A STATE forensic pathologist has testified that he did not find any injuries or toxic substances in the blood of late Monica Mutale, the woman who died at a Catholic priest’s house in 2020.
Meanwhile, the priest has narrated how the deceased jokingly told him that she was feeling hot and after some time complained of losing her breath after drinking tea.
This is an inquest hearing before the Lusaka Subordinate Court to ascertain how Mutale died in unclear circumstances.
Mutale died on April 8, 2020 when she went to visit Catholic priest Ringford Abel Mwelwa of Christ the parish in Kaunda Square.
According to reports from the Catholic Women’s League (CWL), the woman was invited to Father Mwelwa’s Parish House on Holy Thursday night.
Testifying before Magistrate Judith Chiyayika, sitting as coroner, Tuesday, Dr Mubanga Mucheleng’anga narrated that he received an order from Chelstone police to conduct a postmortem examination on a woman who had died at a Catholic priest’s residence.
“Your Honor, that morning I received an order for postmortem examination from Chelstone police station. It was delivered by officers from Chelstone police station to conduct a medical investigation on a woman who had died at a residence or had been taken to Levy Mwanawasa hospital where she was certified dead. Your Honor, I then further went to inquire the circumstances of the death and thereafter I proceeded to examine the body of the deceased,” he said.
“External examination showed that this was a middle-aged woman with no evidence of injury on her body externally. All the organs of the deceased… and of not significance was that the deceased had a big uterus that was deformed by fibroids. Your Honor, because I did not see anything remarkable within or anything usually abnormal within all the organs that I examined, I obtained samples from the organs such as the heart, brain, kidneys, liver and lungs so that I could examine them further under the microscope.”
Dr Mucheleng’anga said further examinations revealed that the victim suffered from hypertension based on the evidence from the kidney.
“Further examination under the microscope revealed the victim suffered from hypertension BP based on the evidence from the kidneys. And also that the deceased had suffered from a bacterial infection or let me just say an infection in her kidneys. In our language we refer to that as Chronic Nephritis,” he said.
Dr Mucheleng’anga said he later took blood samples at the food and drug laboratory to check if there was any poison in the samples and the laboratory later sent him the results which revealed that there was no toxic substances in the blood.
He said given the circumstance in which Mutale died and the findings from the examinations, it was logical that she died due to a sudden cardiac arrest whose origin was not known.
“So, Your Honor, all in all as I summarize, I conducted postmortem examination on a 42-year-old woman who had died after taking tea and complaining of excessive sweating. The postmortem examination revealed an adult woman with no injuries. Further examination of the samples that were collected revealed that the deceased may have suffered from high blood pressure and fibroids in the uterus,” he said.
“Examination of the blood for toxic substance was negative from the food and drug laboratory. Given these circumstances, postmortem findings, and findings by ancillary studies (micro examination of tissues), it is logical that the death occurred due to a sudden cardiac death, the origin of which I do not know why she suffered sudden death. It is further my opinion, Your Honor, that there were no injuries identified on her body that may have contributed to her death. I further find that the result from Toxicology are none contributory.”
And in his report, Fr Mwelwa, who is currently suspended as a Catholic priest because of the matter, stated that he had invited the deceased to his place for a meeting they had earlier arranged.
Fr Mwelwa, 45, of Lusaka West said he knew Mutale in 2017 when he used to work at St Maurice parish where she was a member.
He said on the material day, he phoned Mutale to remind her about the meeting they were supposed to have.
Fr Mwelwa said Mutale requested to have tea for dinner when she got to his residence.
“I recall very well, it was 08th April 2020 at about 11:30 hours. I made a phone call to the deceased Monica Mutale asking her about the meeting that we had arranged when she went on leave. We arranged that we have lunch but since she had no car, we arranged to have dinner at my home. At 19:00 hours, I called her telling her that I was on my way to pick her since we arranged that I should go and pick her. She then said she will only have tea for dinner. I picked her at 19:50 hours and we reached home before 20:30 hours. I found that there was already hot water and I put that water in the flask. I got the bottle of honey, tea bags and a cup. She then started making the tea together with the Marie biscuits and I also got some biscuits,” he said.
“After drinking the tea, we then started chatting and during our conversation she said jokingly that she was feeling hot and after some time she said she was losing breath. She asked for windows and doors to be opened and asked for a fan which I brought. After that she asked for water from the fridge and I got the bottle of water which she poured on her body. She then asked to be taken to the clinic.”
He further explained in his report that when the situation got worse, he asked for assistance from his fellow priest to take Mutale to the hospital.
Fr Mwelwa said it was there that Mutale was declared dead.
“I went to inform my assistant from his room that our visitor was not feeling well and we need to take her to the hospital. We then carried her to the car and took her to Levy Mwanawasa general hospital. When we reached the hospital, she was attended to by doctors and after a while the doctors came and said they could not pump in oxygen due to some fluids in her lungs and she has passed on,” said Fr Mwelwa.
The matter comes up for a verdict on February 28, 2022.