A MAN was accused of murdering his girlfriend after he found her dead in a pool of blood at their home.
It was only when doctors performed a post-mortem that they discovered a toothpick had actually punctured her throat, killing her.
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd and Faculty of Forensic and Legal Medicine A woman was found dead in a pool of blood after a toothpick punctured her throat
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd and Faculty of Forensic and Legal Medicine The unnamed woman’s boyfriend was accused of murder, until pathologists noticed the green patch on her neck and discovered the toothpick in her wind pipe
Killer salami snack
The 50-year-old unnamed woman had gone to A&E twice to complain that she had something stuck in her throat after snacking on salami.
But twice doctors sent her home telling her she had nothing more than a cold.
After examining her and finding nothing, they even suggested it might be in her head.
The woman was later found dead and soaked in blood by her boyfriend, in the bathroom of the home they shared in the Coimbra region of Portugal.
He later found himself accused of killing her until an autopsy revealed the real cause of death.
Pathologists discovered a 1.3 inch long (3.5cm) broken piece of wooden toothpick lodged in the flesh at the back of a part of her throat called the oesophagus.
Doctors dismissed it as a sore throat
Dr César Lares do Santos, a pathologist at the National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences in Portugal, who examined the woman’s body, said he believed severe inflammation caused by the toothpick led to her suffering heart failure.
He said: “Traumatic lesions to the oesophagus are relatively uncommon in adults.
“During the five days prior to her death, the victim was observed twice in an emergency department with complaints of throat discomfort after eating some bread with salami.”
Family members were blaming her six years long non-marital partner for the deathDr César Lares do Santos, pathologist
X-rays and other throat examinations did not reveal any signs of anything stuck in her throat.
As the woman had been treated for mental health problems in the past, doctors also sent her for a psychological examination for fear she was making it up.
She was later diagnosed with a throat infection and given antibiotics to treat it.Boyfriend accused of murder
“The victim died the following day,” said Dr Lares do Santos, who is also a lecturer at the University of Coimbra.
Writing in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, he and his colleagues added that the circumstances of her death initially led to her partner coming under suspicion.
The pair had been watching television when the woman, who has not been named, went to the bathroom.
When her boyfriend went to check on her sometime later, he found her lying on the floor, her pyjamas soaked with blood and a wound to her head.
Post-mortem discovered toothpick
Dr Lares do Santos and his colleagues wrote: “As the victim had noticeable haemorrhagic wounds, hearsay information was that some family members were blaming her six years long non-marital partner for the death.
“Sudden, unexpected or of unknown cause deaths, especially when blood is found at the scene, may give rise to unfounded early speculation.”
But during the autopsy, the pathologists noticed the woman’s neck had a slight green colour.
When they examined closer they discovered the toothpick covered with pus, along with two puncture wounds in the wall of her throat.
The team concluded that inflammation caused by the toothpick in her neck interfered with vital nerves that regulate the heart, causing her heart to stop.
They added that when the woman collapsed, she hit her head on the tiles of the bathroom floor and the glasses she was wearing caused further facial injuries.
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“This case is also a very important reminder for clinical practitioners,” said Dr Lares do Santos and his colleagues.
“First, to always maintain a high degree of suspicion towards less usual pathological scenarios.
“Second, to avoid diagnostic biases such as those related to psychiatric disorders.”
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd and Faculty of Forensic and Legal Medicine Doctors believe the toothpick, found lodged in her wind pipe, triggered severe inflammation that then caused heart failure
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