Child's death not ascertained due to mummification

January 23, 2024 4:47 pm

Ruci Kalokalo and Laisiasa Rokobici in Nadi court today

The Head of Forensic and Pathology at the Fiji Police Force, Dr James Kalougivaki, revealed that he is unable to explain the cause of Alanieta Naituva’s death, due to the unusual state of her body’s decomposition or mummification.

This revelation unfolded during the ongoing trial at the Lautoka High Court of Ruci Kalokalo and Laisiasa Rokobici, the parents of the deceased 7-year-old who are currently facing charges of manslaughter and unlawfully burying their daughter.

According to Dr Kalougivaki’s testimony, he examined the child’s body on March 11th 2021, following an official order.

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Naituva had passed away on 23rd February 2021 and was buried on the same day.

Ruci Kalokalo (left) and Laisiasa Rokobici in Nadi court today

The forensic expert explained that when they exhumed Alanieta Naituva’s body from a graveyard in Toko, Tavua, she was found covered in traditional Fijian masi, a mat, and wrapped in thick cloth.

He said that this unique burial method resulted in extreme drying, leading to the mummification of the child’s remains.

Due to the advanced state of decomposition, Dr Kalougivaki told the court that he faced significant challenges in determining the cause of death.

He emphasized that, had the body been brought in on the same day as her passing, they might have been able to ascertain the cause of death.

Despite the difficulties, Dr Kalougivaki stated that no signs of injury were observed on the child’s body during the examination.

It is alleged that between December and February 2021, the couple made an omission that amounted to a negligent breach of duty by not taking their 7-year-old child to the hospital for medical attention, which allegedly resulted in her death.

During the cross-examination, Laisiasa Rokobici, the father of the victim, raised a single question.

He asked Dr Kalougivaki whether individuals seen in hospitals are saved 100% of the time.

In response, Dr Kalougivaki said that the question was not fair, highlighting the diverse medical histories of individuals and the complexities involved in ensuring everyone’s survival.

For the second count of Restriction of Burial of Dead Bodies, the two are alleged to have buried the body of their daughter without a certificate of death in the forms prescribed by the Registrar General by regulation under the Births, Deaths, and Marriages Registration Act in the register of that body signed by a medical practitioner.

The trial will continue tomorrow.