By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A FIVE inch-deep stab wound in the neck that killed a millionaire podiatrist had no signs of a self-inflicted wound, a jury heard yesterday.
Dr Caryn Sands, a pathologist with 17 years medical experience, revealed on the ninth day of Donna Vasyli’s murder trial that if a person, such as 59-year-old Philip Vasyli, had inflicted that degree of harm to himself, she would have expected to see a “stab wound to the chest, or cutting wounds to the wrist or neck”.
The victim would have died within minutes of receiving the injury, the witness said.
The court also heard that the victim did not have any apparent defensive wounds on his hands but there were scratches on his back and some bruises on his buttocks and thighs.
In yesterday’s proceedings, prosecutor Neil Braithwaite asked Dr Sands if she performed an autopsy on Mr Vasyli on March 31.
“Yes,” the pathologist said.
“What were your findings?” the prosecutor asked.
“Mr Vasyli died from a stab wound to the neck. It was on the left side of the neck, down the left side of the clavicle and it was approximately five and three-quarters of an inch deep,” the jury heard from the witness.
“And the direction of the wound?” Mr Braithwaite asked.
“It was back to front, left to right and then downward,” Dr Sands said, using a pen to illustrate the direction for the jury.
The prosecutor asked Dr Sands if she made any other observations during the autopsy. Dr Sands said there was more dried blood on Mr Vasyli’s right hand than left, “which suggests that hand was in close proximity to the wounded area.”
The prosecutor asked the witness how long it would have taken for rigor mortis (stiffening of the muscle) to be visible.
“It takes two to four hours for rigor mortis to be noticeable and 12 hours for it to be at its peak,” the witness said.
Dr Sands said the wound was caused by a sharp object.
She was also asked about defense wounds and noted that she found no cuts on his hands, arms or other areas of his limbs to indicate that he was defending himself.
She did, however, find “superficial scratches” on his back and “bruising” to his buttocks and thigh.
“How long would it have taken for the person to succumb to that injury?” Mr Braithwaite asked.
“The injury severed a major blood vessel in the neck, a left artery that comes off of the aorta in the heart but it depends on how fast the heart was beating,” Dr Sands said, adding that she also found “blood going into his chest.”
“It can be up to minutes before he goes into shock and loses consciousness. And another minute more he would die because of lack of oxygen to the brain,” the jury was told.
In cross-examination, Elliot Lockhart, QC, asked the pathologist if “it is possible for the wound to be self-inflicted.”
“It’s possible,” Dr Sands said.
“There’s some evidence that he fell down a staircase and pulled down a picture portrait with glass shattering. Could that have caused the wounds you also found?” the accused’s lawyer asked.
“Stairs, I don’t know but they are consistent with blunt force trauma,” Dr Sands said.
In re-examination, Mr Braithwaite asked the pathologist: “Is it probable the injury was self-inflicted?”
“Nothing is absolute but characteristically, single stab wounds are usually in the chest,” the pathologist said, adding that she would also expect cutting wounds to the neck or wrist in such an instance.
Prior to her evidence, the jury was taken to Old Fort Bay where the murder occurred for a walkthrough of the crime scene and the property.
However, the media was not allowed past the entrance of the gated community.
On Monday, it was revealed in the report of forensic analyst Samantha Wandzek that the black-handled knife allegedly used to fatally stab Mr Vasyli at his Old Fort Bay home on March 24 did not contain any DNA belonging to his widow.
The trial resumes today at 10.30am before Acting Chief Justice Stephen Isaacs.