Police re-open hanging case

| 11/11/2013

(CNS): As a result of an open verdict delivered following a coroner's inquest, the RCIPS has confirmed that they will be taking another look at a case involving the death of a 43-year-old woman in April last year, which police had believed was a suicide. Dr Lija Godenzi’s body was discovered hanging from a door at her South Sound condominium during the 2012 Easter weekend but police concluded that there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding her death and she had taken her own life. However, during a four day inquest into the case last week, a number of issues were raised, throwing that conclusion into question. The jury found there was not enough evidence to support suicide, misadventure or natural causes, placing the case back in the hands of the police.

An RCIPS spokesperson said that a review of the case would now be undertaken and further comment would be released once officers had examined the coroner‘s report and transcripts from the hearing. It is understood that officers from the RCIPS Cold Case Unit will be handling the re-investigation.

During the inquest, which was presided over by Coroner Eileen Nervik, the pathologist confirmed that the decomposition of Godenzi’s body prevented her from accurately pin-pointing the time of death but it was at least three to four days before the body was found.

The expert stated that he could not determine what had happened but there was no evidence of a struggle in Godenzi’s apartment or on the body that she could tell. The doctor said the knots in the rope could have been tied by someone else and that the woman would have mostly likely been very drowsy at the time of her death as a result of medication found in her system.

Although the body was discovered hanging over the bedroom door, her neck was not broken and there were no bruises around the area of the rope. The pathologist concluded that she had died of asphyxiation from hanging. When asked during the inquest by an attorney representing Godenzi’s family, he said that he could not rule out that Godenzi had been unconscious and placed on the door by someone else.

During the hearing the jury heard that Godenzi, who was a practicing ophthalmologist, was going through a difficult divorce and was separated from her husband, Andreas Haug, a partner with Maples and Calder, one of Cayman’s leading offshore law firms. The inquest heard that her estranged husband had placed a tracking device on her car and when asked by Coroner Nervik if he had also placed any spy programmes on the laptop computer that she was using, the lawyer refused to answer.

In her summing up of the case for the jury the coroner pointed to the shortcomings of the police investigation in the immediate wake of the discovery of Godenzi’s body. Officers never dusted the apartment for prints, nor did they find out where the rope used had come from. Officers also neglected to examine her two phones, which were in the apartment when the body was found. In addition, the coroner pointed to missing jewellery, which Godenzi had been seen wearing just before her death, as well as a missing laptop, none of which were ever recovered.

Although Godenzi was described as suffering from depression as a result of the difficulties over her divorce, the coroner highlighted circumstantial evidence that pointed away from her taking her own life. Godenzi had planned and booked a trip to visit friends and family over the Easter holiday in Hawaii and her native Australia. The coroner also directed that she was looking beyond the divorce and was considering returning to Australia to establish an ophthalmology practice there.

Colin McKie, QC, also from Maples and Calder, who was representing Haug at the hearing, objected to Nervik’s summary but his efforts to speak to the coroner in chambers were rejected.

Godenzi’s family also raised concerns in the wake of the inquest that Haug had attempted to limit press coverage based on the suggestion that both witnesses and evidence at the inquest were not credible.

“The proceedings of the coronial Inquest were conducted in accordance with Caymanian Law and Mr Haug and his counsel were afforded the same opportunity to question the evidence and witnesses as Lija’s family,” they said in a statement. “The family of Lija Godenzi is not accusing anyone of any crime and are only looking for the truth as to the circumstances surrounding her death. There remain many unanswered questions. We feel there may be someone out there that knows something but may be afraid to come forward. The more this case is investigated, the more chance we have of finding the truth surrounding her death.”

Going on to thank the coroner for her  diligence in reviewing the evidence, the family said that they remained hopeful that further enquiries by the Cayman authorities would result in “answers to the many unresolved questions still surrounding the death of our beloved Lija”, they stated.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Category: Local News

About the Author ()

Comments are closed.