It was incredibly unlikely that the strangulation that caused Shirley Reedy’s death was only a matter of seconds.
Forensic pathologist Dr. However, Leslie Anderson of the Canterbury District Health Board said it was very difficult in cases of strangulation to determine exactly how long a strangulation took place or how much force was used.
dr. Anderson appeared as a key witness at the Supreme Court trial in Invercargill of Rodney Fallowfield (53) of Balclutha, who is defending the murder charge of Ms. Reedy at the Explorer Motel in Te Anau on May 15 last year.
Fallowfield has admitted to strangling his wife, but says he never intended to kill her.
On the fifth day of the trial before Judge Jan-Marie Doogue, Dr. Anderson in her opinion, neck compression was the likely cause of Ms. Reedy’s death.
There were three ways a person could die from strangulation, she said.
The first was compression of blood vessels in the neck with a force of more than 2 kg, which could take 10-20 seconds.
The second was compression of arteries in the neck, which could take many minutes and require about 15 kg of force.
The third was a reflex cardiac arrest in which direct pressure affected the vagus nerve, causing the heart to stop.
dr. Anderson said Ms. Reedy also had bruises on the inside of her right forearm, the left arm around the elbow, the right hand, her jaw, the inside of her left thigh, deep scalp bruises on the back of the head, two broken thyroid cartilage horns in her neck and petechiae, tiny tiny dot marks caused by pressure on the blood vessels that impede blood flow.
mr. Donnelly asked Dr. Anderson how long it would take for blood vessels to become blocked to cause petechiae.
“It’s not something that’s really known,” replied Dr. Anderson.
She said it could be less than 15 to 30 seconds or significantly more.
“No one is quite sure.”
During a cross-examination, defense counsel Peter Redpath asked if the two fractures could have occurred with one hand being in place and moving it just a little bit.
“Absolutely,” replied Dr. Anderson.
When asked how a strangulation normally occurs, she said the face would look red and congested and there would be a lot of petechiae bleeding.
She agreed that there wasn’t the same facial redness and congestion that would be typical of strangulation.
dr. Anderson was aware of Fallowfield’s position, straddling the body as he sat on her, when the strangulation occurred.
Mr. Redpath then asked her if compression in the chest could cause death and Dr. Anderson said it was possible and known as crushing asphyxia
She agreed that she couldn’t say exactly when the bruising started and that some of it may have happened after Miss Reedy died, when Fallowfield put her to bed.
“There are more bruises here than I would normally expect…but I can’t specifically say they weren’t the result of moving.”
During a new investigation, Mr. Donnelly asked Dr. Anderson how long the event was likely to have lasted, taking into account all of Ms Reedy’s injuries.
“It would be incredibly unlikely for the force to be applied to the neck for a few seconds,” she said.
“Injuries to the neck and petechiae indicate that there must have been some sort of time before that sort of thing happened.”
The Crown closed yesterday and the defense case is expected to begin Monday.
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