MARSHALL WAS STRANGLED
By Vashtee Achibar Sunday, January 6 2013
Lance Corporal Curtis Marshall was strangled to death. That’s the finding of Russian-born forensic pathologist Dr Valery Alexandrov who said he examined the body of the dead soldier together with pathologist Dr Eastlyn Mc Donald- Burris on December 31.
In an interview yesterday, Alexandrov said on December 31, he got a telephone call from Dr Mc Donald- Burris who was conducting the post-mortem on the body of Marshall at the Forensic Science Centre, St James.
“I got a call about 4 pm from Dr Burris asking me to come to the Centre as she wanted a second opinion on the body she was examining. I left home and arrived at the Centre shortly after and met Dr Burris .
“I examined the body very thoroughly and the findings were very striking, there were no marks of violence on the body except the face which was blue black in colour, and the eyes were completely haemorrhagic,” he said.
As to what would cause one’s eyes to look like that, Alexandrov explained that it would happen in asphyxia, any lack of oxygen to the brain, which would include drowning, choking or hanging.
He said Marshall’s head was completely shaven and as he opened the scalp, he found several instances of haemorrhaging inside the head.
“The haemorrhaging would occur when blood vessels rupture and for that to happen it must happen, anti mortem (while the person is alive),” he said. This cannot happen in an asthma attack, he declared, adding that because of modern science, only two in every 100,000 persons die as a result of an asthma attack.
As he recalled details of his examination in the presence of Mc Donald -Burris , Alexandrov said the appearance of Marshall’s neck was also striking in that the Hyoid bone (Adam’s Apple) was fractured.
“The breaking or fracturing of this bone is a sure indication that a person is strangled. In manual strangulation or ligature strangulation, this bone would fracture. I was very careful in handling the body because sometimes in a post-mortem that bone could be damaged but I knew what I was dealing with potentially, so I was very careful in handling the body, and that bone was fractured,” he said.
Alexandrov said as he continued his examination of the neck, he found that the strap muscles to the neck were also badly damaged, that there was haemorrhaging to the thyroid gland which is situated at the front of the neck and behind the Adam’s Apple.
He said he also noted bite marks on Marshall’s tongue.
“A person who is having an asthma attack would not bite his tongue but would open his mouth wide to get air. I know, because my son, who is now 34 years old is asthmatic, and I have witnessed asthma attacks many times,” the forensic pathologist added.
He said based on what he saw at the front of the dead man’s neck, and as he turned the body and looked at the back of the neck, he surmised that something soft, perhaps a towel, was used to strangle the soldier.
“A towel or a piece of cloth was wrapped around his neck and tightened from behind, this is responsible for the injuries to the tissues to the back of the neck,” he said.
As he continued his explanation of his examination of the body , Alexandrov said based on what he saw he decided to save the brain of Marshall for further “neuro pathological examination.” He said the brain is preserved in formaldehyde. He said part of the neck was also retained and preserved for further examination.
“I also took at least 60 photos during the first autopsy on the young soldier,” he said.
Alexandrov aslo said on Friday, he got a call from Dr Hubert Daisley saying that he (Daisley) and a doctor from the Defence Force wanted to come and see him.
He said at about 9am, both men came to his office at the Forensic Sciences Centre. He does not recall the name of the doctor from the Army. He said the first post-mortem on Marshall’s body was witnessed by Dr Mc Donald-Burris, Dr Daisley, a Defence Force doctor, Homicide detectives and himself and they all agreed on the findings then.
Meanwhile, former Medical Chief of Staff at the San Fernando General Hospital,Dr Austin Trinidade, now a practising Ear, Nose and Throat doctor at a private clinic in South, said a person can die from an asthma attack but only when it reaches the status asthmaticus stage. He said once an attack comes on, the affected person is unable to breathe or call for help. Hence the reason why asthma sufferers walk around with an inhaler.
“If help doesn’t arrive quickly, the brain becomes starved of oxygen and the person can die in four to five minutes time. The patient develops what is called hypoxaemic or low oxygen levels and the lungs would collapse,” he explained.
“This is what is known as the status asthmaticus,” he said, adding, however, that it was rare for an asthmatic person to die from such an attack.
Even as the new revelations are made, relatives of the deceased soldier continue to question the asthma claim as the cause of death and are planning on having a third autopsy done.
“How could two independent pathologists make such a drastic mistake as to classify a death as strangulation and a few days later state the cause of death could be asthma?”
This is the question being asked in light of the latest news on the cause of death of the young soldier.
“So where all the blows to the head gone? And strangulation? The same doctor told us when we met with him, ‘your brother was murdered.' I am sorry we didn't tape him.
“This man (Daisley) come out and tell the family I have some new information, your brother was murdered. We waiting on the full report he said would be completed on Wednesday,” an emotional Dennis Marshall, the youngest brother of the deceased soldier said in a telephone interview yesterday.
Marshall’s mother-in-law, Angela John, the mother of Ashlyn, Marshall’s wife, said the new findings have left the family more confused.
“After you tell the father, uncle, and other relatives how you sure he was strangled, to come now and say the new findings are leaning towards asthma leaves us very confused. That is too much of a drastic mistake to make,”she said bitterly.
And in light of this latest news by Daisley that the soldier’s demise may be linked to an asthma attack, the father and siblings of Marshall are calling for a third autopsy.
Lance Corporal Marshall, 30, was found lying on the ground at Defence Force Headquarters while on guard duty at a guns container last week Saturday. He was rushed to the Cocorite Seventh Day Adventist hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly after. The first post-mortem on his body, conducted by Mc Donald-Burris, listed cause of death as strangulation. On New Year’s Day, a second autopsy carried out by Daisley stated Marshall was strangled and that he appeared to have been beaten on the head with a blunt instrument. Daisely had also told relatives of the dead soldier that further tests were being done, including a toxicology test.
On Friday, both pathologists McDonald-Burris and Daisley, carried out further tests on the deceased man’s brain at the Forensic Science Centre and Daisley later told Marshall’s wife, Ashlyn and his uncle Jeffrey Marshall, that the initial findings were wrong and that the cause of death may be asthma. Marshall’s wife and his siblings had said days before that he was asthmatic.
Yesterday, Dennis (Marshall) said he believes there are attempts to cover-up the real cause of his brother’s death.
“How could you have a death certificate saying strangulation and blows to the head and the same Dr Daisley saying a few days after, is likely to be asthma? Something is not right. Two pathologists examined the body, how come they saying now it may be linked to asthma? We are waiting to see what Dr Daisley will say on Wednesday. He told us he will complete the report on Wednesday, but for now he told us it looking like asthma,” he said.
Dennis admitted the latest findings have left the family bewildered and unsure of what to believe next or who to trust.
“How could a pathologist make such a drastic mistake as to classify a death as strangulation and a few days later state the cause of death as an asthma attack?” he demanded to know. “How could Dr Daisley change his tongue and say it’s asthma, something is not right, we know our brother was murdered. The first doctor who did the autopsy said it was strangulation , Dr Daisley took it over, he said it’s strangulation, then the two of them join together and saying now is an asthma attack. We calling Dr Daisley but he is not answering, we would like to have a meeting with both of them.
“I have a death certificate showing is strangulation and then a few days after you telling me a different story, we not accepting that,” he stated.
“We want to hear what Dr Daisley saying and we would decide on a third autopsy,” he said.
Dennis said he was shocked to read comments by Army spokesman, Civil Military Officer, Major Al Alexander that his brother was not asthmatic when he came into the army.
“He born with asthma, like they don't know their soldiers. He always has his pump with him,” he said.
Asked by Sunday Newsday whether it was likely that his brother could have collapsed during an asthma attack while reaching for his pump, Dennis said that on the day in question, “his pump was locked up tight in his locker”.
“He always has his pump with him and whenever he feels an attack coming on he would get it,” he said.
Meanwhile Dennis expressed thanks to Chief of Defence Staff Brigadier Kenrick Maharaj for his support to the family, but he criticised National Security Minister Jack Warner for not calling or visiting the family.
“Jack Warner didn’t even make a call or send condolences. If he couldn't come, he could have called. Is one of his soldiers who died on the job. We weren't expecting that, I mean we supporting him right through, but to go and say if we protest again you using full force, for that remark you get zero. Is a death you talking about, is only when it happen to your family you will understand.,” he said.
Attempts to contact both Warner and Maharaj via their cellphones on the latest findings on the cause of death of Marshall were unsuccessful.
Marshall is to buried at the Military cemetery in St James tomorrow afternoon following a church service under full military rites at the Church of Christ in San Juan at 2pm.