Alleged Murder of Domestic Worker: ILAW, Family Query Postmortem Report, Ask for Fresh Autopsy

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Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN)

Feature picture (above): Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Lagos State, Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN)

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INTERNATIONAL Lawyers Assisting Workers (ILAW) Network and the family of the late Joy Adole, suspected to have been beaten to death by her employer sometime in April this year, have written a petition to Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice and Lagos State Commissioner of Police as well as the Lagos State Director of Public Prosecution raising issues with an autopsy conducted on the body of the deceased. They are therefore asking for another autopsy to be performed in order to ascertain the actual cause of death.

In the petition, dated 12th September 2020, addressed to the three law enforcement

Body of the late Joy hanging from the ceiiling

officials, and entitled: “Petition for Another Autopsy to Determine the Cause of Death of Joy Adole,” human rights lawyers, Femi Aborisade, Managing Partner of ABOPE CHAMBERS, writing on behalf of the deceased’s family and ILAW, claimed that the medical certificate of death states that “the cause of death is ‘unascertained’ due to non-availability of toxicology.”

Aborisade said the purpose of the petition is to request for another autopsy to determine the cause of death of the deceased domestic worker suspected to have been beaten to death by her employer, one Mrs Fortune Nwankwo.

Aborisade said: “Our Clients have brought to our attention a “Medical Certificate of Death (No. 0008189)” dated the 9th day of July 2020 and signed by one Dr. MGBEHOMA A. I., which asserts that after performing an autopsy on the body of Joy Adole, the cause of death is ‘unascertained’ due to non-availability of toxicology.

“The “Medical Certificate of Death (No. 0008189)” states, in part, as follows:

“That I have performed an autopsy on the body of ADOLE JOY OCOM of 18, Ogundola Street, Bariga, Lagos…on 8th of June 2020…and that the cause of death was to the best of my knowledge and belief as herein stated, viz: Unascertained (Toxicology unavailable)”

“The Law is that in the clinical field, an autopsy is a postmortem examination of a dead body, including the internal organs, to determine the cause of death. By necessary implication, where an autopsy fails to establish the cause of death, such cannot properly qualify as a reliable and conclusive autopsy.

“Indeed, the “Medical Certificate of Death (No. 0008189)” shows clearly that the autopsy is inconclusive and therefore unreliable to serve any useful practical purpose because it clearly states the likely reason for the inconclusiveness of the autopsy, the unavailability of ‘toxicology’.

“Our clients have applied for the Certified True Copy (CTC) of the full autopsy report, apart from the “Medical Certificate of Death (No. 0008189)”. Surprisingly and for no explicable reasons, the family has been denied access to the autopsy report.”

Aborisade revealed that following the autopsy which was carried out on the 8th day of June 2020, as indicated in the Medical Certificate of Death, the family of the deceased first applied to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) via a letter dated 16th July 2020 for the full autopsy report. However, in a letter dated 23rd July 2020, the office of the DPP responded to the application stating that the DPP office was not in possession of the autopsy report and that they family should apply to the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) who was in custody of it.

“By a letter dated 7th August 2020, we applied to the DCP. Unfortunately, in spite of repeated follow ups by a representative of the Adole family, Our Client, the office of the DCP has not released same up till date,” Aborisade revealed, adding that this greatly troubled the ILAW and the family, forcing them to begin to seek for answers to some pertinent questions, which include:

“Why the delay in releasing the full autopsy report?

“Why does the medical certificate of death, issued pursuant to a purported autopsy state that toxicology was not available?

“Does the unavailability of toxicology have anything to do with unavailability of facilities for toxicological analysis at the Mainland General Hospital where the autopsy was carried out?

“If the facilities for toxicological analysis were not available at the Mainland General Hospital where the autopsy was carried out, are such facilities not available elsewhere in Nigeria and/or in any other part of the world, if considered pertinent for the determination of the cause of death?

“Was the autopsy carried out before or after embalmment?

“If the autopsy was carried out after embalmment, what is the rationale and to achieve what ends?

“If the autopsy was carried out after embalmment, who authorized the embalmment without the consent of the family and before autopsy?

“The report of the death of Joy Adole was purportedly made to the Police on the 20th day of April 2020. Why was the autopsy delayed till the 8th day of June 2020 (after about two months)?

“Who were the pathologists who actually carried out the autopsy and endorsed the autopsy report?”

According to Aborisade, although the full autopsy report is yet to be released, the summary of autopsy report as indicated in the medical certificate of death renders it unacceptable to ILAW and the family “on the ground of inconclusiveness and consequential unreliability.”

He argued: “It is the brief of Our Clients that in the circumstances of inconclusiveness and unreliability of the autopsy conducted on the 8th day of June 2020, they humbly call on the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice to use his good offices to cause another autopsy to be conducted speedily on the body of Joy Adole, in the interest of justice.”

Aborisade noted that in addition to speeding the cause of justice; “[a]n early conduct of another autopsy would also help to reduce the burden of the cost of keeping the body of the late daughter of our client in the morgue, which cost has been mounting on a daily basis without any support from the State authorities that own the Mainland General Hospital.”

As a result of the mounting cost, Aborisade is demanding of the state authorities to assume responsibility for the cost of keeping the body of the deceased “in the morgue and refund all the costs the family has borne so far at the Mainland General Hospital.”

Flashback

It will be recalled that on Sunday, April 20, 2020, the Lagos State CID, Alagbon arrested and detained a couple, Mr and Mrs Stephen and Fortune Okonkwo, over the death of their 19-year-old Joy Okom Adole.

National Record had reported that the couple went to the police station to report the death Joy Adole as suicide by hanging. The police however detained husband and wife upon suspicion of foul play after visiting the crime scene at the residence of the Okonkwos where they reportedly discovered that the suicide by hanging story appeared not convincing as the deceased’s two legs were securely on the floor with the noose, which was tied to the ceiling, barely supporting the body of the deceased.

The deceased’s uncle, one Mr Eje Philip Agwu had told National Record in a telephone that a day prior to the death of Joy Adole, her relation who facilitated her domestic job with the Okonkwos was called on phone by Mrs Fortune Okonkwo who reported that Joy was being very stubborn.

According to Mr Agwu, in the course of the telephone call, the family member overheard Mrs Okonkwo beating Joy and her husband was pleading with her wife to stop as the housemaid must have learnt her lessons.

“When on Monday Joy’s madam called our sister to tell her that Joy had died, she immediately told her she was lying, that she must have died as a result of the beating she gave her the day before,” Mr Agwu told National Record, while insisting that the family is convinced that the couple is culpable and must have stage-managed the suicide to disguise their crime.

Suspect arraigned, remanded

Mrs Nwankwo was arraigned on Wednesday, 29th April, 2020 before Senior Magistrate Ojo at Yaba Magistrates’ Court, Lagos. The then counsel to the late Joy’s family, Benjamin Ogbu, told National Record that Mrs Nwankwo was arraigned for murder by beating to death the deceased.

Senior Magistrate Ojo remanded Mrs Nwankwo at the Lagos State Command of the Nigerian Correctional Service and adjourned the matter to Monday, June 1, 2020 for advice from the Lagos State Director of Public Prosecution (DPP).

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