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Whodunnit? . . . And why? . . . And how?

 The tragic death of 12-year-old Shemar Patrick Weekes last Thursday, and the investigation into the circumstances of his demise have raised another issue, which it is hoped will be given full vent by the authorities at some stage.

We often take it for granted that in cases of murder or other homicides we are equipped with the specialists to determine cause of death and all the other attendant scientific information. Successful prosecutions and/or investigations into cases where there has been loss of life invariably hinge on the important aspect of causation of death.

In a public statement yesterday by Assistant Commissioner of Police (in charge of crime management and investigations) Mark Thompson, as it related to the deceased Shemar, he stated: “The Royal Barbados Police Force has an obligation to its internal and external clients to deliver professional investigative services at all times. Forensic evidence often forms part of these services; frequently it is the most critical determinant of the integrity of the services.”

Of course, the erudite senior officer and attorney-at-law was on the ball and profoundly accurate in his assessment.

His comments came after a post-mortem of Shemar’s corpse was halted. Mr Thompson would further articulate: “As a consequence, the RBPF always seeks to ensure it employs the best forensic resources available to it. Having considered all the issues in the case of Shemar Patrick Weekes and the dire consequences of misinformation, it is the reasoned judgement of the authorities that a more scientific approach, which is not available here, should be employed. Hence, there has been a delay in the conduct of the post-mortem. Nevertheless, measures to procure these scientific services have already been employed.”

Once again, as the consummate professional that Mr Thompson is, his actions and pronouncements were in keeping with the proper policing procedures for which he has an excellent reputation.

It is our understanding, and by definition, that forensic pathology relates to the investigation and evaluation of cases of sudden, unexpected, suspicious and violent death, or any other circumstance where untoward loss of life occurs. Forensic pathologists are highly trained medical doctors who determine the cause of cessation of life and the manner of that death, whether it be murder, suicide, natural or otherwise. Forensic pathology also determines time of death, according to our research.

We are aware of the field of clinical pathology and understand that clinical pathologists exist in the island. Again, according to our research, this scientific field covers a whole gamut of laboratory functions and deals with diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease. Clinical pathologists, we understand, are doctors with special training who examine blood, urine, and other body fluid specimens to observe levels of certain chemicals and other substances in
the body.

Following this a determination to conduct additional study is then made based on those test results.

In essence, the roles of a forensic pathologist and a clinical pathologist, though having areas of overlap, are not fundamentally the same. That Mr Thompson would suggest, with respect to Shemar’s post-mortem that “forensic evidence . . . is the most critical determinant of the integrity of the services” and that “having considered all the issues in the case of Shamar Patrick Weekes . . . it is the reasoned judgement of the authorities that a more scientific approach which is not available here should be employed”, one can only assume that the initial examination yesterday was not conducted by a forensic pathologist.

The questions must therefore be asked: was the post-mortem initiated by a clinical pathologist, and if so, why? Does Barbados have a registered forensic pathologist resident in this jurisdiction, and if not, why not?

Have previous post-mortems related to murder or other forms of homicide been conducted by a clinical or forensic pathologist, and if they have not been conducted by a forensic pathologist, what is the evidential value of the findings of a clinical pathologist as it relates to cause of death?

Of course, these are not questions to be answered by Mr Thompson or the Royal Barbados Police Force. Mr Thompson and his colleagues are employees of the state and depend on Government to provide the tools by which they function. The onus is thus on the Government of Barbados to tell its citizenry why the Royal Barbados Police Force, in the words of Mr Thompson has to seek out “a more scientific approach which is not available here”.

After all, there are many at her Majesty’s Prisons, Dodds, and surely more to follow, who will be depending on proper forensic pathological examinations of corpses for whom they have been accused or convicted for sending to their demise.

7 Responses to Whodunnit? . . . And why? . . . And how?

  1. Andrew The Voice May 21, 2015 at 12:51 am

    By this very nature, tells us somethings doesn’t smell right here. So if they determine that they need additional assistance, somethings NOT straight forward.
    The rumors may be true. We will wait and see.

  2. Tony Webster May 21, 2015 at 5:46 am

    This departed youngster’s face reminds me of my own 12-year old God-son, whose “features” are similar, and whose smile is the same: just about a mile wide.
    I’m sure many of us can see their own kids face, in the photographs.
    Sends shivers down my back.
    Is God still a Bajan?

  3. Chris Wright May 21, 2015 at 8:28 am

    It is sad to see that there has to be a sacrifice of life before any public action is taken to protect society. How many times have we seen a traffic light installed only after a few die at the intersectio?
    Here we are all shaking our heads in disgust, asking many questions and fuelling the rumor mill following the death of Shemar.
    It’ time for those in power listen to those they employ who seek to improve the services rendered to the public. Its time to bring all aspects of services up to date as the country continues to cater to tbe world at the tourism level. This also goes for the services rendered in the investigation of crime as we see the murder rate taking a turn no one wants to see.

  4. Stephen Lovell May 21, 2015 at 9:44 am

    Tony, God was never a Bajan. Just another untruth they told us to get more in the collection plate.

  5. Bajan May 21, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    This is a great Editorial and excellent questions. A forensic pathologist would normally be hired by a government on a permanent basis where there is a high or consistent volume of unnatural deaths or homicides that required forensic examination. There was never a need to have one in Barbados or many of the smaller Caribbean Islands simply because there was no consistent flow of homicide victims to the morgue. In other words there was not enough work for a forensic pathologist, thus the return of investment was not worth it. It was cheaper and just as effective to hire one when the need arose. Maybe it’s time to review that practice as the local and regional homicide trend within recent years seem to suggest a consistently higher volume of unnatural deaths within our small island communities. If Barbados added a permeant forensic pathologist to our forensic center it would be an asset to local and regional (OECS) homicide investigations as the pathologist, like the other locally based forensic scientists, would be available to serve these small islands too. Thus the return on investment is way worth it.

  6. Bajan May 21, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    There are some glaring concerns about this whole situation. The fact that the death of this child was unnatural meant that it was a homicide and warranted the expertise of a forensic pathologist from day one. It also meant that the crime scene at his home should have remained intact and secured, maintaining its forensic and evidential integrity until it was examined by the forensic pathologist on his arrival in Barbados. Examining crime scenes is an integral part of the forensic pathologist work. It appears however this might not have been the case since the ‘idea’ of bringing in a forensic pathologist seemed to have ‘popped up’ during the initial autopsy by a clinical pathologist. One might ask then, why would a clinical pathologist, being aware of the reported circumstances of the boy’s death even attempt to perform an autopsy on the body knowing that it was beyond their certified field of pathology? But the biggest ethical issue that affects the integrity of this investigation is the presence of the deceased’s mother at the autopsy. Is this not the same mother that was initially questioned by the police and the same person who might be questioned further after the findings of the forensic pathologist are received by the police? Why then would the Royal Barbados Police Force allow a person of interest who could become a candidate of a more focused criminal investigation to observe the findings of the forensic examination? And please don’t tell us that she is the mother and that she has a right to witness the autopsy of her son. A reply like that would do more harm than good to the investigative reputation of the Police Force. Whatever the findings of the pathologist and whatever the ruling of a Coroner’s Inquest one pertinent fact is evident and that is, the Royal Barbados Police Force needs to get on board with modern 21st Century law enforcement ethics, investigative techniques and practices.

  7. nanci May 21, 2015 at 4:38 pm

    what about her boyfriend, did you beat up the boy, and was he questioned, the mother said the boy used to give a lot of lip, so I am going to theorize that the boyfriend lost his patience with a child that was not his, we all know some boyfriends or step father can be cruel to the child that dont belong to him. I still think the mother knows what happen but is holding back something. The sister said sharmar started this action that killed him, but when he decided to stop it was too far, who she heard that from, and I am thinking if the step father is the one who strung up the boy, and it went too far,, then if he was breathing after he was cut down, why didnt the step preform CPR until the ambulance come. All parents and school staff should know how to preform CPR and render first Aid. The forensic person maybe will find out if it was a murder or if the child was capable of tying a rope, and at the same time tying it around his neck, something is wrong here.


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