13 May 2013

Conflicting evidence from pathologists in murder trial

6:48 pm on 13 May 2013

A High Court murder trial in Christchurch has heard conflicting views from pathologists over how a woman died.

Nikki Roper is accused of murdering Christchurch mother Alexsis Tovizi at her home in Stanmore Road in December 2010, taking her car and laptop and using her eftpos card.

The 24-year-old is accused of choking her in the days after he was released from prison and has

denied all charges.

The second week of trial began on Monday with evidence from pathologist Kenneth Anderson who told the court that Ms Tovizi's lungs were full of water.

The Crown has suggested Mr Roper's defence will be that he was assisting her suicide by drowning her in a large pot of water.

But forensic pathologist Kenneth Anderson told the court that suicidal drowning in a pot of water would be almost impossible, because it is a situation that a person can get out of when the overwhelming animal instinct to save themselves takes over.

Under questioning from Crown prosecutor Pip Curry, Dr Anderson said the body showed signs of strangulation, but no evidence of any kind of struggle. He said that would be consistent with Miss Tovizi already being unconscious when she drowned.

Another pathologist, Martin Sage, told defence counsel Simon Sharmy under cross-examination on Monday there was evidence that Ms Tovizi had been strangled.

However, a third pathologist, defence witness David Ransor, says he cannot see a positive piece of pathology evidence to explain the cause of the death.

Choke hold explained

Evidence was also given by Graham Spinks, a former Olympian and Commonwealth Games medalist, for the defence. Mr Spinks holds a black belt in judo and represented New Zealand at the 1984 and 1992 Olympics.

The Crown says Nikki Roper strangled Alexsis Tovizi in a choke hold.

Mr Spinks told the jury if a carotid hold (choke hold) is carried out unskilfully, the victim will suffer bloodshot eyes and a bruised jawline and, possibly, reddened, cut gums among other symptoms.

He said victims became unconscious quickly and stopped struggling as their postural muscles gave way.

Earlier, the court heard the post-mortem on the woman's body showed no signs of a struggle.