A pathology expert told the reopened inquest into the 1978 death of apartheid era dentist and activist Dr Hoosen Haffejee that there were at least three to five other more likely, more accessible positions of suspension, had he wanted to hang himself.
A Weekend Argus report says that in his testimony before the KZN High Court (Pietermaritzburg), forensic pathologist Dr Steve Naidoo said the cause of death was the consequence of pressure on the neck and should be considered the consequence of a neck constriction rather than actual hanging by suspension, as suggested by the state pathologist in the first inquest into Haffejee’s death in 1978.
“I think this needs to be clarified because clearly this was not a case of hanging. Hanging is usually where the body is suspended and the neck is constricted by the body’s weight pulling against the ligature suspended from a higher position, and that is the body weight factor. In this case it was not the body’s weight at all, and looking at my own observations, the only possible traction on that ligature was the tilt of the head because most of the body was supported – perhaps 80% to 90% of the body was supported,” Naidoo said.
He added that it was clear from the nature of the twist of the ligature that Haffejee’s death was a ligature strangulation, although this did not imply that doctors were making a finding of whether the death was homicidal or suicidal, saying that this would be a determination that the scene examination would suggest to the court.
Naidoo agreed with the testimony of Dr David Hobson Biggs – commissioned by the Haffejee family to carry out a private pathology – that Haffejee’s death was not consistent with suicide.
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