Probe into 200 unnatural deaths in Goa await test report

June 3rd, 2008 - 11:41 am ICT by IANS  

By Frederick Noronha
Panaji, June 3 (IANS) Investigations into nearly 200 cases of unnatural death in Goa have been bogged down mainly on account of delays in receiving viscera test results of the bodies, conducted in laboratories outside the state. Cases have been pending from as far back as April 2006, M.K. Desai of the Office of the Superintendent of Police, Crime, Dona Paula, said in response to a Right to Information (RTI) query raised by this correspondent.

This issue has repeatedly come up in Goa, but it did so more dramatically following the February 2008 death of British tourist Scarlett Keeling. The 15-year-old was found dead - suspected to have been drugged, raped and killed - on a North Goa beach.

In the two-year period, Goa with a 1.4 million population found 197 cases pending, causing delays in investigations due to delays in these crucial viscera analyses.

Viscera refer to the internal organs of the body, especially those within the chest or abdomen.

In death cases where the precise cause and nature of death — whether suicide or homicide — is not yet determined, viscera tests are awaited till the precise cause of death is pinpointed.

Medical texts say usually viscera to be preserved from the body includes the stomach with its full contents, about one foot of the upper part of the intestine, half or 500 gm of the liver, half of each kidney and the whole spleen.

Currently, cases of Goa’s viscera tests are being sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory at Vidhyanagari-Santa Cruz in Mumbai. Earlier, the these were sent to Hyderabad, where the large backlog is now visible.

Foreigners’ deaths, for obvious reasons, result in higher publicity. Nearly 32 of the ‘viscera test pending’ cases pertain to foreigners.

Among the foreigners whose deaths are mostly still shrouded in mystery, due to viscera test pending status, are Maria Helstron, Richard Miler and Barbara Lane (October 2006), Den Ratliffo and Stuart Bell (February 2007), Frank Bringloc and Andrew White (March 2007), Olg Gorshkar, Joseph Yougert, James Elister, Bonny Dayhle, Aben Leonard, Maralin Bekwad, Sen Joseph, Otto Zizga, Has Jomsodi and Reic Harrison (all in Apr 2007).

Other foreign cases involve Willhelmine Black, Denise Higgins and Berd Zerreben (June 2007), Alvdar Gaslin (July 2007), Flavia D’zulo and Brian Dowes (both September 2007), Karus Helmet (October 2007), and Weis F. Madas (December 2007).

Likewise, cases of Evgeny Kuzmin, Gillian Frances Bell, Krister Lundh, Alexander Sokolov, Karl T. Milling, and Victor Pristavki (all six in Jan 2008) are among those whose names suggest a foreigner connection in the ‘viscera report awaited’ cases.

Besides the above listed cases, the high-profile case of Scarlett Keeling, pending from March 18 this year, is the only one sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory at Vidyanagari in Mumbai.

While the lack of testing facilities here is obviously delaying investigations in cases, some believe it is better to let the tests be carried out in central or out-of-state institutions to reduce the chances of results being manipulated locally.

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