Autopsy not done on one alleged victim

Autopsy not done on one alleged victim

ShanthaInvestigations by Deccan Herald reveal that when the police found Shantha, still breathing, near Kollur temple on November 9, 2006, she was moved to a hospital. According to the police information, the woman had collapsed because of an epileptic attack and died on the way to the hospital.

The police report states that once autopsy was performed on Shantha’s body at Kollur Primary Health Centre, it was buried by the Panchayat since no relative had come to claim the unidentified corpse. When Shantha's family members saw her photograph in the local dailies and identified her from the saree she was wearing, they approached the police and demanded that the body be exhumed.

The body was exhumed on November 12 and handed over to the relatives. Shantha's family members raised a hue and cry when they found no sign of post-mortem on the body. While the police had said Shantha was epileptic, her nephew now clarified she was not.

Subsequently, the actual post-mortem, performed by the forensics department of a reputed hospital, made the shocking confirmation that an autopsy had not at all been done on the body before it was buried.

In its final opinion, the Regional Forensics Science Laboratory (RFSL) declared on January 1, 2007 the cause of death could not be ascertained since the body was in a high state of decomposition. The findings also said there was no trace of poison in the preserved viscera.

According to forensics experts here, the RFSL may not have been able to provide any clear opinion on whether Shantha had sex before she collpased and died since the cervix had protruded and putrefied. However, other experts said that the cervix takes a longer time than four days to decompose.

One expert said on conditions of anonymity that when Shantha’s second autopsy report was revealed, some of his colleagues in the medical fraternity met the deputy commissioners of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi to take action against the PHC doctor who mindlessly passed the body without examining it.

"When a non-qualified person performs an autopsy on a body, in most cases he goes by the police version. He will not try to get to the root cause of death. An expert verifies the possibility of sexual intercourse or sexual assault even if the body of a 14-year-old girl is brought in autopsy," the expert said.

According to experts here and elsewhere in the country, in case of cyanide poisoning, the body, even if it is decomposed, smells like bitter almond and the lividity in the "dependant part" of the body (the lower portion of the body as it is found in the scene of the crime) is cherry red.

Another expert, who did not want to be identified, said that traces of cyanide cannot be found on the remains of the body if the remains were to be exhumed now. That is because cyanide is a "labile" chemical which is highly volatile and its trace vanishes quite quickly.

If Shantha's body bore these tell-tale signs there was no reason for the PHC doctor to have believed in the police version that she suffered convulsions before dying. The signs should have been given the doctor enough reason to subject the body to a post-mortem and establish scientific evidence, which he did not.

What the police, and subsequently the prosecution, will find difficult to explain is if Mohan Kumar's confession that his victims consumed cyanide, which he provided them, is true, then why is Shantha's post-mortem report silent on cyanide poisoning? Did Shantha die because of some other reason and was not one of Kumar's victims?