Durban doctor accused of poor autopsy

Picture: Thinkstock

Picture: Thinkstock

A doctor was accused in the Durban Regional Court on Monday of performing a sub-standard post mortem on the body of a former Royal Marine beaten to death after a rugby match.

Christo van Schalkwyk, for Blayne Shepard, 23, and his brother Kyle, 25, accused Dr Ashley Hammond of failing to meet the standards set down in a manual for personnel carrying out post mortems at state mortuaries.

Van Schalkwyk made the accusation after it emerged that Hammond had failed to fill in the name of Brett Williams on the forms on which he described his findings.

“Your autopsy fell short of the required standards,” said Van Schalkwyk.

The two brothers, along with Andries van der Merwe, 23, and Dustin van Wyk, 23, each face a charge of murder, three of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, and one of crimen injuria.

They are accused of beating Williams to death outside Durban’s Kings Park stadium on the night of March 23, 2013, after the Sharks beat the Melbourne Rebels in a Super Rugby match.

The court previously heard that Williams had been in fight with Grant Cramer, a friend of Blayne Shepard. During that scuffle Cramer held Williams in a choke hold before dropping him to the ground unconscious.

The court heard last week that violent shaking tore small blood vessels in Williams’s brain, causing a blood clot that killed him.

“His head must have been shaken around violently. It was probably a violent and sudden shaking of the head that caused it,” Hammond said during his evidence-in-chief on Thursday.

Under cross-examination Hammond told the court that when he carried out a post mortem he dictated his findings to a scribe, who took notes. He said he would sign off the scribe’s notes afterwards.

On March 28, 2013, he recalled he had performed three or four post mortems at Durban’s Gale Street mortuary before he signed off on the hand-written notes.

He conceded it was possible that if the scribe had missed or not heard something he said, it was also possible for him to miss it.

It emerged during his evidence-in-chief that various bruises on Williams’s body were not noted in the post mortem report.

Hammond said often the notes police wrote on a form, called a SAPS 180, were “incomplete and unsatisfactory”. The SAPS 180 is intended to help those performing post mortems to know what happened to a victim.

At one stage during the cross-examination, Hammond told Van Schalkwyk: “I don’t think anyone has cross-examined me the way you have.”

– Sapa

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