Yabinta Jarju: “Cause of death is head injury due to gunshot” – autopsy report


By Rohey Jadama Corporal 3700 Muhammed Sowe testified as the sixth prosecution witnessBinta Jarju (PW6) in the ongoing trial of Mustapha Njie, the driver of the taxi vehicle in which Binta Jarju was shot and killed . Corporal Sowe was giving evidence before Magistrate Patrick Gomez of Kanifing Magistrates Court yesterday 1st April,2015. ASP Mballowrepresented the IGP, while Edward A. Gomez announced his appearance for the accused person. The Corporal told the court that he is attached to the major crime unit of the police headquarters and that he lives in Banjul and he recognises the accused person in the dock. He told the court that on the 8th of March 2015 the major crime unit received a case file from the Kairaba CID with the accused person about a shooting incident that happened in Manjai.  He further told the court that he was instructed by his commanding officer to investigate the matter with Cadet inspector Kinneh Jallow. PW6 told the court that they interviewed the witness concerned in the matter, the security officers   and the passengers on board the vehicle in the shooting. He adduced that at the time they had already given their statements at Kairaba police station so they interviewed them to confirm; adding they also interviewed the accused person whose statement was in the file they received. Corporal Sowe further told the court that he later went to the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital for a post mortem to be conducted on the late Ya Binta Jarju. He said thereafter a death certificate and autopsy report were issued to the police by a medical doctor which he received on behalf of the Inspector General of Police (IGP). At this juncture ASP Mballow applied to tender both the death certificate and autopsy report as an exhibit. There was no objection from the defence. It was admitted and marked as exhibit A1 and A2 respectively. Continuing with his testimony, PW6 said putting into consideration the content of exhibit A1 and A2 he and his colleagues deemed it necessary to see the vehicle involved in the shooting. He further told the court that they were made to understand that the accused refused to stop at the joint check point comprising the Police intervention unit (PIU) and the military which prompted the security officers pursuing the vehicle. “When they fired those warning shots the driver refused to heed and swerved to a narrow road. He told the court according to the witness when the accused swerved to the narrow road the security fired to disabled the vehicle. Corporal Sowe added that when the security fired, the vehicle stopped and they informed the police about the incident. He further told the court that they were made to understand that the vehicle was obstructed by flower trees. “Putting into consideration what we heard from the witness we deemed it necessary to inspect the vehicle and we observed that the back windscreen was smashed,” said PW6. At this juncture prosecutor ASP Mballow asked the witness to read the content of the death certificate and the autopsy report to the court. Reading the report, PW6 said the former states that the cause of death is “Head Injury”, while the later states “Head Injury due to gun shot”. He added that the investigation revealed that the driver refused to stop and that the deceased died as a result of gun shot. ASP Mballow applied to tender the photograph of the deceased and the vehicle as an exhibit. Defence counsel Gomez did not object to the application. He however, added that they are beneficial to the defence.  ASP Mballow objected to this statement arguing that the defence does not also know why they are tendering it. The said documents were admitted and marked as C1 and C2. Continuing his testimony PW6 told the court that he told the accused to narrate his story in Wollof which he wrote in English and read it to the accused and after confirming the statement, the accused signed it with is thumb print and an independent witness also signed. ASP Mballow applied to tender the voluntary statement as an exhibit which was not objected to by the defence.  It was admitted and marked as exhibit E. PW6 said he obtained four voluntary statements from the accused and thereafter he wrote an investigation report and submitted it to the authorities concerned. Under cross-examination by defence counsel Gomez, the witness was asked for how long he has served in the Gambia Police Force. PW6 responded that he had served for 6 years now. “You recorded 4 voluntary statements”? Asked Counsel Gomez.  The witness responded in the positive.  “Take a look at exhibit A1 what is stated as the cause of death of the late Ya Binta”? Instructed the defence counsel. “The primary cause of death is head injury due to gunshot according to the pathologic report,” responded Corporal Sowe. “From your investigation is it the gun shots that were fired by the security officers on duty that day that caused the death of the victim? ASP Mballow interjected and objected to this question arguing that it is the court that should make the conclusion as to what killed the victim but not the witness.  He further argued that the witness is only testifying on statement of facts within his knowledge. He said judgment is reserved for the bench not the investigative officer. He urged the court to disallow the question. Defence Counsel Gomez submitted that he made reference to the medical report which was received by the witness on behalf of the IGP. He further added that the witness is familiar with the content of the report Which states the cause of death as found out by a pathologist. “I cannot see anything wrong asking the witness this question and the exhibit eloquently stated the cause of the death is gun shot. The trial magistrate in his ruling overruled the objection and allowed the question to be asked by the defence. The witness responded that during his investigation he was made to believe that the officers after following the vehicle fired to disabled the car but that he cannot conclude what killed the lady. He was asked by defence  counsel whether he was satisfied that Ya Binta died as a result of the gun shot. “Yes with the document from the pathologist”, said Corporal Sowe. This evoked laughter and murmuring in the court room. He was also asked whether he was satisfied that the security officers fired on the vehicle. PW6 responded in the positive. He was asked whether he examined the vehicle in question. “I examined the physical appearance of the vehicle”, said PW6.  “Looking at exhibit C what did you notice”? Enquired Counsel Gomez. Corporal Sowe said he noticed that the rear wind screen is smashed. “Did you find out during your investigation the reason why the rear wind screen was completely smashed?  PW6 responded that investigators could not get an expert or a witness to say the reason why the rear wind screen was smashed. This evoked laughter in the court room. He was asked by the  defence counsel  how many security officers he interviewed. PW6 told the court that he can’t remember. “Did you interview any member of the PIU and Military”? Enquired Counsel Gomez. “Yes”, said PW6.  The witness was asked whether during his investigation he was able to ascertain that the security officers were carrying fire arms. He responded in the positive.  He was further asked whether he ascertained that they fired those fire arms. “They said that they fired to disabled the vehicle,” said Corporal Sowe. “Officer Sowe when you examined the vehicle did you notice any burst tyres  that could have disabled the vehicle”?  PW6 responded in the negative. “So the vehicle was not disabled”, asked the defence. “This is a funny question,” said the witness. This evoked laughter in the court. “To be honest the tyres were not broken. Cross-examination ended at this point. At this juncture ASP Mballow announced the closure of the prosecution’s case. This prompted the defence counsel to apply for the accused to be bailed. The counsel told the court that the accused has been remanded for a period of time now. He draws the court attention that the charges preferred against the accused are bailable. He cited section 19 and 17(1) of the constitution and section199 (5) of the Criminal Procedure Code to support his submission. ASP Mballow said he will not reply to the application but instead he will object to it as the lower court lacks the jurisdiction to hear an appellant. He said the accused was denied bail and the counsel is supposed to review the bail or appeal to the high court. The trial magistrate adjourned the matter to 14th April 2015 at 10am for ruling on the bail and defence.    ]]>

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