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Sloppy work by cops is cause

Published: 
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Pathologist on low crime detection:
Akiel Chambers

Often homicide cases are “screwed up from the very beginning” due to sloppy work on the part of the police.  According to forensic pathologist Dr Valery Alexandrov, who is assigned to the Forensic Science Centre, St James, because of shoddy work many cases have gone cold.  Citing the death of eight-year-old Daniel Guerra as an example, Alexandrov, in an interview yesterday, said while the manner of death may have been determined, the circumstances surrounding it were yet to be decided which may result in the probe becoming cold.

 He added: “An autopsy does not solve the crime. It is part of the investigation. The police are supposed to provide certain circumstantial evidence which will include details and photos of the crime scene to paint a more comprehensive picture.  “In most cases when a body is brought in the police don’t even know the name of the victim. They would say, ‘we just escorting the body.’ But police work is not an escort service.”  He said although he developed a special form to be filled out by police to provide circumstantial information before an autopsy, in most cases that too was ignored.

 In Daniel’s case, he said, little or no circumstantial evidence was provided by the police.  He added: “The boy’s autopsy will not solve the case. It is the police who have to do their work by properly gathering circumstantial evidence from the very beginning and if that’s not so it would mean the police are lazy.  “That’s why we have a detection of rate of seven per cent at best, because from the very onset cases are screwed up by the police because there is no gathering of circumstantial evidence,” Alexandrov said.

 The pathologist wondered whether photographs were taken of tyre marks, or of footprints, near the river where Daniel’s body was found.  Officers from the Crime Scene Unit (CSU), Alexandrov contended, were not properly trained and they “don’t have a clue” about the gathering of forensic evidence.  “In the United States there are medical investigators to gather forensic evidence. In Trinidad most of the police don’t know the difference between blood and decomposition fluid.  “Some of the officers don’t know the difference between close and distant range or the different types of calibres,” he said.  Alexandrov added that medical investigators work in tandem with the police and were specially trained to detect wounds, rigor mortis and other material relating to pathology.

“The police would then gather the physical evidence,”Alexandrov explained.  Daniel went missing around midday two Fridays ago after leaving his Bedeau Street, Gasparillo, home to go to a nearby parlour.  His body was found in a river off the Tarouba Link Road, San Fernando, two days later.  Alexandrov assisted in the first autopsy which was conducted by pathologist by Dr Eastlyn Mc Donald Borris last Monday and which gave the cause of death as drowning.  A second autopsy, conducted by Dr Hubert Daisley, another pathologist at the mortuary of the San Fernando General Hospital on Thursday, concluded the child was strangled.  A third autopsy, done by United States forensic pathologist Professor James Gill, determined Daniel was murdered, giving “asphyxia consistent with homicide” as the cause.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                About Valery Alexandrov

 Dr Valery Alexandrov was born in Russia in March 1947 and became an American citizen in 1994.  In 2007 he served in T&T as a pathologist under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), operating at the Forensic Science Centre, St James.  He was subsequently invited back by T&T to work here.  Prior to that, he worked in the state of Michigan in private practice as an independent forensic pathologist/consultant.  Alexandrov has a wealth of experience, including working in several European countries, including Germany and Italy.

 He is trained in pathology, forensic pathology, forensic issues in war crimes and torture investigations, forensic and somatic autopsies, anatomic pathology and toxicology.  In 1987, Alexandrov was a member of the International Commission (USSR, Germany, Poland, and Sweden) investigating the mass executions of victims of Joseph Stalin’s purges and various other crimes against humanity.  Daniel Guerra is just the latest young murder victim whose brutal end has prompted a national outpouring of grief and outrage.  Some of the cases are still unsolved.

Here is a look back at some of those cases:

 Sean Luke

 Buggered to death: The body of little Sean Luke was found in a canefield near his home at Orange Valley, Couva, on March 28, 2006.  The six-year-old, a United States citizen, would have felt no fear, smiling and laughing with the predator until he was stripped of his clothing and killed in a most agonising way.  Pathologist Dr Eastlyn Mc Donald Burris found, during a preliminary examination, the killer inserted a sugarcane stalk into the boy’s rectum, and pushed it until it reached the child’s throat.  His intestines were ruptured and other organs damaged. 

He died from internal bleeding.

 Akeel Mitchell, 17, and Richard Chatoo, 20, have been charged with the boy’s brutal murder. They were 13 and 16 when they were arrested. 

Tecia Henry

Ten-year-old Tecia Henry went missing on June 12, 2009, and  was found dead in a hole beneath a house in Plaisance Terrace, Laventille. Her partly decomposed corpse was found by a Cepep crew about four days after she went missing. An autopsy revealed the child was strangled.  Reputed leader of Laventille’s Block Eight gang Ricardo “Docks” McCarthy, who was suspected of ordering the child’s murder, was discovered shot dead two weeks later.  Henry, who lived on Essex Street, John John, with her mother, Diane Henry, and attended the St Rose’s Girls’ Primary School was sent to a nearby parlour but never returned home. 

Hope Arismendez

The little girl’s battered and bruised body was found in a canefield in Petersfield, on the outskirts of Felicity, on May 29, 2008.  Hope, eight, was raped, buggered and stabbed to death. Her semi-nude body was left on a dirt road in the canefield, which runs parallel to Pierre Road, Charlieville.  Homicide detectives said there was a stab wound to the anus and a knife was recovered from the canefield.  Hours before the victim was to be given her final farewell, her alleged killer Sunil Ali, 28, slashed both his wrists with a razor blade and hanged himself with a bedsheet in his prison cell at the Remand Yard, Golden Grove Prison, Arouca.

Inmates in cells nearby raised an alarm and Ali was found by prisons officers hanging from the ventilation blocks of his number seven cell, located at the Top Security Block on the eastern side of the Remand Yard.

Akiel Chambers

Akiel Chambers, 11, was found floating in a pool at the home of Charles and Annelore James at Haleland Park, Maraval, on May 24, 1998. No one saw Akiel get into the pool but when his body mysteriously surfaced the following day, he was wearing a man’s swimming trunks. An autopsy proved the boy was a victim of sexual assault. 

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