Pathologist testifies about cause of death

Estella Scott-Roberts was no longer
breathing when the vehicle she was in started burning on a dyke road in West Bay
the night of 10 October 2008.

That was the evidence of pathologist
Dr. Bruce Hyma, who reported his findings on Friday in the trial of Kirkland
Henry and Larry Prinston Ricketts, who are accused of Estella’s murder.

Mr. Hyma said when he conducted his
examination of remains from the vehicle, he found that the airway to the lungs
had no visible soot or debris. “That indicates she was not inhaling any
products of combustion. She was not breathing at the time she was exposed to
heat and products of combustion,” Mr. Hyma said.

My. Hyma said he made his
examination on 13 October 2008 – two days after the burnt-out car and its
contents were found. At that time the most important part of his work was to
try to get the remains identified. He was able to obtain a blood specimen from
a deep vein in the abdomen.

The court has already heard that
DNA from this blood matched the DNA of known samples from Estella’s toothbrush
and hairbrush.

Later analysis of that blood sample
confirmed the physical exam results. No products of combustion were detected, neither
carbon monoxide nor cyanide.

Microscopic examination of the
lungs showed changes consistent with asphyxial death; that is, being deprived
of oxygen to breathe.

Solicitor General Cheryll Richards
asked Mr. Hyma if asphyxial death would be consistent with a plastic bag being
placed over one’s head.

“That would produce this kind of
finding, yes,” he replied.

Depending on how the bag was sealed,
death would occur within two to three minutes. Unconsciousness would occur
sooner – fractions of a minute, Mr.
Hyma said.

Ms Richards asked about a plastic
bag because the court has heard that defendant Henry allegedly told a senior
police officer that co-accused Ricketts put a bag over the lady’s head and
taped it till she died.

He is reported to have said that
Ricketts grabbed the lady in the parking lot behind Deckers Restaurant and then
drove her car “into the bush” where they both had sex with her. Then Ricketts
allegedly moved the car and killed her before he lit the vehicle.

Mr. Hyma told the court that Estella’s
death was a homicide, not an accident, not suicide and not a natural death.  She was killed by another person or persons.

He explained that X-rays had been
taken before his examination of the remains. He did not identify any projectiles, such as bullets. There were no foreign objects
except a safety pin.

Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, who
is hearing the matter without a jury, noted that Mr. Hyma was not able to give
a conclusion as to the actual cause of death, but was of the view that the
condition of the lungs was consistent with an asphyxial kind.

 “But nonetheless you are not conclusively in a
position to say that that was the cause of death, is that it?” the Chief Justice
asked Mr. Hyma.

 “That’s correct,” the witness responded. “It’s
inferred from the circumstances and the physical evidence and factual information
as relayed to me. The manner of death in my opinion clearly is homicide.”

The Chief Justice then asked if the
findings relating to the lungs would be consistent with any other cause of death.

“In the context of this investigation,
no,” Mr. Hyma said.

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