Alcohol ‘was a factor’
Later on Tuesday, forensic pathologist and toxicology expert, Dr David Fintan Garavan, was questioned by defence lawyer Ian Brookie via video link from Miami, in the United States.
Earlier in the trial, the Crown’s pathologist Dr Simon Stables said bruises found on Grace’s body were consistent with signs of restraint.
Brookie asked Garavan if the bruises could have been from “love bites” and he agreed.
Garavan said there was no sign of defensive injuries on Grace’s body such as abrasions to the neck from resisting.
He told Brookie the pathology evidence suggested Grace had been involved in a consensual sexual act before she died. But the pathologist said Grace’s alcohol consumption could have “very well been a secondary factor in the cause of death”.
Brookie said Grace had consumed several cocktails over the course of her date with the accused on the night she died, including two shots of tequila.
However, previously the court heard there was no direct evidence to show who consumed the alcoholic beverages purchased on the night.
In his opinion, Garavan said Grace’s blood alcohol level would have been significantly higher at the time of her death than was reported in toxicology reports afterwards, because it would have become diluted after she died.
He said the level of alcohol consumed could have disabled the safety valve in the heart from kicking in, which would usually tell the brain to take a deep breath when oxygen flow is restricted.
Garavan concluded that, in his opinion, the primary cause of Grace’s death was mechanical asphyxia, with alcohol as a contributing cause.
Mechanical asphyxia is another term for pressure to the neck, he said.
Under cross-examination by Crown solicitor Brian Dickey, the pathologist agreed that in order for mechanical asphyxiation to cause death, pressure would have to be applied for five to 10 minutes.
When asked if the person could become limp underneath as a result, he agreed.
Dickey asked Garavan how rare death from mechanical asphyxiation during consensual sex was and he agreed it was “uncommon”.
‘Pressure to the neck’
Last week, Dr Simon Stables, a forensic pathologist, called on behalf of the Crown, said bruising on Grace’s body was consistent with her being restrained before she died.
The accused told police he woke up to find Grace lying on the floor with blood coming from her nose. He later purchased cleaning products to clean it up.
Stables said it was hard to tell if there had been any bleeding from the post mortem examination, but blood was consistent with strangulation over a prolonged period of time.
Further examination of Grace’s body found internal bruising below the jaw, extending down towards the front of her neck.
“It [the bruise] was due to pressure on the neck and applied for long enough for that bruising to occur, and [with] enough force,” Stables said.
Stables said in order for someone to die from manual strangulation, the brain had to be starved of oxygen for four to five minutes, and it would take quite a bit of effort and strength.
He said it was therefore rare for someone to die in this way, and he wasn’t aware of someone dying from asphyxiation during sex.
“It’s incredibly rare, I’m not aware of a case and I don’t know of another case that’s occurred in Auckland or other parts of the country,” he said.
The trial continues.