Friday, 12 April 2013

Cynthia Osokogu’s murder trial: Pathologist delivers chilling accounts


The victim was ruled to have died of “asphyxia”.

The post-mortem examination of the body of the late Cynthia Osokogu revealed that she died from asphyxia – absence of Oxygen supply to the body, a pathologist told the court on Friday.

Ms. Osokogu, 24, was allegedly drugged and murdered in a hotel room last July in Lagos.

Okwumo Nwabufor and Olisaeloka Ezike are charged, for Ms. Osokogu’s death, with conspiracy to commit murder, murder, and felony.

Osita Orji, a Pharmacist who sold the Rophynol drug to the alleged murderers, is accused of reckless and negligent act; while Nonso Ezike, who pawned the deceased’s Blackberry phone, is charged with possession of stolen property.

While testifying on Friday, John Obafunwa, a Professor of Forensic Medicine, said that the blockage of the deceased’s upper respiratory airways was the immediate cause of her death. He dispelled any probability of a self-inflicted harm or outright suicide.

His account of the state of the corpse at autopsy was as revealing as it was chilling – hair nets and handkerchiefs stuffed into the deceased’s mouth as well as a semblance of bite marks on both thighs- leaving a few people in the court room teary-eyed.

“Her two hands were tied behind her back and wrapped with a brown tape, in addition to applying a chain around the hands. The two legs were also taped together,” Mr. Obafunwa said, narrating the outcome of his post-mortem examination at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital.

“The head area was stuffed in the mouth with what looked like a hair net – black/golden coloured- and a white handkerchief. All these were stacked inside her mouth and secured in place by same brown tape wrapped around the mouth,” he added.

Mr. Obafunwa said that after the objects were removed from the deceased’s mouth during autopsy; small indentations were observed around the lips, tongues, and inside of the mouth “due to the pressure of the materials inside the mouth.”

“The materials blocked the airways, she wouldn’t have been able to breathe,” said the pathologist.

“The lungs were heavy. The left and right lungs weighed 400 grammes and 500 grammes respectively. The normal weight should be about 250 – 300 grammes. They were heavy because of blood accumulation in the lungs, what we describe as Pulmonary Oedema.

“A combination of pin point haemorrhages, fluidity of blood and pulmonary oedema add up to the asphyxia. That was the immediate cause of death due to blockage of the upper respiratory airway. And this blockage was as a result of the gagging and choking,” Mr. Obafunwa said.

“The other findings of note are the multiple bruises and abrasions on the arms, the forearms, back, and what appeared to be bite marks on the front of the two thighs,” he added.

Other testimonies:

Two other prosecution witnesses also testified on Friday- Victor Okwukwe, Manager of Cosmillia Hotel where Ms. Osokogu’s body was found and Lucky Ehimeme, a photographer who took pictures of the lifeless body in the hotel room.

Mr. Okwukwe testified that after Ifeyinwa Francis, the receptionist, reported to him that she had received a phone call from someone informing her he would not be returning to Room C1, he asked her to go to the room.

“I asked her to call the room (C1). She called the room for about four times and nobody picked the phone. I then asked her to go up and knock at her door, if nobody opens the door, she should open the door and if the lady is sleeping, she should wake her up,” said Mr. Okwukwe, 43.

“She (the receptionist) came down to my office and told me that she opened the door and saw a body lying on the bed, naked. So I went up with her. When we got there, I saw a lady, fair in complexion, lying down on the bed, face up, naked, her hands tied at her back, her legs also tied up.”

Mr. Okwukwe said that he informed the owner of the hotel who directed him to alert the police.

But the arrival of the police, accompanied by a photographer and their resultant handling of events almost marred the prosecution’s case on Friday.

First, Mr. Ehimeme testified that either the police or the hotel staff turned the corpse to different positions so he could take various shots.

“When we got there (the hotel), they opened the room on the first floor and they (police) said I should snap anything I see,” said Mr. Ehimeme, 34.

Then, after printing out the photographs at the laboratory, Mr. Ehimeme said that the police ordered him to delete the pictures from his camera’s memory card as well as from the laboratory.

After Ade Ipaye, the lead prosecution counsel, tendered the photographs of the deceased’s lifeless body as evidence before the court, the defence counsels pounced on it, describing the deletion of the images on the memory card as “a destruction of the original evidence.”

“This evidence is a copy of the document. Failure to tender the memory card which is the foundation is a failure to produce the original evidence,” said Victor Opara, counsel to Mr. Nwabufor. “And since no foundation has been given before the tendering of the secondary evidence, I urge Your Lordship to reject the evidence. It’s either they tender the physical camera itself or the memory card.” Mr. Opara added.

After hearing arguments and counter arguments from defence and prosecution counsels, Olabisi Akinlade, the trial judge, ruled that neither the camera nor the memory card is primary evidence and admitted the photographs as exhibit before the court.

The judge adjourned till May 24 and 31 for continuation of trial.

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