Islam is normally against postmortem examinations where a pathologist has to cut through the body to establish the cause of death. To them, the medics are only expected to observe the body to make their conclusions.
However, for the family of Fathiya Nassir, they were forced to opt for what they termed ‘invasive autopsy’ due to several unanswered questions over what killed her.
Authorities at the Lang'ata Women’s Prison in Nairobi, where she had been remanded since December 2019, say Fathiya died at the Kenyatta National Hospital while undergoing treatment.
“The deceased was a remand prisoner in our custody awaiting trial. She passed on at KNH while undergoing treatment on March 1, 2020,” reads a March 2 letter signed by Everlyne Kaliti, the Deputy Officer in Charge at the Langata Women Prison.
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But an autopsy on Fathiya’s body tells a different story from the narrative presented by prison authorities.
A picture of Fathiya’s body taken before it was cleaned by the mortuary staff, which was seen by The Standard, shows her head resting on a large dark red pool of blood on a metallic stretcher.
Until now, her blackened left eye stands out from the rest of her light-skinned face, her jaw appears dislocated and her face is visibly swollen.
“Three weeks ago, her mother was called and told Fathiya was not feeling well. She was told Fathiya was trembling, but everything else was okay,” Fathiya’s nephew, Shabir Daas, said. He said they were told she was put on medication after the incident.
Everything was well, or so the family thought, until the prison officials contacted Fathiya’s family on Monday morning.
“They called Fathiya’s sister, saying they needed to speak to their mother. They then asked her mother to go to the prison,” Daas said.
The family was informed Fathiya died on Sunday and her mother convinced to sign an affidavit saying she would not have a postmortem examination done on her. Prison officials argued there was no need for the procedure as Fathiya died from an illness.
Fathiya’s mother did not suspect any foul play and so she agreed to sign the affidavit. All the while, the prison had not showed any family member the body, not even Fathiya’s mother. The officials also offered an explanation on how Fathiya died.
“They said she was not feeling well and went to see a nurse at 4pm on Sunday. However, by 6pm, her condition had worsened prompting them to take her to Kenyatta National Hospital where she died on arrival,” Daas said.
In an audio recording heard by The Standard, a female warder is heard saying Fathiya died on arrival at KNH, and not during treatment at the facility as stated in the letter by the Deputy Officer in Charge at the Langata Women’s Prison.
According to the family, wardens told them Fathiya was experiencing withdrawal symptoms but was seeing a psychiatrist. However, the wardens, in a session captured by the recording, tell the family that Fathiya was okay until Sunday afternoon, when she suddenly started trembling then collapsed, prompting them to rush her to KNH.
The family also faults the prison for failing to inform them when Fathiya was taken to hospital and after her body was taken to the mortuary.
“We don’t have documentation from the hospital saying she died on arrival,” the family said.
The family also told The Standard that the prison officials told them the injuries on her face and the bleeding was due to mishandling of the body by the mortuary staff. But the family wondered how a dead person can sustain injuries or bleed.
With all the doubts, the family decided to use the pathologist at the morgue for the postmortem examination. However, they said the pathologist signed the postmortem form without even looking at the body.
Last week, the family hired another pathologist, who confirmed Fathiya was killed. But the pathologist declined to give details of Fathiya’s killing, saying the police need to be notified first.
Fathiya’s family buried her at the Langata Cemetery and said it would decide on the next course of action later.