Soldier’s funeral today
By Nalinee Seelal and Darcel Choy Monday, January 7 2013
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One last look: Forensic pathologist Dr Valery Alexandrov examines the head of Lance Corporal Curtis Marshall one last time at Simpson's Funeral Home, ...
Lance Corporal Curtis Marshall will finally be laid to rest today, even as tests continue to be done on parts extracted from his body to confirm he was strangled.
Two Government pathologists have concluded Marshall died by strangulation, a finding initially supported by a private pathologist who has since determined the soldier may have suffered a fatal asthma attack.
However, forensic pathologist Dr Valery Alexandrov yesterday stood by the report of Dr Eastlyn McDonald-Burris, co-signed by him, which concludes Marshall was strangled after the first autopsy at the Forensic Science Centre, St James, on December 31. He examined Marshall’s body one last time yesterday before his burial today.
Alexandrov arrived at Simpson’s Funeral Home, Laventille, at about 5 pm yesterday with Marshall’s relatives, and after about half an hour he completed his examination and reiterated that Marshall died of strangulation. He said it was not manual strangulation as soft ligature was applied which means a soft material was used, possibly a towel, a position he revealed in an exclusive to Sunday Newsday.
Video footage shows Marshall collapsing near a clothing and equipment container he was guarding at the Defence Force Headquarters, Chaguaramas, on December 29. He was pronounced dead at the Seventh-day Adventist Hospital.
After the first autopsy, professor of pathology, Dr Hubert Daisley conducted a second autopsy at Simpson’s Funeral Home on January 1, on the request of the Defence Force and he too had concluded strangulation as the cause of death. But Daisley noted there were marks about the head, suggesting he may have been beaten and sought to confirm this last Friday by examining Marshall’s brain at the Forensic Science Centre.
However, he stunned Marshall’s relatives by disclosing he may have suffered a fatal asthma attack, but is still to complete a final report which is expected on Wednesday.
Alexandrov is also to continue working on his final report after conducting more tests on the brain, samples taken from the lungs and neck. He told Newsday in the first autopsy, he took samples of the lungs but decided to take more yesterday.
He also checked the skull to see if Marshall was beaten up. He noted there were no marks on his head that were visible because Marshall was bald. Alexandrov said he even shaved Marshall’s head more to make sure there were no marks and there were none.
He noted that in cases of asphyxiation, especially drowning, there is haemorrhage in the middle ear and in examining Marshall yesterday he found that he had haemorrhaging in the middle ear which he has documented.
“After examination of the brain and the slides, we will put all the information together and come to a conclusion which I have, but it should be fully supported so no one would say that anything was missed,” he said.
Alexandrov will carry out a CT-scan on the brain of the soldier to ascertain if he suffered any haemorrhaging. This test will be done at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope, since the Forensic Science Centre, St James, does not have a CT-scan machine.
He will also carry out other tests on the brain known as a “neuro pathological examination”. Marshall’s brain, he said, has been preserved in formaldehyde, and he also noted part of the soldier’s neck was also retained and preserved for further examination.
Those follow-up examinations will be carried out next Thursday.
Alexandrov said, “The point of this CT-scan is to see what is in the internal structure of the brain.”
He expects to have the brain cut into 25 sections to carry out the “neuro pathological examination”.
In the Sunday Newsday report, Alexandrov noted during his examination of Marshall’s body on December 31, he discovered the strap muscles to his neck were 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,” he told Sunday Newsday. He noted that a towel or a piece of cloth may have been used to strangle the father of one.
Daisley could not be reached on his cell-phone yesterday to respond to the findings of Alexandrov.
Marshall’s younger brother Dennis thanked Alexandrov yesterday for doing all he can to assist the family in getting closure and he expressed hope that something good can be done in the investigation into his brother’s death.
Marshall’s funeral will proceed this afternoon at the Church of Christ, Ryan Street, San Juan, followed by his burial under military rites at the military cemetery Long Circular Road, St James. It had been postponed from Friday to accommodate Daisley’s further review of Marshall’s brain.
At the end of that examination, Daisley told Marshall’s relatives that he was wrong in his first examination of the body, and was now of the view that the soldier died from asthma.
Dennis yesterday said the family was even more concerned there may be an attempt to cover up the truth of his brother’s death.
“The family wants to meet with the two pathologists Dr Daisley and Dr Burris, and then based on what they tell us we will ask Dr Alexandrov to do an independent third review so that some sort of closure could be made on the matter,” he said.
Also yesterday, Civil Military Officer of the Defence Force Major Al Alexander said that all the soldiers who were on duty on December 29 when Marshall died were interviewed.
Those interviews were completed on Friday by a special team of police officers probing the soldier’s death.
Deputy Police Commissioner Mervyn Richardson, yesterday said the police are still treating Marshall’s death as a homicide.
He noted that up until yesterday neither he nor the team of homicide officers probing the death had received any of the findings of Daisley’s second autopsy and his subsequent review. The police received the first autopsy from the Government pathologists.