Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Montreal February 10, 2018 - 1:30 pm

Nunavik woman was strangled to death, expert tells court

Forensic pathologist finds Nellie Angutiguluk could not have hanged herself

COURTNEY EDGAR
A forensic pathologist said in court yesterday that Nellie Angutiguluk of Puvirnituq was strangled by another person and could not have hanged herself. She also said her body had been moved some hours after her death. (SVPM PHOTO)
A forensic pathologist said in court yesterday that Nellie Angutiguluk of Puvirnituq was strangled by another person and could not have hanged herself. She also said her body had been moved some hours after her death. (SVPM PHOTO)

Special to Nunatsiaq News

Nellie Angutiguluk’s death was caused by ligature strangulation, and forensic evidence shows she could not have died by hanging herself or overdosing on drugs, forensic pathologist Dr. Caroline Tanguay said yesterday at the murder trial of Kwasi Benjamin.

This appears to contradict parts of a story that Benjamin related to a cell mate in 2015, when he said the woman had expressed suicidal thoughts and had been drugged prior to her death.

Benjamin is on trial at the Palais de Justice in Montreal this week, on a charge of second degree murder in connection with the May 2015 death of Angutiguluk at the Côte-des-Neiges apartment they shared.

Tanguay told the court that she believes the woman was strangled by a cord, by another person, and that nothing else could have caused her death.

“We don’t have any medical conditions to explain her death,” Tanguay said in testimony she gave at the trial, which is being held before Quebec Superior Court Justice Michael Stober and a 12-person jury.

“There is no evidence of drugs. The toxicology exams do not show any toxic substances to explain her death, and we don’t have any other traumatic lesions that would have caused her death. We only have ligature marks and contusions from compression of the neck structures.”

She said Angutiguluk’s autopsy results also indicate that the body would have had to have been moved after her death, due to the specific locations and distribution of marks found on her body where blood accumulated after her strangulation.

Angutiguluk would have had to have been in a vertical position for at least a few hours after her death and in horizontal position for at least another few hours.

“After death, the blood that is contained in all the blood vessels and organs in the body travel to the lower part of the body. So if a body is hanging, blood will go down to the legs,” Tanguay said.

If someone dies while they are on their back, the blood will travel to the lowest parts while lying down, to the buttocks and shoulder blades, she said.

Normally, it takes around 12 hours for these discolorations to become permanent marks.

But if you move a body six to eight hours after death, there could be two different patterns, Tanguay testified.

During cross-examination, defence lawyer Paul Skolnik asked Tanguay if receiving preliminary information from a police investigation might bias results during an autopsy.

The forensic scientists are independent from the police, Tanguay said.

When they are required to give provide expertise, they do it completely independently.

“In fact, no one told me about a ligature mark on the victim’s neck,” Tanguay said. “When I saw that mark, I had to try to explain it.”

Skolnik asked why Tanguay had marked on her autopsy report that the cause of death was ligature strangulation “by a third party.”

“If a victim is found with a ligature mark around the neck and the tool is not there, then I can conclude it was a third party,” Tanguay told the court.

Skolnik also asked Tanguay about the alarm clock taken as evidence at the apartment. It had been found attached to the closet bar, with the cord dangling down.

Tanguay agreed that it is strange to see an alarm clock attached like that in a closet, but she does not believe Angutiguluk died from hanging.

The ligature marks would have been higher up on the neck, along the angle of the jaw.

“I would have had to have seen a furrow a lot more vertical and a lot more raised if she had hung herself,” Tanguay said.

Read our previously published stories on the trial of Kwasi Benjamin:

Benjamin’s trial continues Monday at the Palais de Justice in Montreal.

 

 

 

Email this story to a friend... Print this page... Bookmark and Share