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Mom still seeks answers over her son’s death

After ‘harassing’ call from pathologist...
Published: 
Thursday, July 21, 2016
Murder Victim Jean Paul Henry and his mother Charlene Talbot Paul in happier times.

Forensic pathologist Dr Valery Alexandrov is being criticised for phoning the mother of a man who died recently and claiming he was “investigating” her son’s death, while questioning her about the man’s history, including his tattoos and whether he had been involved in criminal activity.

Alexandrov’s phone calls follows a report made by that same mother to the police and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) over discrepancies in an autopsy Alexandrov conducted in June, labelling her son’s death a suicide.

The mother, Charlene Talbot Paul, suspects her son may have been killed and the results of a second autopsy, conducted by pathologist Hubert Daisley, supported her concerns.

Alexandrov’s initial autopsy, ruling Henry’s death suicide, has been repeatedly questioned by Paul, who is requesting that police begin an investigation into her son’s death, pending the results of a third post mortem.

Her son’s body remains unburied and housed at a funeral home while Paul awaits answers. As Paul continued to grieve for her son, she received an unexpected phone call from Alexandrov while driving home from her job in Miramar, Florida.

Alexandrov, who admitted to calling Paul last week Thursday, told the grieving mother he was conducting an investigation. Paul had made a complaint to the police and the DPP in mid-June. 

Alexandrov proceeded to ask Paul what year she had moved to Florida, whether she was aware of the meaning of her son’s tattoos and why he had returned to Trinidad at a young age. He asked if her son was in a gang and what kind of crimes he had committed, questions which left Paul shaken.

The call resulted in Paul making two police reports regarding Alexandrov’s call, which she considered to be “harassment”, one to the St James Police Station and one to Miramar Police Department, Florida.

Paul has been making multiple requests for police to conduct a third autopsy on the body of her son, 22-year-old Jean Paul Henry, who died on June 10 at his home at Petersfield, Chaguanas.

Her requests have failed to bring about any change, causing her lawyer Gerard Ramdeen to question the failure of the police to investigate.

“Here is a woman reporting what is a potential breach of the law and the police don’t seem to have any interest in investigating,” Ramdeen said in a brief telephone interview. He described the entire situation as worrying.

In an interview, Alexandrov admitted to calling Paul and confirmed that he had asked her questions which the T&T Guardian listed for him. He then proceeded to share the information he gleaned from their conversation.

“The boy was with her in the States but she sent him back when he was 12 because of his inadequate and anti-social behaviour,” Alexandrov said.

When asked how this information factored into the post mortem which he conducted that pointed to suicide, he said the whole picture mattered.

“He was a member of a gang. The problem is this country. It is that people here do not understand,” Alexandrov said. He said the proof of Henry’s alleged gang activity came from a tattoo.

“I cannot tell my son’s children that he committed suicide if it isn’t true. I don’t want them to have to deal with that psychological impact when they grow up. 

“They need to know the truth and I need to know the truth about my son,” Paul said in an interview las week.

Henry had two children, a four-year-old son and a two-year-old girl and was the sole caretaker of the two, helped by relatives when he left to go offshore to work. He was a third engineer with Delta Logistics and had done a series of courses to improve his career.

Family members say he wanted to be a captain of a vessel in the future and that he was hardworking and loved his children. “Right now, the only evidence is his body,” one said.

The second autopsy, conducted by Daisley, who is a pathologist but not a forensic pathologist noted “blunt force trauma to the skull, fingernail marks in the left arm, left ear and a contusion of the frontal skull bone.”

Daisley said those injuries were most unusual in suicide and more consistent with homicide.

Those are the words Paul reads repeatedly as she tries, so far without much success, to get the T&T Police Service to re-open her son’s case and conduct a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death.

Jean Paul’s girlfriend and a male friend called the police shortly after lunch on that Friday afternoon and reported that they had found the young man hanging at his apartment at Petersfield, Chaguanas. 

Police came to the scene and found Henry on the floor of his apartment. They were informed that he had used a scarf and a canvass belt to hang himself.

“I need justice for my son. His father and I want justice. If it is that he committed suicide then the second State autopsy and an investigation should be able to prove that but if there is a chance that it is something else, that he was murdered, then I need to know.

“It is appalling to me that the police cannot re-open the case on their own,” Paul said

In an interview last week, Forde made it clear that police officers depended on the State forensic pathologist to determine the types of investigations.

The Forensic Science Centre reports directly to the Ministry of National Security and not to the Police Service. He added: “Police officers are creatures of the law. If there is a death, we do not pronounce on that death. 

“At the end of the day, we depend on a forensic pathologist at the Forensic Science Centre to give us the information we need to proceed in a case.

“If the Government forensic pathologist says the cause of death isn’t natural and feel it is a homicide and family members hire another pathologist to do a post mortem and that pathologist says it is natural then the police will be guided by the forensic pathologist at the Forensic Science Centre.

The police might feel the person died of natural causes but if the pathologist says different that is what we are guided by. He said if the family wanted to have ten post mortems performed they were free to do so but the police were guided by the State pathologist.

“Suicide is also the only ruling the Police Service can accept as it came from a forensic pathologist attached to the State.”

Forde, who said he was aware that Paul had hired an attorney, said that was one option available to her. He said another option was to wait for an inquest into her son’s death.

“There will be an inquest down the road because the person did not die naturally. The family comes forward with their findings and the coroner looks at all of it,” Forde said.

The inquest however can take up to two months to begin. 

“Right now, the only evidence is his body,” one said. The second autopsy, conducted by Daisley, who is a pathologist but not a forensic pathologist noted “blunt force trauma to the skull, fingernail marks in the left arm, left ear and a contusion of the frontal skull bone.”

Daisley said those injuries were most unusual in suicide and more consistent with homicide.

Those are the words Paul reads repeatedly as she tries, so far without much success, to get the T&T Police Service to re-open her son’s case and conduct a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death.

Jean Paul’s girlfriend and a male friend called the police shortly after lunch on that Friday afternoon and reported that they had found the young man hanging at his apartment at Petersfield, Chaguanas. 

Police came to the scene and found Henry on the floor of his apartment. They were informed that he had used a scarf and a canvass belt to hang himself.

“I need justice for my son. His father and I want justice. If it is that he committed suicide then the second State autopsy and an investigation should be able to prove that but if there is a chance that it is something else, that he was murdered, then I need to know.

“It is appalling to me that the police cannot re-open the case on their own,” Paul said

In an interview last week, Forde made it clear that police officers depended on the State forensic pathologist to determine the types of investigations. The Forensic Science Centre reports directly to the Ministry of National Security and not to the Police Service. He added: “Police officers are creatures of the law. If there is a death, we do not pronounce on that death. 

“At the end of the day, we depend on a forensic pathologist at the Forensic Science Centre to give us the information we need to proceed in a case.

“If the Government forensic pathologist says the cause of death isn’t natural and feel it is a homicide and family members hire another pathologist to do a post mortem and that pathologist says it is natural then the police will be guided by the forensic pathologist at the Forensic Science Centre.

The police might feel the person died of natural causes but if the pathologist says different that is what we are guided by.

How he died
The day he died, Henry, a devout Muslim, had attended the St Thomas Village Mosque to pray. He had been fasting for Ramadan. Police had Henry’s body removed and taken to the Forensic Science Centre, St James, where the autopsy was performed by Alexandrov. 

On June 11, Paul, who lives in the United States, returned to Trinidad, heartbroken over the death of her child. She attended the autopsy at the centre where Alexandrov pronounced Henry’s death a suicide.

“It was the first time I saw his body and while I had been trying to accept that he had killed himself, I noticed marks on his body and his head looked odd. He had obvious head injuries. I am not a medical professional but I saw it clearly,” Paul said. She asked Alexandrov about what she had notice, but he dismissed her concerns, stating it was definitely a suicide.

Resigned, but still doubting her son would kill himself, Paul had her son’s body transported to Guide’s Funeral Home, Couva. as relatives began arriving in Trinidad to say goodbye. A few days before the funeral was scheduled, Paul visited the funeral home but was stopped by mortician Mikhail Ragoobarsingh.

Ragoobarsingh told Paul that a couple of marks on Henry’s body looked strange for someone who was ruled as a suicide. Paul began calling local pathologists to ask that they examine her son’s body. Dr Hubert Daisley agreed to conduct the second post mortem.

His report found several injuries on Henry’s body that was inconsistent with suicide. Paul immediately abandoned all plans for a funeral. He gave the family a referral to take to the Chaguanas Police Station, where Paul met Senior Superintendent Jayson Forde.

Forde, who she described as understanding and helpful, advised her that the police were guided by law and could not begin a homicide investigation unless the State’s forensic pathologist stated that the cause of death was murder. She returned to the Forensic Science Centre and requested a second autopsy but was told only the police could make such a request.

Following advice, she retained attorney Gerard Ramdeen, who wrote to the Police Service and the DPP on her behalf.

Conversation excerpt
Part of the  six-minute conversation between Paul and Alexandrov:

Paul: This is Sharlene calling back. I am on a cellphone so the call may keep dropping.

Alexandrov: I am investigating this case. I am a  medical examiner. I have to appreciate and evaluate every information I receive. “The second autopsy was done not by forensic pathologist, Daisley. Daisley is not a forensic pathologist. He never was. Everything was done by this (insults Daisley) was simply a matter of publicity. My question is how long ago did you move to Florida. How many years ago?

Paul: What does that have to do with the case? I don’t understand.

Alexandrov: Listen, listen. Investigation is investigation and I am determined not to stop until I get to the root of all the bullshit that is going on in this country. I understand your feelings as a mother but my question is how long ago did you move to Florida?

Paul: I don’t understand what this has to do with an autopsy. Can you explain the rationale please?

Alexandrov: Investigation can last as long as it needs. If he was arrested and spent time in custody, for what?

Paul: What does this have to do with an autopsy?

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