Accused in Serbian’s murder 'suffered grievous injury' caused by blunt trauma, jurors told

Emil Atanasov, a Bulgarian, is on trial the murder of Krstic Dragoljub in Bugibba in February 2014

The jury trying Emil Atanasov has this morning seen a expert in forensic medicine confirm that the accused had suffered grievous injury during the fight which led to the death of his flatmate's friend.

Taking the witness stand, forensic expert Mario Scerri gave the jury a detailed account of the wounds, cuts and abrasions he had recorded during the autopsy of Serbian national Krstic Dragoljub, as well as of his examination of the accused and the other men present during the fatal encounter.

Atanasov, a Bulgarian, is on trial for Dragoljub's murder in Bugibba in February 2014. The accused is claiming that he acted in self-defence when he fatally stabbed Dragoljub and is pleading not guilty to willful homicide, inflicting grievous bodily harm on another Serb, Zoran Jocic, and to carrying a knife during the commission of a crime.

The deceased had suffered bruising and a stab wound which, Scerri said, had been caused by a single-edged, pointed blade.

On the other hand, the expert noted that the accused had suffered head injuries compatible with blunt trauma. Also present were fresh scratches and bruises on the right-hand side of his neck and upper torso, together with a large bruise on the back of his neck.

Defence lawyer Malcolm Mifsud took issue with the conclusion that the Dragoljub had been beaten before death.

“Would it not be more correct to say that he was involved in a struggle?” the lawyer asked. 

Scerri pointed to several abrasions caused by sharp instrument and bruises on the body of the deceased.

“When I see all this, I say he was beaten.”

But Mifsud said it was unfair that on the other hand, he had not reached the same conclusion with regards to the accused, who “looked like he had an encounter with Mike Tyson”.

Scerri reiterated that he had reported that the accused had also been grievously injured, as he suffered permanent scars. Atanasov's most serious injury was a laceration above his right eye that would leave permanent scarring. Someone had also grabbed him by the neck and he had several scratches, he added.

“The fracture of the other guy's [Zoran Jocic] nasal bone must have come from somewhere,” Scerri pointed out, “but I cannot identify who caused it.”

Mifsud asked the expert to examine the scar right there, in court, and confirm whether Atanasov's laceration was still visible today. Scerri complied and confirmed the injury's classification as grievous.

The blade had probably been horizontal or angled down when the fatal wound was inflicted, Scerri confirmed.

Asked about the force used to stab the victim, Scerri said the blade had missed the ribs, so the force required was “not exaggeratedly large,” but enough to penetrate the ventricle.

Asked about how much of the blade was inserted, he said he could only say with certainty that the handle had not touched the skin of the victim. Had the blade gone all the way in, the wound would not have been as cleanly defined, Scerri explained.

Mifsud suggested that a wound on the left hand of the accused could have been caused by a knife. After seeing the photographs, Scerri said it could well be the case, adding that he had not seen them during his examination, as the accused had been handcuffed and his hands had not been washed clean of blood at the time.

Almost every juror had a pertinent question for Scerri. 

One asked whether the mark on the neck of the accused could suggest attempted strangulation. Scerri said that there had been pressure or a blow, but could not confirm attempted strangulation as no opposing thumb mark was visible. Previous news reports of the compilation proceedings report Atanasov as having told the police that “Dragoljub took me by the throat and pushed me against the wall. I felt the crowbar fall from my hand, so I kept the handle of the knife against my body, with the tip pointing outwards. When I could no longer breathe, I pushed out my hand and Dragoljub moved forward, impaling himself on my knife.”

Another juror pointed out that the fight had taken place in darkness, as it was about the electricity supply having been cut off.

Could the many abrasions and nicks have been caused by the knife being waved about, she asked. The forensic expert confirmed this was likely the case.

Yet another juror asked whether the laceration suffered by the accused could have been caused by a metal bar. Scerri said that it was a blunt trauma injury that could have indeed been caused by a bar, as well as any other blunt object, however. 

Further questions were asked as to whether the superficial scratches documented could have been caused by collisions with furniture edges or crowbars. Scerri, after examining the crowbar in court, said it “definitely” could not have caused the injuries.

The accused is expected to testify when the trial resumes tomorrow.