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Our View: Time for a review of forensic services

The island's first celebrity doctor Marios Madsakis

The medical association was the latest on Tuesday to call into question the state of forensics in Cyprus, a day after a leading criminologist said the island had become a laughing stock when a fifth post-mortem was approved on the body of a Bulgarian woman found dead in a field almost two weeks ago.

How the initial post-mortem could have concluded the woman had been fatally wounded by farming equipment beggars belief. Three subsequent post-mortems have found she had been attacked by dogs, something former state pathologist Marios Matsakis said was “obvious from the door of the morgue”.

This was a damning indictment of the state’s forensics services given that Matsakis was hired by the two suspects in the case who police believe to be the owners of two Rottweilers that attacked the woman as she crossed a field.

The mess also begs the question as to why every Tom, Dick and Harry can ask for a new post-mortem in a criminal case, in this instance, two by the state pathologist, one by the family of the victim and one on behalf of the suspects. A fifth was apparently ordered by the health ministry and a pathologist will fly in from Greece.

None of this inspires confidence in the current forensics set-up and if pushed to its natural conclusion, could call into question the results of post-mortems in other criminal cases where suspects have been convicted on autopsy evidence.

This was not the first such cock-up to come to light either. In 2014 a state pathologist ruled out foul play in the death of a Greek woman, concluding she had died of smoke inhalation after a fire on her bed started by a cigarette.

The woman’s family in Greece expressed doubts about the official cause of death after seeing visible marks of violence on her face. They subsequently had her remains exhumed for a fresh post-mortem, seeking the help of UK experts who concluded that the cause of death was strangulation. It took two years from her death to bring the estranged husband to justice because of either the laziness, incompetence or corruption within the forensics’ service at the time.

These cases do not inspire confidence and should worry anyone depending on a post-mortem in Cyprus to establish the cause of death of a loved one, criminal case or not.

The first thing that needs to be done is for a full investigation to be carried out as to how the first post-mortem got it so wrong. Secondly, as the criminologist suggested, there needs to be a review of the forensics services by outside experts because in the words of the medical association, the debacle was not an isolated incident. So, to say that Cyprus is a laughing stock at this point would be an understatement.

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