Concerns raised over challenge to inquest verdict

| 21/01/2014

(CNS): Lance Godenzi, the brother of Lija Godenzi, whose body was found in her apartment in April 2012 hanging from a door, has raised concerns that his sister’s estranged husband has mounted a legal challenge to the inquest verdict and is seeking to have her death declared a suicide. Godenzi told CNS that he is genuinely mystified by an application, filed by Andreas Haug, for a judicial review of the findings of the jury following the open public inquest in November. The lawyer with offshore legal firm Maples and Calder is challenging the coroner in the case, as he has accused her of misdirecting the jury and steering them towards an open verdict. Haug is requesting a verdict of suicide and not a re-hearing.

However, Lance Godenzi, who along with Haug attended the inquest at the end of last year, said his brother-in-law and his attorney had repeatedly told him that they wanted an open verdict. 

“That is what the jury gave," Godenzi said in an email statement from his native Australia. “I don’t understand how Mr Haug can complain when the jury delivered the outcome which he asked for.” 

Godenzi described the application for a judicial review as a "180 degree turnaround" from the submissions made by Haug’s counsel during the inquest, and hoped the Caymanian Court would review the transcript of the inquest and that he, too, would be given an opportunity to make submissions during any forthcoming legal hearing that impacted his 43-year-old sister’s still mysterious death.

Godenzi said he was content with the way that the coroner had conducted the hearing and impressed with how conscientiously the jury did their job. Although no verdict could bring Lija back, he said, his family now had a much clearer idea of the events leading to her death and still hoped that further evidence would come to light in the new police review underway, bringing closure for Lija’s parents, brothers, wider family and friends.

CNS asked the police for an update on the review which they said would be conducted after the jury returned an open verdict in Lija Godenzi’s death, and an RCIPS spokesperson said the review was ongoing. Although officers had assumed that Godenzi had taken her own life at the time her body was discovered, during the inquest the jury heard that there were legitimate questions about that assumption.

Godenzi told CNS that as a result of the difficult circumstances that his sister found herself in when her marriage began to break down, Cayman law-makers may want to think about changing family law for expatriate women in such a situation, where their marriages end a long way from their support networks.

“Perhaps woman who accompany their working husbands to Cayman could return to their home country with the children on some kind of ‘without prejudice’ basis to final orders so that the mother can deal with all the stresses of divorce and single mother-hood with the sort of practical support that she would have if events had unfolded in Australia,” he added.

Despite her death, Godenzi noted that there were still issues regarding the fallout of the couple’s separation because Haug has refused to let Lija’s family see the children and attempts to hold a mediation meeting between him and the grand-parents had failed when Haug recently visited Australia.

In January Haug filed an application in the Grand Court in which he said the coroner had implied he had killed his wife and of putting undue pressure on the jury to return an open verdict rather than finding she took her own life. Haug claims that the coroner in the case, Eileen Nervik, QC, misdirected the jury over the evidence they should or should not consider, that she misstated the standard of proof for suicide and prevented submissions after her summing up.

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