Forensic investigator explains report of exhumation of Solo Sandeng

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Police Spt. Thomas R. J. Gomez yesterday continued his testimony under examination in chief before Justice Kumba Sillah-Camara in the criminal trial of Yankuba Badjie and six other former defunct NIA officials.

The 25th witness testified that, page one of the report is titled investigation report, whilst page two contains some few headings.

He further testified that the report was done by himself and the team of investigators on the instruction of the Inspector General of Police.

On page three, the witness disclosed a map showing the exact location of Solo Sandeng’s grave site, with the bearings in terms of latitude and longitude.

He further disclosed that the said map shows the exact location of SIS complex in Tanji with a red square denoting the grave of Solo Sandeng.

Spt. Gomez told the court that each page on the report has two pictures, adding that the first picture on page eight (8) indicates where Solo Sandeng was said to have been tortured and on the second picture is a small room where the deceased was later brought in and while on the verge of dying.

He noted that both pictures were captured at the then NIA Headquarters in Banjul.

Spt. Gomez pointed out that having been confirmed dead by a medical practitioner, his remains was later escorted to the SIS complex in Tanji.

The witness told the court that the first picture on page 9 shows the entrance to the SIS complex in Tanji and on the second picture at the bottom corner is the exact grave where the remains of Solo Sandeng was buried.

Spt. Gomez said there are markings on the wall which was done with charcoal by Spt. Susso.

He further said that the team was led to the site by Sheikh Omar Jeng who showed them the grave, using his skills as a forensic archaeologist, he was able to notice some abnormalities.

The abnormalities he said include some visual changes on the ground surface, evidence of soil disturbance on the edges of the grave as well as some depression.

He testified that after discovering these things he left.  The following day he went back with his team and cleared the surface debris on the grave and then watered the grave.

He explained that they deemed it necessary to water the grave because at the time the team did not know the depth of the said grave and it would make it easy to use archaeological tools like hand trowel, spades amongst others.

The witness testified that Solo Sandeng exhumation was the first time experience for most of his team members, adding that he took time to brief them on the customary elements on exhumation like the location of the grave.

Spt. Gomez pointed out that the grave was sectioned into two equal half and the first layer which is called the tuff comprises of the topsoil which they removed.

He testified that having finished with the top layer, they moved on to the 2nd layer where they discovered plastic surgical gloves he suspected were stained with blood.

Spt Gomez told the court that they allowed health officials to fumigate the grave as there were odour coming out which evidenced that they were about to recover something.

The witness testified that after fumigating the grave, they continued scrapping at the soil until they recovered two metatarsals.

Spt Gomez said; as they continued digging, they came across a blue and white coloured single size mattress which was exactly the size of the grave.

After loosening up the size of the mattress, they lifted the mattress out and behold was the remains of a dead man lying, physically decay with evidence of small flesh and clothing.

He testified that the grave measured 85 Centimeters in width and 1.75 meters in length.

Spt. Gomez explained that the process of identifying the remains was not an easy task as it requires that the remains would have been sent to the mortuary for examination.

Spt. Gomez explained that the expertise required in conducting forensic examination is based on the condition of the remains.

He further explained that the examination on the said remains could only be done by a forensic pathologist which EFSTH does not have.

Hearing continues.

Author: Bruce Asemota