Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Montreal February 09, 2018 - 1:29 pm

Deceased Nunavik woman had no drugs in her system, expert says

Forensic evidence contradicts story told to accused killer's cell mate

COURTNEY EDGAR
Nellie Angutiguluk has no medications or other potentially toxic substances, except for alcohol, in her body on the night she died, a toxicologist said in court yesterday at the trial of Kwasi Benjamin, who is accused of killing the Nunavik woman. (SVPM PHOTO)
Nellie Angutiguluk has no medications or other potentially toxic substances, except for alcohol, in her body on the night she died, a toxicologist said in court yesterday at the trial of Kwasi Benjamin, who is accused of killing the Nunavik woman. (SVPM PHOTO)

Special to Nunatsiaq News

MONTREAL—A forensic toxicologist testified yesterday at the murder trial of Kwasi Benjamin that in her expert opinion, Nellie Angutiguluk had no drugs, medications, or other potentially toxic substances in her body at the time of her death, except alcohol.

Benjamin is charged with second-degree murder in connection with the May 2015 death of Angutiguluk, a mother of three from Puvirnituq, who shared an apartment with him in Montreal’s Côte-des-Neiges district.

Benjamin had told his cell mate in prison that he saw someone put drugs in her drink at a bar on the night the woman died, according to the testimony of a key Crown witness on Monday.

Anne-Marie Faucher, who has testified as an expert witness in court 85 times, said the only substance from Angutiguluk’s body that she found in the two lab analyses she performed was a high level of ethyl alcohol.

It was high, but not great enough to have been the cause of Angutiguluk’s death that night, she said

Faucher told Justice Michael Stober and a 12-person jury that Angutiguluk had 222 milligrams of alcohol per 100 mililtires of blood in her system when she died.

Faucher’s first analysis was done on May 20, 2015—the day after Angutiguluk’s death.

The customary second test was carried out a week later.

“And is that a lethal dose?” Crown prosecutor Dennis Galiatsatos asked.

“No, not at all,” Foucher said.

A lethal dose of alcohol poisoning is 450 milligrams per 100 millitres of blood, she later explained, more than twice the amount Angutiguluk had consumed that day.

Faucher also said she found no evidence of any other drugs in the woman’s body.

In cross-examination, defence lawyer Paul Skolnik referred Faucher to a question he had posed at the preliminary inquiry in July 2017, concerning an epilepsy drug, gabapentin.

Pathologist Caroline Tanguay had noted on a form the toxicology department keeps on communications that Faucher had asked her about the drug when she had been working on Angutiguluk’s first toxicology analysis.

At the time of the inquiry, Skolnik said, Faucher had not been able to remember that conversation, so he asked if she remembered it now.

Faucher replied that since it had been brought to her attention at the inquiry, she does remember it now.

Skolnik asked if she had told Tanguay at the time that she had probably found gabapentin in one of Angutiguluk’s samples.

“I probably did not say that I probably had gabapentin,” Faucher said. “I probably told her that I might have had gabapentin in the case.”

She explained that sometimes co-workers at the toxicology lab might ask each other about any known medications taken by the deceased person, because they don’t know specifically what they are looking for, and there might be very small quantities.

“But given that she told me, to her knowledge, no, I did the second analysis and there was none,” Faucher said.

And since in coroner cases it is not just the cause of death of a victim that toxicologists are trying to determine, but also the circumstances surrounding the death, Faucher said she would have reported any traces if she had found any.

“For me to put a substance in the report, I have to be convinced of its truth.”

The trial was to continue through Feb. 9 at the Montreal courthouse building.

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