‘Thajudeen murder: Then a mystery still a mystery’ -The Questionable role of former JMO Prof. Ananda Samarasekara
Colombo’s former Judicial Medical Officer Prof. Ananda Samarasekara has sent the following reply to our feature article headlined ‘Thajudeen murder: then a mystery still a mystery- The Questionable role of former JMO Prof. Ananda Samarasekara’. This appeared on August 10. While we stand-by our story, here we publish the response of the former Prof. Samarasekara as his right of reply and in line with the highest principles of journalism.
This article contains many inaccurate statements referring to me and the initial postmortem examination (PMR) carried out by me and two other Forensic Medical experts and a dental surgeon.
As alleged “The JMO reports have become the highlight of the investigation due to the failure to establish a conclusive cause of death initially” is false since interim report sent to the courts in April 2013 concluded the cause of death as ‘effects of head injury, injuries to lower limbs, thermal burns (due to fire) and probably carbon monoxide toxicity’ and an initial opinion regarding nature and case of injuries and effects.
Ms. Ayesha Thajudeen, the sister of the deceased informed us and also in her evidence in court, [there was] no reason to suspect regarding the [cause of] death. Several relatives and friends also had said the same in court. Police intimated to me that it was an accident due to negligent driving.
Previous medical reports and X- Rays of Thajudeen’s injury sustained while playing [rugby] were important scientific evidence to establish identity by the medical team before it handed over [Thajudeen’s] remains.
The body was beyond visual recognition due to extensive burning and charring. Therefore postmortem X-Rays had to be taken to compare them with previous medical records-surgically inserted nails [surgical pins] and ante-mortem X-rays. She was told to bring the medical records. Finally she has to give an affidavit written in a legally accepted format and signed before a justice of peace stating that the family is satisfied with the identity of the deceased although visual recognition is not possible. Any materials taken for further investigation and report are not shown to relatives. Forensically to the medical team this was just another postmortem examination of a charred body and the medico legal issues are similar. However if any information is required, relatives could obtain them from court. Police never provided photo/ video recording of the scene and the government analysit report on the scene.
"It has been said ‘he terms it a so called accident, when what exactly had happened is a murder”
The body parts did not go missing while conducting the post-mortem examination, the necessary body parts (bones) were retained for further examination pending further information from police. Secured parts were listed and intimated to courts as per the instructions and guidelines of the Ministry of Health (Where necessary body parts with injuries must be preserved and listed). It is the trained minor staff members who remove body parts and store in the cooler/ deep freezer of the mortuary after labeling. A few months later I saw them in the deep freezer. But two and half years after my retirement during my visit to the mortuary on the order made by court with the CID officer, they could not be located. The cooler compartments where these bones are stored had been dismantled and the freezer was out of order.
Since government analyst’s report on the samples sent for analysis was not available till my retirement I sent an interim report.
My post-mortem report consists of three parts.
1. Preliminary report (dated 17. 05. 2015 soon after post-mortem stating only basic/ initial findings)
2. Interim report (dated 09. 04. 2013 pending government analyst’s report stating the cause of death (stated earlier). After sending the interim report [there was] no communication from Court to me regarding submission of any report or to appear to give evidence until May 2015.According to instructions of the Ministry of Health the final PMR should be sent to court when noticed or summoned. The police had informed court they could not hand over summons to me.
3 Addendum to the post-mortem interim report dated 09. 09. 2015 on receipt of notice from court. (This is a supplement to the interim report dated 09. 04. 2013 to read with the injuries already described and further elaborating and analyzing the findings already described incorporating the Government Analyst’s report. It also included the answers and opinions regarding questions and clarifications asked while recording a statement by CID in June 2015.)
All the findings and the cause of death remained unchanged.
Addendum to the interim report was submitted by me prior to submission of the post-mortem of the panel. (Seal of the court dated: 03. 12. 2015).
The notice to submit the ‘final Report’ was issued to me before the order for exhumation was given and the final part of my report was submitted to court few months before the submission of the panel report on the exhumed body in complying with notice dated 29. 07. 2015.
I was neither informed nor involved in the exhumation. Surprisingly I observed many of my findings and comments/ conclusions in the final part of my post-mortem report had been incorporated in the panel report. It is a mystery as to how the final part of my report was obtained by the panel. And their opinion appears to be based on my investigation and my findings. In my view this is not only hearsay but also plagiarism.
Dr. Ajith Tennakoon, the incumbent JMO Colombo was an additional JMO under my administrative supervision at the time first post-postmortem examination was conducted. The second post-mortem had been done in the same institute and the dental surgeon, minor staff members and the photographer were the same. However we, the medical officers were never consulted. This is a gross deviation from the accepted norms and practice when conducting a second post-mortem examination in Sri Lanka.
"The body was beyond visual recognition due to extensive burning and charring"
There is only one post-mortem report consisting of three parts which is an accepted practice in similar situations. The intern report was submitted about ten and half months after the post-mortem examination and not after two years. The delay was due to the non-availability of reports of many samples collected for analysis and further information by police.
There were no contradictions in the three parts of my report and I challenge any one to show any such contradiction, neither with the panel report on the second post-mortem examination. Any one reading them carefully will understand that the analysis of the findings; conclusions and cause of death are basically same except the language differences and terminology used.
It has been said ‘he terms it a so called accident, when what exactly had happened is a murder”. It is not the function of the Medical Officer to decide the manner (accident, suicide or homicide) of death. Calling it a murder is even going further than saying homicide. A ‘Forensic ‘Expert’ should know his limitation and should not take over the function of the Magistrate, Attorney General or even the police investigator. I challenge any one to show that I have called this an accident.
If anyone is to advice me how to give an opinion, the advisor must be more qualified, knowledgeable, experienced (national and international) than me. Irrespective that who is advising me had examined me at an examination or had been a subordinate officer, I am ready to accept such if advice is given genuinely, with facts and in a scientific manner without malice.
It is relevant to compare the two orders made by the Magistrate on the cause of death in the first instance and the second instance (after the second post-mortem examination)
1. Dated 05.07.2013
Considering the observations made at the scene and the body, evidence given by Fathima Ayesha Thajudeen, Mohamud Sakeer Badurdeen, Angodage Don Sumith Chaminda Perera and the facts contained in the report on the post-mortem examination conducted by Dr Ananda Samarasekera and other facts stated in the PMR, the Cause of death of Mohamad Waseem Thajudeen isinjuries to head, injuries to body parts, high temperature caused due to fire and burns and inhalation of toxic Carbon Monoxide gas.
2. Dated 25.02.2016
Considering the post-mortem report submitted by Dr Ananda Samarasekera, PMR submitted by the medical panel on the advice of the Attorney General, on the exhumed remains, the death of Waseem Thajudeen was due to ‘multiple injuries to legs, neck and the chest and their consequences followed with consequences of the fire’.
When analysing the cause of deaths declared by the Additional Magistrate in the two instances there is no significant difference except for the terminology used.