2010/02/16 "Break “Relevant”? Ignore “Irrelevant”? On Medicolegal Examination Principles"
  • Press Release No. 08/1276
  • 16/02/2010

The outcome of the case on the death of Alexander Mazhuga from Kurgan fully depends on which group of experts is able to persist in their opinion: state experts or independent experts.

It will be recalled that Alexander Mazhuga (born 1988) was called up into the Army on June 24, 2009. On June 27 he and other conscripts were sent from Chelyabinsk to Birobidzhan town by the Far East military train. Alexander's parents, Sergey Alexandrovich Mazhuga and Tatyana Alexandrovna Nazarova, were present at Alexander's departure from Chelyabinsk. Alexander seemed happy to them. Parents gave Alexander much food to share with fellows and 500 roubles (which were never found). The boy didn't manage to reach Birobidzhan. On June 30 Military Commissar Safronov phoned Alexander's parents and reported as follows: "Your son hung himself in the train on the night of June 30. Everybody left the car at the station, and Alexander was on duty. When they came back they found Alexander hanging in a loop. He is currently in hospital of Nizhneudinsk, the Irkutsk Region". Safronov's version seemed suspicious to parents. How come that their son was alone in the car in the middle of the night? Why were they informed only 14 hours later? Alexander's parents left for Nizhneudinsk at once. On July 2 they met their son. Alexander was in Resuscitation Department in a third-degree coma which he never emerged from. Parents saw hematomas and abrasions on their son's head and face. They made photographs of these injuries which were later spread through the media; the photographs clearly show big abrasion on the left side of the forehead and hematoma of the left eye. On June 6, 2009 Alexander Mazhuga died. An expertise was carried out during an official investigation in Nizhneudinsk. On arrival in Kurgan parents consulted the Mother's Right Foundation and conducted another, independent examination. The outstanding results of both examinations were published in our press-release No. 100/1243 of October 29, 2009.

State and independent experts made utterly different conclusions. Here are some extracts from the state experts' resolution: "Hyoid bone and laryngeal cartilages except for tracheal pelvic rings cut during tracheotomy are not injured... Closed single oblique bottom - up from right to left and from front to back life - time line of depression caused by compression of neck organs made by noose (tightened under the body's weight) was found in the upper part of the neck of the corps of Alexander Mazhuga. Morphology and oblique direction of the line indicates that it appeared when the noose tightened under the weight of Alexander Mazhuga." The independent experts' resolution reads as follows: "Mobility of thyrohyal on the right side of hyoid bone was found. Complete transverse fracture at the basal of the right thyrohyal with dark cherry color hemorrhage in the fracture of 1 centimeter size was found on the shield - like cartilage...totality of injuries on the neck... was the result of compression of neck organs made by a noose... horizontal unclosed single life - time line of depression in middle sides of the scruff of the corps." Moreover, the state experts found fewer injuries on Alexander's body that the independent experts did. Put simply, the state experts described the body of a man who committed suicide, while the independent experts ruled out a possibility of self-hanging. That was why one more examination was carried out in the 98th State Medicolegal Examinations Centre of the Far East Military District.

Here we are with the resolution of the Military Experts Committee: A.I. Avdeev, I.P. Shulga and S.V. Afonnikov. The state experts re-concluded that Alexander Mazhuga was a self-murderer.

And what about thyrohyal and shield-like cartilage fractures indicative of homicide? These fractures weren't noticed by the first committee of experts, but were examined and described by the independent experts in Kurgan. This "contradiction" was given quite a surprising explanation: "Absence of haemorrhages in soft tissues around the fractures revealed through macroscopic and legal histological examination allows to strongly insist on posthumous nature of these fractures being a result of mechanical pressure on larynx when removing organic matter during autopsy." Which means, according to the military experts' opinion, these fractures had been caused by the expert who conducted the first autopsy, i.e. the state expert of Nizhneudinsk. It couldn't be the Kurgan experts, because organic matter didn't exude during the second examination.

What an interesting story: according to the Committee suggestion, the state expert breaks during the autopsy that very thyrohyal and cartilage which is extremely important to establish the cause of death; then he makes a resolution that theses bones are not damaged, concealing the fact that it was he who broke them during the autopsy... We wonder if the first state expert agrees to confirm the version, admitting in public his professional ineligibility and dishonesty. The fact that the independent experts found more hematomas on Alexander's body was also explained brilliantly by the Committee: they suggested that the Kurgan experts were unable to distinguish lifetime bruises from death spots. "As far as the body of A.S. Mazhuga was re-examined on July 13, 2009, i.e. six days after the examination on July 7, 2009, revealed "damages" of the left shoulder and back as "bruises" are most likely to be the death spots on the stage of imbibition or the result of putrescine in progress."

On familiarizing themselves with the Committee resolution, the Kurgan medicolegal experts wrote an official statement persisting in their professional view. The statement was signed by five experts including the head of the Medicolegal Examinations Department; the statement points out that "according to the contradictions arisen, one should consider critically the conclusions of the examination No. 1 of July 31, 2009 and the expert resolution No. 42 of January 7, 2010".

Alexander Mazhuga's parents keep fighting for their son's honor. None of his relatives believes the self-murder version. The Mother's Right foundation is considering a possibility to bring the case to the European Court of Human Rights.