Koodathayi serial murder case: Prevention of autopsy affecting evidence gathering in cases

Grim reminder: The house at Kozhikode’s Koodathayi village, where the murders took place.

Grim reminder: The house at Kozhikode’s Koodathayi village, where the murders took place.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Surgical procedure not done on five of the six victims in serial murder case

Prevention of autopsy in suspicious deaths, mainly due to popular beliefs about mutilation of the body, is found to be affecting gathering of evidence by investigating officials, a fact being highlighted against the backdrop of the Koodathayi serial murder case as the surgical procedure was not carried out on five of the six victims.

“Misconceptions about post-mortem are leading relatives of the deceased to seek help of influential people to avoid proper legal procedures. It should be left to forensic experts to determine if a death is natural or unnatural, that too after detailed inspection,” Deepu Sadasivan, admin of Infoclinic, a popular medical-related page on Facebook, pointed out.

P.S. Jinesh, former lecturer in Forensic Medicine, Government Medical College, Kottayam, said that any death, when it is not caused by a disease, should be termed an unnatural death that warrants an autopsy. “Suppose someone dies due to the injuries suffered from falling from a cycle, a tree, or train, it is an unnatural death. If it is suspected that the death happened due to poison entering the body, it also needs autopsy. If someone just collapses and dies and the cause of death cannot be ascertained, a post-mortem should be held,” he said. Dr. Jinesh said that even if a person dies at home and the reason cannot be certified, autopsy is a must.

“People still believe that autopsy will lead to mutilation of the body, which will be akin to disrespecting the deceased person. This is not true as forensic experts follow clear guidelines for the procedure like during in a surgery,” Dr. Jinesh said.

“The gender or age of the deceased need not be a factor if the cause of death is unknown. The doctor should intimate the jurisdictional police officer not below the rank of sub-inspector,” he said.

Watch | Koodathayi serial murders: Jolly Joseph confessed to plotting and killing six family members

N. Subhash Babu, retired Superintendent of Police, pointed out that even if a person is brought dead to a hospital, the doctor should intimate the police. “Police officials are bound to seek post-mortem under sections 174,175,176 of the Code of Criminal Procedure if the deaths are unnatural. However, often politicians and relatives are found to exert pressure to avoid the procedure in many cases,” he said. Mr. Babu said that only forensic surgeons, government civil surgeons or government authorised medical officers should do the procedure. If autopsy was not performed and doubts arise later, inquest procedures are to be held as per the directions of the Revenue Divisional Officer, he said.

Dr. Sadasivan pointed out that pathological autopsy might even help unravel unknown details about particular diseases. “This could be helpful in future research into such conditions. The government also needs to create more posts of forensic surgeons in the Health Department so that their expertise can be used in such situations,” he added.

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Printable version | May 28, 2020 10:24:18 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kozhikode/prevention-of-autopsy-affecting-evidence-gathering-in-cases/article29649767.ece

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