Was Dena Koirala strangulated?

Forensic report suggest so, although it is not confirmed

Dechen Tshomo

In what is a twist from the initial narrative, the cause of death of nine-year-old Dena Koirala is now suspected to be from strangulation.

According to forensic medicine and toxicology report, the probable cause of the girl’s death is ligature constriction of the neck. Three abrasions marks, including two imprint type abrasions were found on the neck, which is more likely to be caused before her death.

Abrasion is a type of wound that is caused by the skin rubbing against a rough surface.

If the abrasions were caused after the death then it would be different, a forensic official said.

Except for the abrasion marks on the neck, most of the injuries on the body were likely to be of post mortem (after death) animal attack, according to forensic report.

Wounds with tissue loss were found on the body like at the lower part of the abdomen, hip, buttock and upper right thigh.

Multiple superficial tears, like bite marks were also found on the neck. “We studied the tears. The wounds were pale, without any swelling or wetness which suggest that it is of post mortem,” a forensic official said.

If the tears were of antemortem (before death), there would be vital reactions and blood on the marks. “When we get any kind of injuries to our body, it shows vital reaction like blood cloth.”

Besides the clinical post mortem examination of the body, the department of forensic medicine and toxicology at the national referral hospital also conducted seminal fluid analysis, and drug and alcohol test. Her blood samples tested negative for drugs and alcohol .

While forensic medicine could not confirm sexual assault, it did not completely rule out sexual assault.

A forensic official said the genital area was partially mutilated especially on the right side including the hymenal area due to post mortem animal attack so it could not be examined to confirm sexual assault.

Both the vaginal and anal swap tested negative for presence of spermatozoa (sperm cells).

Forensic officials said from the medicine side, rape or sexual assault cannot be excluded or ruled out only based on the presence of sperm cell because in rape or sexual assault cases, if the suspect used barriers or do not ejaculate then the test will show negative.

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Officials found discolouration of the skin and subcutaneous tissue on the left side of the genital area. From medicine side, this does not confirm sexual assault since this could be caused by many conditions, not just sexual assault.

Forensic officials said when their team examined the site on the morning of December 11, two days after the girl went missing, the body was in prone position, facing the ground. According to post mortem finding, she should be in the supine position, with her face and torso facing up.

However, the official said it couldn’t be said if the body was taken to the site where it was found or was moved in the same place as no scene disturbance was noticed in the area.

“When we initially saw the body, most of her clothes were torn and she was partially undressed. This could be done by animals,” the official said.

The department issued the post mortem report to police on December 16. Kuensel could not contact police officials.

Police earlier suspected animal attack to be the cause of the death after they found “fang marks” on the neck during the physical examination of the body. To confirm if the attack was from a wild animal or some feral dogs, police sought Department of Forest’s assistance to confirm this.

Two camera traps were set in the area on December 12 to ascertain if a wild animal attack was the cause of the girl’s death. The camera traps have captured only dogs so far.

On December 19, the location of the camera was changed to make sure that nothing is being missed.

Chief of Thimphu’s forest division, Gyeltshen Drukpa said they will continue to keep the camera traps for a few more days. “It is important that we confirm our doubts. If there are any big cats in the area then we have to have measures in place as it poses high risk for the residents in the area.”

Meanwhile, the incident has disturbed the residents and neighbours in Dechencholing.

One of the residents in Dangrina said he still wonders how the girl went missing in the broad daylight from a road and how she reached the site.

If a leopard attacked and carried her to the site, she would have injuries from the barbed wires because to reach the area where her body was found, there are several barbed wires unless the leopard entered through the gate.

He said that there are settlements on both sides of the place where the body was found. Moreover, the area where she went missing is always busy with students waiting for city bus, vehicles going to Dangrina, Dechenphu and towards Tango. “How can anyone not see anything?”

A neighbour, Mangali Maya, 82, said that she had been living at Dechencholing for the last 15 years and had not lost a hen or dog to leopard. “Now time is changing and it is scary. Even though my grandchildren have all grown up, I tell them not to go alone to the shop which is on the other side. We never know what will happen.”

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