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Vespers inquest hears that pathologist did not examine lung samples

A CLINICAL pathologist has told a Lusaka coroner hearing the inquest on the death of University of Zambia student Vespers Shimunzhila that he cannot exclude the possibility of inhalation of toxic substances as cause of death because he did not examine any lung samples.

The fourth year student died on October 5 last year following a riot at the UNZA Great East Road campus over delayed payment of meal allowances

Dr Sumbukeni Francis Kowa, 45, of Avondale said he could not exclude the possibility of inhaling toxic substances as the cause of death because he did not examine any lung samples.

He said this when he was cross-examined by Mulambo Haimbe, one of the lawyers representing Vespers family.

And in his testimony, Dr Kowa said the three samples, which he analysed all tested negative for toxicology.

He explained that on October 9, 2018, he received samples belonging to Vespers from the forensic department.
Dr Kowa said the samples he received were blood, stomach content and vaginal swab.
He said the samples were from the forensic pathologist who requested for toxicology examination.
He said he proceeded to analyse the samples and did not find any evidence of toxic substances from the blood.
Dr Kowa said he also did an alcohol examination and it was negative.
He said on the swab, he looked for spermatozoe which also came out negative.
Dr Kowa said he put all the findings in the report which stated that there was no toxins in the three specimens.
Asked whether it was necessary to examine the vaginal swab in order to determine Vespers’s cause of death by Laston Mwanabo, the doctor responded in the negative.
Dr Kowa said he did not examine any substance from the lungs where suffocation happens.
The doctor said he did not examine the lungs and when he said there were no toxins, it was in reference to the analysis he did.
Dr Kowa said he could not exclude the possibility of death as a result of inhalation of toxic substances as he did not examine any sample from the lungs.
He said the containers which contained the samples were labelled with the deceased’s names.
Dr Kowa said he did no tests to match the deceased to the samples he examined.
He agreed with Haimbe that since he did not match the samples with the deceased he could not certainly say they were for Vespers.
Haimbe asked if he had sight of the pathologist report, to which he said no.
Asked if it was true that the pathologist told him verbally what the suspected cause of death was, he responded in the affirmative.
Dr Kowa said the pathologist told him the cause of death was suffocation.
Asked whether it was within his mandate to ask for further samples given the suspicious cause of death, Dr Kowa said they respond to what was on the request.
He said his job was to do analysis and not to rule out certain things.
And when Haimbe asked Dr Kowa to confirm that the inquest request of toxicology did not rule out the cause of death, Dr Kowa agreed.
He explained that he used a thin layer chromatography to examine blood and stomach content.
Dr Kowa said as for alcohol, he used cavet analysis and for the swab, it was microscopy examination that was done.
The doctor however, said thin layer chromatography was not the most reliable method to use.
Another witness, assistant superintendent Mulonda Philip Mulonda, 48 of Sikanze Camp, a police officer based at Service Headquarters forensic department, pathology unit testified that he was an assistant to the pathologist.

He said he was based at UTH and that on Sunday October 7, 2018, he received a case of sudden death from Chelstone Police Station in which they requested the pathologist to do postmortem, which he assisted.
Mulonda said the body was for Vespers and his role was to help in dissecting the body, collection of specimen as instructed by the pathologist.
Mulonda said he was instructed to collect four samples two blood samples, one stomach content sample and a swab.
He said food and drugs do not work on Saturday and Sundays and the only day to submit samples was every Friday in a week.
Mulonda said there was a safety room, which was provided for by the Ministry of Home Affairs, which had a fridge.
He said he put the specimen in tubes, which were normally used and he labelled them.
He said the following day, the pathologist requested his supervisor, a Mr Mwenya, to take three samples to the drug laborator.

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