist at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja.

Soyemi said that he had been a Consultant Pathologist for 11 years and that he conducted autopsies on fresh, embalming and exhumed bodies.

While being cross-examined by defence counsel, Prof Paul Ananaba (SAN), Soyemi said that he had the requisite competence to carry out the autopsy and stood by the contents of the autopsy report.

A second witness and policewoman, Insp Adetutu Osunsanya, told the court that she visited the scene (Nwankwo’s residence) on April 20, 2020.

She said the visit was during the COVID-19 pandemic after Stephen had reported a case of suicide at the Bariga Police Station.

“We saw the deceased Joy with a long rope tied on the ceiling fan while her leg was on the floor in her room. The rope was on her neck.

“I used my Hitec Phone to take photos of the deceased while the mortuary staff that followed us from the Yaba Hospital cut the rope and called another staff to come with motorcycle to take the deceased away,” she said.

Osunsanya said that she printed a copy of the scene photographs from her mobile phone from a printer in her office and another copy was printed at a photo laboratory.

She told the court that she also wrote Stephen’s police statement on his behalf.

While being cross-examined, Osunsanya said that Stephen was accompanied by two friends when he reported the and that the defendants did not have their lawyers present when their police statements were taken.

She said that her office also did not have an official camera to take scene photographs.

The Investigating Police Officer (IPO) of the case, Insp Ajibola Oderinde, attached to the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID) Panti, Yaba, Lagos, gave a narrative of his findings at the scene.

He said he visited the crime scene with Stephen on April 21 after the case was transferred to the SCID from the Bariga Police Station.

“He (Stephen) opened a room and there was a bed resting on the wall with a case at the foot of the bed. I asked Stephen if anybody had tampered with anything in the room and he said no.

“What led to the question is that from the file, there is a photograph I studied and the deceased was hung from a suspended rope and was beside the iron board.

“At the scene, the ironing board was found at the foot of the bed and we retired back to our office to invite the forensic expert.

“The first defendant (Fortune) was asked what happened and she confessed to have assaulted the deceased because she discovered she stole noodles and some jewellery,” he said.

The IPO said that Fortune had assaulted Adole on April 19, 2020, and that her body was discovered by Stephen on April 20, 2020.

He noted that officers from SCID Panti paid a second visit to the scene on April 24, 2020 to collect some samples which were taken to the laboratory. He said he collected the statements of six witnesses.

According to him, discoveries indicated that the deceased was hung with a rope by adults.

“This is because the position of the body does not depict a suicide and we recommended that Fortune and Stephen Nwankwo be charged to court,” he said.

Following Oderinde’s testimony, the prosecution announced that it had closed its case against the couple.

Ananaba informed the court that the defence intends to file a no-case submission on the next court date.

Justice Oyindamola Ogala adjourned the case until Oct. 11 for the filing of the no-case submission. (NAN)

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