A Dutch woman was brutally beaten and kicked before being fatally stabbed in the neck, a medical expert testified in the murder proceedings against her boyfriend.
Shannon Mak was subjected to a sustained attack including "pushing, pulling, kicking, possibly even hitting against a wall", medico-legal expert Mario Scerri told a court.
He was giving evidence in the case against Ms Mak's 23-year-old former colleague and boyfriend, Jelle Rijpma, who is accused of her murder in August 2018.
Her lifeless body was found, throat slashed and in a pool of blood between a parked car and a garden wall in Triq il-Mastrudaxxi in Santa Venera.
Dr Scerri, who examined the body at around 8am, a couple of hours after it was discovered, testified that she died at around 2am on August 3, 2018.
The state of the body indicated this, Dr Scerri explained.
The victim had injuries and bruising on her face and other parts of the body, which appeared to indicate that she had been subjected to beating, the witness continued. However, the fatal wound was inflicted to the neck, he said.
“Could the injuries have been indicative of self-harm?” asked parte civile lawyer Stefano Filletti.
“No, no, no,” Dr Scerri said.
“The injuries were inflicted by a blunt instrument, but the fatal injury was inflicted by a sharp instrument,” he said.
“It was a knife, not biggish. The smaller the instrument, the greater the force needed, although of course, it also depends on the sharpness of the blade.”
“Were the bruises and injuries indicative of any particular force?” Dr Filletti asked.
“All involved some degree of force. It was pushing, pulling, kicking, possibly even hitting against a wall,” Dr Scerri explained.
Ms Mak's father stood listening attentively as the extent of his daughter's injuries were outlined to the court.
On the same day of the murder, at around 2pm, the forensic doctor had also examined the suspect at the Police Headquarters, shortly after he was taken there under arrest.
Results of blood samples appeared to indicate that Mr Rijpma had probably not been under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the crime.
However, Dr Scerri said that one had to bear in mind the average alcohol clearance rate by the body and the fact that the blood samples were taken relatively late after the estimated time of death.
The accused had one abrasion on his knee, probably suffered in a fall, the expert concluded.
Daniel Vella, court-appointed expert, testified as to how he had been called to the crime scene on August 3, 2018, arriving there when the corpse had been removed.
Samples lifted from the spot where the victim had been discovered, from the car parked next to that spot, from handprints on the wall nearby as well as from another site further away, had also indicated the presence of olive oil.
A dark patch on the road tarmac had also turned out to be olive oil, the court was told.
The expert went on to explain how he had tried to fit together several pieces of green broken glass, including the base of a bottle, handling all items with gloves.
One fragment, bearing a reddish spot, had been handed over to another expert for DNA testing, Dr Vella said.
More specific evidence on the victim’s death was presented by forensic pathologists Marie Therese Camilleri and Ali Salfraz who performed the autopsy on the same day of the murder.
The two experts testified jointly in the compilation proceedings, confirming that Ms Mak had died of hypovolemic shock due to a stab wound in the neck.
This wound, on the left side of the neck had a lower and upper margin measuring 9.8 and 10.6 centimeters, both sharp and both compatible with a knife, the court was told.
Besides “a lot of other injuries” there was a second small superficial wound with a sharp margin on the neck, the experts pointed out, explaining that this, however, had not affected any underlying structures in the neck.
The case continues.
The Court is presided by Magistrate Simone Grech. Inspectors Robert Vella and Kurt Zahra prosecuted. Lawyer Leontine Calleja was defence counsel.