A clinical pathologist has told the Coroners’ Court that he did not find any toxic substance in late Vespers Shimunzhila’s blood and stomach content samples.
Dr Sumbukeni Kowa has, however, admitted that since he did not examine the deceased’s lungs, he cannot exclude a possibility that her death was as a result of inhalation of toxic substances.
This is an inquest hearing before the Lusaka Subordinate Court to ascertain how an UNZA student, Shimuzhila, met her untimely demise last year.
Vespers, who was a fourth year student at UNZA, died in October last year after the police allegedly burnt one of the hostels using a tear gas canister during a student riot over delayed payment of meal allowances.
And testifying before coroner Sylvia Munyinya, Wednesday, Dr Sumbukeni Kowa told the Court that he worked as a public analyst under Food and Drug Control Laboratory, a department in the Ministry of Health located at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH).
He said he had practiced as a doctor for 20 years and as an analyst for five years, adding that his duties were to analyze various types of samples ranging from human samples, to food and water samples.
Dr Kowa testified that on October 9, 2018, he received three samples from the forensic pathologist at UTH belonging to Vespers, which included; a blood sample, a sample of stomach content and a vaginal swab.
He added that the pathologist had requested for toxicology examination.
Dr Kowa said he proceeded to analyze the samples, but did not find any evidence of toxic substances in the samples.
He told the Court that he also did alcohol examination and it was negative, adding that on the vaginal swab, there was no spermatozoa, which he had looked for.
“My findings were: negative for any toxic substance, negative for alcohol [and] I did not find any spermatozoa on the vaginal swab. That is all I did (in relation to the matter),” Dr Kowa narrated.
He also told the Coroners’ Court that the person who gave him the samples was superintendent Mwenya from the Department of Forensic Pathology.
Asked by lawyers representing Vespers’ family whether the method he used during the toxicology examination was reliable, Dr Kowa said it was not the most reliable method.
He told the Coroners’ Court that the three samples were handed to him personally by superintendent Mwenya.
Dr Kowa further said the officers that usually took samples to him were designated and they were about four.
But he also admitted that he did not examine the deceased lungs.
Dr Kowa explained that since he did not examine the deceased lungs, he could not exclude a possibility that her death was as a result of inhalation of toxic substances.
He further told the Coroners’ Court that he did not match the samples that he analysed to the deceased herself.
And Dr Kowa said he was aware that the suspected cause of Vespers’ death was due to suffocation.
“The suspicion of the cause of Vespers Shimunzhila’s death was suffocation,” said Dr Kowa.