“We are not going to accept any autopsy report. if the government refuses, we are going to have a memorial service and leave the body,” said Dr. Abel Momo, spokesman for the family of the deceased.
The Ministry of Justice has allegedly ordered the family of the late Princess Cooper to accept legal responsibility for the delay in conducting the second autopsy since the family is requesting the body for burial.
The revelation, made by Dr. Abel Momo, the family’s spokesperson, came nearly two months after the family of the deceased, out of frustration, had requested the government to turn over the body to them for burial.
“The Ministry contacted our lawyer; they said the family should write a communication stating that they [family] accept the autopsy report that was done and [that] it is all the family’s fault that the second autopsy could not be done,” Momo noted.
He added that if the government refuses to hand over the deceased to the family for burial, they will instead hold a memorial service and leave the body for the government and “never request for it.”
“Tentatively the family is waiting for the communication from our lawyer to the Minister of Justice demanding again that we have the body, but not accepting the autopsy report. And if the government refuses within the next two to three weeks, we are going to have a memorial service and leave the body with the government and then everybody carries on their normal activities,” he added.
Reechoing the family’s position, Cllr. Findley Karngar disclosed that a letter will be sent to the Minister of Justice, demanding the body for burial not accepting the autopsy report. If the government refuses, then the family will determine its next course of action.
“The Ministry is trying to shift responsibility for its failure to allow the conduct of the second autopsy, so the family will not accept this blame-shifting game,” Karngar added. “We will request only for the body and nothing else.”
The Ministry was however reached for comment for this story but failed to respond. Its Director of Public Affairs, Maude Somah, had promised to call back after inquiring from her boss, but failed to do so and did not respond to follow-up calls.
Momo’s 25-year-old niece, Cooper, was found face-down in a pool of blood around the Fawaz building material store building at the ELWA junction. The cause of death, according to Drs. Benedict Kolee and his colleague, Zoebon Kpadeh, “was a result of progressive secondary pulmonary tuberculosis.”
The autopsy report by Drs. Kolee and Kpadeh said the evidence pointed out that Cooper had underlying health conditions that caused her death. They argued that from professional and expert opinion, the deceased died naturally as a result of hemorrhagic shock and that massive hemorrhage as well as progressive secondary pulmonary tuberculosis.
"In our professional and expert opinion, the manner of death is NATURAL," Dr. Kolee, who read the report yesterday at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs, and Tourism, on behalf of him and his colleague said on April 19 said. “Findings from the autopsy suggested that Princess Cooper died of internal bleeding caused by tuberculosis.”
However, the family did not just reject the autopsy report but denied the pathologists’ claim that Cooper died of tuberculosis. They argued that there is no medical history of their deceased daughter having tuberculosis and the contents of the report aren't just consistent with the medical history of the deceased, and it also falls short of making sense of the pattern of death.
The family rejection prompted President George Weah to order the Ministry of Justice to conduct a second autopsy on the deceased body.
“The government will fund the conduct of the second autopsy and call on the family to designate a pathologist of their choice, possessing the requisite credentials and qualifications,” a release from the Executive Mansion said then. In the directive, Weah mandated the Minister of Justice to have the family send the name of a designated qualified pathologist to the government in the soonest possible time for the conduct of the second autopsy.”
But since the order was issued on April 19, the family and the ministry have accused each other of creating a bottleneck that has prevented the second autopsy from happening.
Meanwhile, Momo noted that the family of the deceased had for the last few months communicated with the Ministry, demanding the body, but their efforts have not yielded any fruit.
“The last meeting we held was on June 29, with officials of the Ministry, including deputies and representatives from the Ministry of Information. The Minister was absent, so we concluded the meeting with an understanding that the family request would be forwarded to the Minister of Justice and a response communicated through our lawyer.
“Now, they have given us a response, which we will not accept. We are not going to accept any autopsy reports. Initially, we raised concern on the pathologists’ qualifications and not just the report,” Momo said.
“We continue to hold our position that the government-appointed pathologists were not in the best position to do an independent autopsy. We raised that red flag and the government went and did it without our approval. So we are not going to do such communication accepting the report.”