A leading criminologist has called for an urgent overview of the state coroner service after the announcement on Monday that a fifth post-mortem will be carried out on the body of the 46-year-old Bulgarian woman, who died after being found in a field in Yeroskipou on February 22.
Andreas Kapardis, who is also a former central prisons governor, said that this case raises questions on the professional competence of state pathologists and may also indicate shortcomings in the service itself.
“Such incidents do not honour Cyprus,” Kapardis told Active radio station.
Kapardis called for the modernisation of legislation on autopsy reports and for an assessment of the competence of the state pathologist service by independent international experts.
Kapardis said that even though the decision to bring in a pathologist from abroad was the right thing to do as an independent opinion is necessary, a probe must be launched into what went wrong in the first place.
He was commenting after Attorney-General Costas Clerides announced that a pathologist would be flying in from Greece to carry out the post-mortem due to the conflicting results from the previous four autopsies, three of which indicated the woman had died from a dog attack.
The request for a fifth one was made by the health ministry to the attorney general’s office which approved the request.
The ministry was not immediately available to clarify why a fifth was necessary.
Clerides said one was needed to provide a clear, independent picture, as previous autopsies had been carried out on behalf of the suspects or family.
The process is nonetheless delaying sending the body back to Petruna Nikolova’s native Bulgaria for her funeral.
She had arrived to Cyprus a few days before her death with her partner Ivan Ivanov and had gone to Paphos in search of work when she was found seriously injured in a potato field in Yeroskipou on February 22 and died on her way to the hospital.
The first autopsy, carried out by state pathologists Angeliki Papetta and Nicolas Charalambous, cited the cause of death due to hemorrhagic shock resulting from multiple injuries, possibly caused by farming equipment.
Consequently, the second autopsy by Charalambous in the presence of a vet found her death was “likely caused by dogs”.
Since then, two men have been remanded, a 54-year-old father and his son, 27, from Paphos who own premises nearby where a number of dogs, at least five of them Rottweilers, were being kept. They both deny any wrongdoing,
The 27-year-old was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter, while his father is suspected of acting as an accessory after the fact. They were remanded in custody for six and four days respectively.
Police said during court that an informant of theirs was told by someone linked to the suspects that Nikolova had been killed by two Rottweilers belonging to them, which had been roaming the area unsupervised.
The same source claimed that after the incident, the suspects took the dogs to an unknown location where they shot and buried them.
According to a statement by the Yeroskipou municipality, 400 dog licences were issued in 2017. No application had been made for the dogs in question for the relevant permits.
After the second post-mortem, the family requested a private pathologist, Panicos Stavrianos weigh in during the third autopsy carried out by Chalarambous.
Speaking to the press after the third post-mortem, Stavrianos, himself a former state pathologist, said Nikolova died as a result of multiple injuries caused by dog bites.
In the latest examination, carried out on behalf of the suspects by former MEP and state pathologist Marios Matsakis came to the same conclusion.
“It was obvious from the door of the morgue,” he said, that her death had been caused by dog bites.