STILL NO CAUSE OF DEATH

Debate on stolen heart intensifies as case proceeds

Body exhumed with bruises, missing organs; mortician says he saw suspect take the heart

In Summary

• Former chief pathologist's lawyer asked why his colleague was not charged alongside him despite them conducting the first postmortem together. 

• Other pathologists say accused took the heart and other organs for further exams at his medical college but he has denied taking them. 

The controversy surrounding a case in which former chief government pathologist Moses Njue is accused of stealing a dead man's heart deepens as the hearing proceeds in Meru. 

Njue’s lawyer John Abwuor asked why Njue’s colleague Scholastica Kimani was not charged alongside him saying they both conducted the first postmortem on the body of octogenarian Benedict Karau. 

Kimani had said that during the first autopsy on March 12, 2015, at Nkubu Consolata Hospital, the organs were taken for further examination at the Government Chemist.

She told the court she packaged the organs and gave them to Njue who was flanked by five students from his medical college. 

“He took away the organs as well as the stomach, blood and urine samples from the body of Karau to conduct further tests,” Kimani had said in her testimony.

A histology procedure takes two weeks to complete, she said.

But Njue dismissed claims by his three colleagues that he took the heart for histology at his Kings Medical College in Nyeri. 

The Embu Level 5 Hospital CEO has denied stealing, removing or destroying Karau's heart. He was arraigned before then Meru chief magistrate Lucy Ambasi last year on June 18. 

He was freed on Sh500,000 bail. 

Abwour also asked pathologist Sylvester Maingi why they came to a conclusion that the cause of death could not be determined without the missing heart and kidney during the second postmortem at the Meru Funeral Home. 

Testifying before chief magistrate Hannah Ndung’u, Maingi replied that the first postmortem had concluded that Karau’s death was as a result of Myocardial infarction, so the heart was crucial to establish the cause of death. 

“What if you were hired to do panel beating? Did you doubt the findings of pathologists Njue and Kimani bearing in mind during the second postmortem the body was decomposing?” Abwour asked. 

Maingi said it doesn’t matter whether the body was decomposed.

He said he never doubted the expertise of his two colleagues "but some observations like bruises were noticed on the second postmortem that were not recorded during the first one". 

He added that the second autopsy was more weighty as it was conducted by four practising pathologists. 

Exhumed with bruises 

Maingi told the court that the body was exhumed for a second postmortem on August 10, 2015, after a High Court order. It was preserved at Meru Funeral Home until August 18, 2015, after re-examination.  

“The body was in the coffin, had slightly caved in but was largely intact. The glass cover had collapsed probably due to soil pressure exerted. I, Oduor, Njue and Kimani were all present for re-examination to know the actual cause of death.”

Maingi added, “Both lungs were present and decomposing, part of the liver, intestines, the brain was liquefied but I didn’t find the heart and both kidneys. Based on the body parts missing, we could not make a conclusion to the cause of death." 

He said there were injuries and bruises on the face, head, skull and arms. 

Abwour asked Maingi if he took some time to look at the gravesite to see if the gravediggers left the organs there. 

Maingi said his sole responsibility was to oversee the exhumation exercise and give relevant instructions.

Abwour, however, questioned why he did not record the missing organs in the second postmortem to which Maingi said it was agreed Dr Njue was to avail the organs in two weeks. "But he has never done so."

“We asked Dr Kimani about the missing organs, she told us she was aware and went on to ask Dr Njue if he had returned the heart which he took for histology but Njue asked to be given two weeks to avail them,” Maingi said. 

Nkubu Morgue mortician John Mutegi told the court he has no doubts Njue took the heart and put it in a paper bag and later hid it in his car that was packed at the hospital premises.

Mutegi recalled that after dissecting the body, Kimani requested him to pick four tins to safely store some organs for further examination in Nairobi. 

“The body was brought at Nkubu Morgue from Meru Level 5 Hospital. Njue was with his interns, I remember him teaching them at the morgue. I brought the tins from our pharmacy," the 18-year mortician said.

"I helped Kimani seal the tins with stomach, one kidney, part of the liver and part of the heart. Kimani went out first, I and Njue followed and he carried the paper bag which he took to his car." 

He was, however, hard-pressed to explain why he did not report to police present or inform Kimani that Njue had taken the organs. 

Njue says although he appended his signature after performing the second autopsy with his colleagues, he did not agree with the conclusion of the second report which Maingi disputed in court. 

The case hearing will proceed next year on February 25. 

Edited by R.Wamochie