Asian Human Rights Commission - Douglasscott






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Interpretation of the Reports & Documents

After reviewing the submitted reports and documents the following information was determined.

A. Time Line of The Investigation:

Based on the submitted information a time line pertaining to the investigation into Douglas Scott's death was prepared.

4:30 AM   Last reported check on Douglas Scott
6:22 AM   S.P.O. Bordan found the body
6:27 AM   C.P.O. Birbeck was called
6:30 AM   Northern Territory Police advised
6:35 AM   Returned with camera
6:55 AM   N.T. Police arrived - Pictures were taken
?   Body was taken down
?   Blanket put over body
7:18 AM   Coroner / Constable arrive
7:25AM   Pathologist - Dr. Lee arrived at scene
7:48 AM   Inspector Burke & other officers arrive
8:09AM   C.I.D. Detectives arrive- Sgt. Stevens & Det. Martin
8:17AM   Superintendent IIett arrives


B. Time of Death Issue:

1. The Pathologist, Dr. Lee, estimated the time of death to be 6:00 AM. However, Dr. Lee stated that the calculated time of death was determined to be 3 hours +/- 2.8 hours from 6:05 AM. This range suggests that the time of death occurred anytime between 2:17 AM and 7:53 AM. This is of significance in that the records indicate that the well being of Douglas Scott was last checked on at 4:30 AM, well after a potential time of death. His body was discovered at 6:22 AM.

2. Some of the factors that should be considered in the time of death calculation were as follows:

  • Dr. Lee stated that the body was warm to the touch at 7:25 AM (This conflicts with S.P.O. Borden's reported comment that the body was cold at his arrival, 6:22 AM).
  • No rigor mortis was detected
  • Hypostasis was present
  • Body temperature = 36.5 degrees
  • Temperature in Cell No.8 = 24.5 degrees

3. Conclusion Regarding Time of Death Issue:

Some of the factors that would affect the time of death determination were not reported as considerations into the time of death calculation. The factors or issues are as follows:

a. Photograph #7 depicts the body lying on the bed inside Cell No. 8 with a blanket partially covering the body. If this blanket covered the body it would have an effect on the cooling process, thus, affecting the time of death interval calculation that incorporated a body temperature value.

b. Photograph #1 depicts Douglas Scott hanging from the ceiling. It is difficult to determine, due to the poor quality of the photograph, however, there appears to be substantial settling of blood in the lower legs. If those markings are in fact the settling of blood, it is noteworthy in that this degree of settling normally could takes 2-3 hours to develop.

c. It would be very beneficial to obtain prison records, reports, video tapes or any other documentation that may accurately identify the precise time Douglas Scott was last seen alive by prison officials or reported on prison documents.


C. Issues Relating to External Injuries:

1. Upon review of the limited available photographs and reports, members of the forensic team made the following observations and comments regarding external injuries.

a. There is a vague band of impressions around the neck. This band of impressions is 4-5 cm wide anteriorly, and 6 cm wide on the sides of the neck.

b. There were some irregular patterns of old scars observed on his head and wrists.

c. No other signs of external injuries.

d. Ms. Eileen Pridham's observations appear inconsistent with autopsy findings.

2. Conclusions Regarding External Injuries Issues:

Based on the research and study, in general, the following mechanisms of death can occur in hangings:

a. Obstruction of the airways, commonly due to the tongue being raised and forced against the back of the palate and pharynx, and occlusion of the veins carrying blood back from the head to the heart. These two mechanisms, often in combination, will produce obvious physical signs including petechial haemorrhages into the face and eyes from capillary bleeding and obvious signs of congestion and discolouration resulting from venous engorgement.

b. Sufficient pressure to cause blockage of the arteries may cause death sooner but, in practice, pressure on the carotid arteries is more likely to cause death as a result of reflex cardiac arrest due to distension off the carotid sinus. The rapidity of this mechanism, which can occur in both manual strangulation and hanging, commonly results in death with a pale face and no petechial haemorrhages or signs of congestion.

c. Sudden death without asphyxial signs is a well recognized occurrence in hanging resulting from reflex cardiac arrest, particularly if there is more of a drop or free-swinging likely to cause sudden pressure or traction on the carotid arteries. It is also well recognized, however, to occur as a likely consequence of manual strangulation or throttling, as the fingers can easily be placed in a position where they may inflict deeper and more direct pressure on the carotid sinus than can be achieved with the more diffuse pressure of a broad ligature.

3. Based on the limited amount of photographs and records submitted, the observed external injuries on Douglas Scott showed a lack of asphyxial changes or signs of venous engorgement.


D. Issues Relating to Internal Injuries:

1. Upon review of the limited available photographs and reports, members of the forensic team made the following observations and comments regarding internal injuries.

a. A single area of bruising was observed at thc base of the right superior thyroid cornu. This bruising was associated with a fracture.

b. A 4mm area of bruising was noted in the anterior part off the mid-left thyro-hyoid muscle.

c. Red Herrings of the heart

d. Hypostasis was present.

2. Conclusions Regarding Internal Injury Issues:

These bruises and the fracture of the thyroid cartilage are generally more consistent with manual neck compression than with hanging mechanisms.


E. Physical Evidence:

1. There was a limited amount of information provided regarding what items or evidence were seized, what type of analysis was conducted on that evidence, what results were obtained from that analysis, and if the evidence is still available for additional examination. Inquiries should be made to locate the following items of physical evidence.

a. All of Douglas Scott's clothing worn at the time of his death

b. Sheet used as the ligature

c. All articles of bedding from Cell No. 8, particularly the blanket used to cover the body

d. The stool depicted in the supplied photographs

e. Any latent fingerprints or footprints observed or located during examination of the scene.

f. Any finger nail clippings or scrapings

Posted on 2000-06-29


Asian Human Rights Commission
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