Published on October 28, 2013
Chief medical examiner Dr. Simon Avis, who performed an autopsy on Ann Marie Shirran in September 2010, testified at the murder trial of David Folker Monday in Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s.
— Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram
Published on October 28, 2013
Accused murderer David Folker sits in provincial Supreme Court Monday. He is expected to take the stand Wednesday. — Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram
Dr. Simon Avis says she died of a head injury, but can’t say how or when it happened
The man who performed the autopsy on Ann Marie Shirran’s remains believes she died from blunt force trauma to the head, but Dr. Simon Avis admitted he can’t say with certainty how or when it happened.
“I don’t know for sure,” the province’s chief medical examiner said Monday while testifying at the murder trial of David Folker.
“But you have to think about what else could it have been?”
Folker is accused of killing Shirran, his girlfriend and the mother of his son, on July 18, 2010. Her remains were discovered by campers in a wooded area in Cappahayden almost two months later.
Folker had first denied knowing anything about her disappearance and death, but on the second day of his trial earlier this month shocked everyone by admitting Shirran died as a result of a physical altercation between them. He also admitted to disposing of her personal items and her body.
However, he’s maintaining his not-guilty pleas to charges of second-degree murder and interfering with a dead human body.
Folker is expected to take the stand Wednesday, when the defence begins its case.
Avis was the Crown’s final witness.
He testified that in examining Shirran’s remains, he saw two skull fractures — one behind the ear on the left and the other near the base on the right, both at the thickest portion of the skull.
The right side fracture was a combination of five small fractures.
Since the injuries are separate and not connected, he concluded they were the result of two impacts.
He said the impacts could have been from two separate blows, or from a single blow, which caused compression, and injury, on the opposite side of the head if it was pressed against a hard surface.
“Not knowing more information, it’s difficult to say (which it was),” said Avis, who pointed out there were no witnesses.
The determination was so difficult to make, he said, because he was dealing with skeletal remains with little soft tissue and no organs remaining.
Avis said several small bones, in the hands and feet, along with a few vertebrae were missing, He said they were likely dragged off by animals.
Therefore, his analysis depended on the condition of the bones for evidence of injury.
“That makes it much harder,” he said.
He said he was able to conclude Shirran did not die of natural causes or from a punch with a fist.
“She did not die at her own hands,” he said. “Her death was due to the actions of another individual.”
Avis said the injuries would not have been caused by a simple fall down the stairs at home. He said the fall would have to have been from a significant height.
Diagrams and photos of Shirran’s skull were shown to the eight women and four men of the jury.
Avis said judging from the blood stains inside the skull, the fractures occurred at around the time of her death. However, he said it’s possible the injuries were caused a few hours after she died.
“You’re missing a great deal if evidence, aren’t you? The soft tissue,” defence lawyer Jason Edwards said in cross-examination.
“Yes,” Avis replied.
“You have a possible idea, but you don’t know for sure,” Edwards said.
Edwards asked Avis if it would be possible that the fractures happened at different times — one, say, from a fall and the other while someone was carrying the body after death on their shoulders and slipped and caused it to slam on hard surface.
Avis said that a simple slip would likely not have caused it, but conceded it would be possible if there was enough force.
When asked by Edwards if an injury to the vertebrae could have caused Shirran’s death, Avis said it could have.
Avis said there was no other signs of violence and no evidence of any other injuries.
After Folker testifies Wednesday, Justice Wayne Dymond said there will probably be a short break in proceedings. He said lawyers will likely give closing arguments next Monday. He’s expected to instruct the jury Tuesday, Nov. 5, before sequestering them.