Vespers’ mother breaks down during inquest hearing

By Staff Reporter


A SOMBRE mood characterised the inquest hearing of slain fourth year University of Zambia student Vespers Shimunzhila after her mother broke down in court today.

Vespers’ mother Flare broke down after clinical officer Michael Mudenda Simukumbwa told coroner Sylvia Munyinya that the former was lifeless when her friends rushed her to UNZA clinic.

Flare walked out of the hearing in the company of other relatives who joined her in mourning.

And Simukumbwa narrated that on October 5 last year, there was confusion at the University after police officers fired teargas canisters to students.

He said students ran all over and others rushed to the clinic for peace.

Simukumbwa said the teargas also affected him and others who were working at the clinic.

He said around 02:00 hours, Vespers was taken to the clinic by her fellow students and a nurse Thomas Mulela informed him that there was a patient in an acute condition.

Simukumbwa said when he went to examine Vespers who was laying on the examination couch, he observed that her clothes were covered with black powdered substance.

He said since Vespers was not talking, he had to establish whether there was life or no life and when he examined the eyes, the pupils were fully dilated and were not responding to light, adding that there was no spontaneous activity in her.

Simukumbwa said he got a stethoscope and found that there was no heartbeat as the pulse was absent and her chest was not rising to signify breath.

He said there was no neurological response when he touched her feet as there was no movement.

Simukumbwa said he managed to open the mouth and found that her tongue was extremely dark.

The clinical officer said when he pressed the chest to stimulate the heart, some dark substance also came out of the mouth.

Simukumbwa said Vespers’ case was not manageable at the clinic because he did not find life with her.

He said he recommended Vespers to be taken to Levy Mwanawasa Hospital which was the nearest hospital.

Simukumbwa said she was accompanied by the nurse and some students.

He said he did not make any conclusion because he thought she could have been in an unconscious state.

Simukumbwa said he referred Vespers to Levy because UNZA clinic does not have equipment to resuscitate someone in a state that she was.

Another witness, Emmanuel Muma, 26, a third year Law student at UNZA and resident of Mwanawasa Hostels at Great East Road campus, testified how he and his colleagues got Vespers from her room that was smokey and took her outside before they got transport to rush her to UNZA clinic.

He told the coroner that some rooms in October hostels were gutted because of teargas that was thrown there.

Muma said he and his friends tried to quench the fire using water in buckets and also hosepipes from extinguishers.

He explained that when the fire reduced, he and his friends went round the rooms to check if there were students in the rooms 21, 22, 23, 24 but that when they got to room 25 in October hostel, they found Vespers in a squatting position between a bed and a table.

Muma said Vespers’s room was smokey and when they entered, they quickly got her and took her outside.

He said they were assisted with transport by UNZA security and they rushed her to UNZA clinic.

Muma explained that at the clinic, he noticed that there was no response from Vespers in terms of her consciousness and they were referred to Levy Hospital.

He said when they got to Levy, a doctor and a nurse attended to them and Vespers’ was placed on a bed.

Muma said the female doctor asked the nurse to get a machine but later said Vespers was dead and there was no need to use the machine.

He said the doctor told them that it was a Brought-In-Dead case and asked him to fill in a form.

Muma said the doctor also mentioned that they needed to take the body to UTH because the mortuary at Levy was full.

He said that was how they got back in the ambulance and went to UTH police where they gave information on what transpired and later deposited the body in the mortuary.

And Superintendent Arthur Shonga who investigated the case presented a report on his findings, conclusions and recommendations.

Shonga’s report was read by prosecutor Zilila Sakala whilst he stood on the witness stand.

According to a report by Shonga, Vespers’ cause of death was carbon monoxide as a result of teargas.

Shonga has recommended that in future, such riots could be avoided by gathering officers from other security wings to enforce manpower and that water canons as compared to teargas canisters should be encouraged, among others.

The inquest hearing continues.