Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Montreal February 13, 2018 - 3:30 pm

Nunavik woman could have been killed in her sleep, expert says

Forensic pathologist finds no evidence of a struggle

Nellie Angutiguluk of Puvirnituq could have been killed in her sleep, a forensic pathologist said in court yesterday, Feb. 12. (SVPM PHOTO)
Nellie Angutiguluk of Puvirnituq could have been killed in her sleep, a forensic pathologist said in court yesterday, Feb. 12. (SVPM PHOTO)

Special to Nunatsiaq News

A forensic pathologist called by the Crown to give evidence in the second-degree murder trial of Kwasi Benjamin in Montreal testified that it’s possible that the alleged victim was strangled in her sleep when she died in May 2015.

Benjamin, 32, is accused of killing Nellie Angutiguluk, a 29-year-old mother of three who is originally from Puvirnituq.

During cross-examination last week, defence lawyer Paul Skolnik had asked Dr. Caroline Tanguay if there was any evidence of defence wounds or if any swabs taken from underneath the victim’s fingernails showed any sign that she put up a fight.

Tanguay said there is no such evidence from fingernail swabs or the autopsy.

On Monday afternoon, Crown prosecutor Dennis Galiatsatos asked her if it is possible for a victim to receive defensive marks while sleeping.

“No,” Tanguay said.

“And is it possible she was strangled in her sleep?” Galiatsatos asked.

“Yes,” Tanguay said. “It is possible. She was found in her bed.”

Skolnik asked Tanguay in cross-examination to read passages from a forensic pathology textbook on the physical descriptions of victims of hangings and ligature strangulations, asking her if she agreed with the author on details that are generally present in those cases.

One of the passages described how tongues protrude in cases of hanging.

Skolnik asked her if in Angutiguluk’s autopsy report, Tanguay had noted if the victim’s tongue was protruding.

“I didn’t note the tongue was protruding or dried out,” Tanguay said.

“When the tongue is dry, we note it.”

Skolnik passed a crime scene photo of Angutiguluk to the jury and the witness, and asked Tanguay to describe the image.

“We see the tongue between the two lips because they placed the combitube,” Tanguay said, referring to a tube first-responders use to revive.

“But when the tongue protrudes from hanging it comes out a lot more. It would be dark red, almost black. Here it is, white, still humid, but taken to the side because of the combitube. To me, this is not a tongue that is protruding—it is not dried up.”

During the trial, Skolnik had asked Tanguay about the location and shape of the ligature mark on Angutiguluk’s neck, and in what circumstances that kind of horizontal line, which does not continue into the back of the neck, might be produced by a self-imposed or accidental strangulation.

Tanguay had explained that a horizontal furrow that does not reach the jawline and curve upward could only occur in the very rare situation of a very tight noose set up in a lying-down position, which she says she does not believe occurred in Angutiguluk’s case.

“She was found in a bed, not in a ligature,” Tanguay said.

Tanguay was the last Crown witness to testify.

Read our previously published stories on the trial of Kwasi Benjamin:

Benjamin’s trial was to have continued Feb. 13 at the Palais de Justice in Montreal.

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