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Experts’ word after 8-hour postmortem examination

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Updated Wednesday, May 1st 2013 at 00:00 GMT +3
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Pathologists who performed a post-mortem examination on the body of the late Senator Mutula Kilonzo took eight hours but at the end concurred the cause of death could only be established in the next eight to ten weeks.

This is the period the autopsy experts expect to have the full results on tests from specimens extracted from the body.

We took long because we wanted to be thorough, Chief Government s Pathologist Dr Johansen Oduor told journalists at the end of the gruelling wait.

There are many tests that we need to conduct before knowing the possible cause of the death and this may take eight to ten weeks to know, said Oduor. Dr Oduor said the samples would be tested by experts who will reveal the results. He added: All of us, the seven pathologists, are in agreement on the exercise so far. They did not however want to respond to questions from journalists.

The British autopsy expert, Dr Ian Madison Calder, too said he agreed with his colleagues.  “I am in agreement with our colleagues and the findings will take a bit longer to be out,” said Dr Calder before they walked away.

Seven pathologists, including a respected British autopsy expert in cases of sudden death, took part in the postmortem examination on the body of the late Makueni Senator.

The autopsy experts yesterday entered the Lee Funeral Home to conduct the exercise expected to unravel the cause of Mutula’s sudden death last Saturday.

However, eight hours later, at 8pm to be precise, non of them had not come out to brief journalists as promised late afternoon by a personal assistant to Machakos Senator, Mr Johnstone Muthama. Muthama witnessed the exercise.

The Senator was in the autopsy room together with the medical representatives of Mutula’s family, Dr Luke Musau of Nairobi Hospital, Dr Emily Rogena, and Dr Calder Ian Madison from the UK.

Media briefing

Dr Calder, his papers showed, has among his areas of expertise, “Forensic medicine in the context of sudden and unexpected death”. The papers also says, “he is a conductor of second autopsies,” meaning cases where the first one is either disputed, disregarded or inconclusive.

However, despite the eight-hour wait, at ten minutes after 8pm, the journalists, who had been waiting outside Lee Funeral Home where Mutula’s body is being kept, got the briefing opportunity they had been waiting for.

While briefing the journalists Muthama earlier showed journalists the temporary practising licence Kenya’s medical authorities issued to Dr Calder whom the Mutula family flew over from Britain to help unearth what caused their patriarch’s death as he slept alone in his Maanzoni Ranch, Machakos County. 

The document showed Dr Calder is free to conduct his medical investigation in Kenya for the next ten months. It also showed he is a member of the reputable British Medical Society.

The long wait raised questions on whether the pathologists may have gone into a meeting to review their individual findings at the examination table, where they opened up the body to study the state of the vital organs such as the heart, liver, kidneys and even brain.

In Mutula’s case they took specimens for further laboratory tests and this could include samples from his digestive system.

Medical examination

Postmortem examination usually includes physical examination for any wounds or injuries not obvious to the eye, and where the wounds are visible, an analysis is done to ascertain what might have caused them.

Leading the autopsy team was Dr Oduor, and his colleague Dr Dorothy Njeru. Both Dr Oduor and Dr Njeru examined the bodies of victims of the June 10, 2012, helicopter crash, including that of former Internal security minister Prof George Saitoti and his deputy the late Joshua Orwa Ojode.

Other doctors who took part included Dr Frederick Okinyi from Machakos Level Five Hospital, under whose medical administrative area Mutula died.

There were also Dr Andrew Gachie, who alongside Oduor and Calder, briefed journalists.

The country keenly followed news of the postmortem examination because of the various theories flying around on what could have killed Mutula, a former Justice and Education minister, as well as a senior member of the legal fraternity.

Sources close to family members told The Standard Mutula had expressed fears for his life during the week leading up to his death, including the day he died. This was after having retired to bed at about 7.30pm the previous night after enjoying his favourite meal.

He was later to be found lying dead in bed by one of his workers with foam on his mouth when he failed to wake up as usual after 9am. There were also traces of blood on his vomit, a friend of the family who was at the scene revealed to The Standard journalists.

Yesterday, a group of lawyers led by Roger Sagana, lead police investigator Pius Macharia and some members of the Mutula’s family were also at the Lee Funeral Home to witness the exercise.

Dr Calder arrived at Lee Funeral Home at 12.17 pm and was briefed by the lead pathologist Dr Oduor.

Officials said Dr Calder — an independent witness at first autopsies in UK and abroad, and a conductor of second autopsies on instruction — arrived in Kenya aboard Kenya Airways at 6.20am yesterday.

The fears

Muthama said Dr Calder’s licence to practise was scrutinised by Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board before he was allowed to operate in the country by the Director of Medical Services, Dr Francis Kimani.

The licence only allows him to render services at the Lee Funeral Home. Muthama said his move to obtain a licence, which he displayed to journalists was procedural.

“There has been no hitch at all and we have received all the necessary support from the relevant authorities. We had to get the services of a foreign expert because of the history we have had in this country to clear any form of doubts,” explained Muthama.

He had earlier addressed journalists in the company of Dr Calder and Dr Oduor outside the funeral home before they walked to the autopsy room.

Mutula is expected to be buried next week on May 9 in the ranch where he died. Mutula had prior to his death told one of The Standard reporters he had a story that would shake the country, which he wanted to talk to her about.

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