Woman killed by strangulation, says expert
FORENSICS expert professor Lorna Martin testified in the Cape High Court this week that Sharisha Chauhan died as a result of manual strangulation. Chauhan’s former partner, Taariq Phillips, has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and rape.
The couple and their friends were at a rave party at the La Bac Farm in Paarl on New Year’s Eve 2013 when tragedy struck.
It is the State’s case that Phillips and the deceased, who were both 21 at the time, consumed recreational drugs.
Toxicology reports revealed that Chauhan’s blood tested negative for drugs but in the toxicology summary it was noted that traces of cocaine had been found in her bloodstream.
The State and the defence could not agree if the traces were from the night in question or from a previous occasion.
According to court papers, Chauhan had felt unwell and had been escorted by friends to her tent and left with Phillips.
They say Chauhan had been fully clothed and without injuries when they last saw her.
Paramedics were called after midnight to the tent where Chauhan was found naked and convulsing.
The young woman was taken to the Paarl Medi-Clinic in the early hours of January 1, 2014 where she was treated for an alleged drugs overdose.
Chauhan died in ICU that evening.
Martin, who has been a forensic pathologist since 1990 and has completed a master’s thesis on rape homicide and wrote guidelines for the treatment of rape survivors, told the court that post-mortem results showed Chauhan had died of global hypoxia – which occurs due to a lack of oxygen to the brain.
She said the injuries to Chauhan’s genitalia and anus area were in keeping with rape or blunt force trauma.
The defence’s argument is that the bruises may have been caused by vigorous masturbation.
“I am of the opinion that the injuries as recorded as finding at autopsy are due to blunt force trauma, consistent with manual strangulation, closure of the mouth, forceful genital and anal penetration,” said Martin.
In her report, Martin said she was of the opinion Chauhan had been raped more than once.
She testified that while seminal fluids were found on the deceased no DNA was found, but that this could mean that no DNA tests had been done or the fluids contained too little DNA.
Martin said there was no pharmacological evidence to suggest that the intake of any drugs would have led to the deceased’s neurological state or the convulsions she experienced.
“The original damages caused by the manual strangulation set off a chain of events which contributed to the death.
“Even though the deceased survived for a while, I am not convinced there would have been another outcome.”
The defence said the accused would testify that he did not strangle, rape or assault Chauhan.
Taariq Phillips and Sharisha Chauhan. Phillips is accused of the rape and murder of Chauhan on New Year’s Eve in 2013.