THE Melbourne Supreme Court heard last Wednesday, April 6, that a 2cm x 2cm bruise on the centre of Samantha Fraser’s chin, extending under the chin and on to the neck was “consistent with a punch being delivered under the chin”.

You might call it an uppercut, a type of punch used in boxing, according to the Collins English Dictionary. An upward, swinging blow delivered under the chin.

This was the likely cause of one of dozens of bruises and abrasions inflicted by Adrian Basham on his estranged wife in the garage of her home on the morning of July 23, 2018.

Mr Basham, who has been accused of his wife’s murder, has already admitted to the assault, but has vehemently denied killing the Cowes mother of three.

There were also bruises above both eyes, a cluster of abrasions on the cheek, on the nose and the right ear.

There were other bruises on the arms and legs.

However, while the court heard a harrowing list of such injuries to the head, face, neck, upper and lower limbs of the deceased, from forensic pathologist Dr Sarah Parsons on Day 13 of the Phillip Island murder trial last Wednesday, including details of a discrete brain injury, it also heard that these were not the cause of death.

The cause of death, according to Dr Parsons, “is hanging in the setting of multiple blunt force injuries”.

And as the court was told, during questioning by Crown Prosecutor Nanette Rogers, the small petechial haemorrhages found under skin of Ms Fraser’s neck are not necessarily from trauma but consistent with increased abdominal or neck pressure.

“Can they be seen with a hanging?” asked Ms Rogers.

“Yes, they’re often seen in hangings,” said Dr Parsons.

“Can they be seen with strangulation?”

“Yes,” said Dr Parsons.

However, under questioning from both Ms Rogers and the defence counsel for Mr Basham, Ashley Halpen, there was no evidence to support the contention that Ms Fraser was strangled before hanging.

In fact, Dr Parsons, a highly qualified and experienced forensic pathologist, at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, agreed it was more likely that Ms Fraser died by hanging than by strangulation.

“Is there any evidence of manual strangulation that you found, that is her being – her neck being compressed with the hands?” asked Ms Rogers

“No,” said Dr Parsons.

Mr Halphen took the point further during cross examination of the witness, Dr Parsons.

Mr Halphen: And to clarify some of the latter parts of the evidence that you’ve just given, it’s your opinion that the cause of death is hanging, correct?

Dr Parsons: Yes.

Mr Halphen: And that is as opposed to manual strangulation by the use of hands, correct?

Dr Parsons: Yes.

Mr Halphen: And you don’t know whether Samantha Fraser was unconscious or not at the time of the hanging?

Dr Parsons: No.

Mr Halphen: Correct?

Dr Parsons: That’s correct.

Mr Halphen: Now you found evidence of blunt force trauma to various areas including the head, face, neck, and limbs, is that right?

Dr Parsons: Yes.

Mr Halphen: And to be very clear, that was in your opinion a setting rather than a cause of death, correct?

Dr Parsons: Ah, it’s possible that the deceased was knocked unconscious due to the assault.

Mr Halphen: No, no. I’m not asking you… just a minute, Dr Parsons? Sorry. I’m not asking you about whether she was conscious or unconscious. What I’m asking you is that the blunt force trauma findings that you made to various parts of her body, you say were non-fatal injuries. Is that right?

Dr Parsons: Yes.

Mr Halphen: All right. Now, whether Samantha Fraser was hanged by another person, and you may or may not be aware, it’s alleged that other person is the accused person, Mr Basham. So, whether she was hanged by him or whether she hanged herself, is something that cannot be determined from the examination you conducted, correct?

Dr Parsons: That’s correct.

Mr Halphen: As such, you are unable to positively assert that Samantha Fraser was hanged by another person, correct?

Dr Parsons: That’s correct.

Mr Halphen: And it is indeed possible given your involvement and the examination you conducted and the findings you made, it is possible that Samantha Fraser hanged herself, isn’t it?

Dr Parsons: Yes.

Mr Halphen: As to the two possibilities, that is, whether she was hanged by another, or whether she hanged herself, it’s not possible to state which of those possibilities is more likely, correct?

Dr Parsons: Correct.

M Halphen: So, that there’s nothing in the pathology that makes one possibility more likely than the other?

Dr Parsons: No, there’s not.

Mr Halphen: Is that right?

Dr Parsons: That’s right.

The trial will continue on Monday, April 11.

COVID-19 hits trial again

The COVID-19 pandemic presently sweeping through the general community has continued to impact the Phillip Island murder trial with both defence lawyers, Ashley Halphen and Amelia Beech, required to attend by video link on Friday, April 8.

Mr Halphen had already been isolating for seven days due to a positive result in his household but on the morning he was due to resume in person, he has himself tested positive for COVID-19.

Ms Beech had already tested positive.

It follows positive COVID-19 test results for a member of the jury and an officer of the court.

Justice Taylor told the court, prior to a resumption of evidence, that she was confident the trial could continue, notwithstanding the unusual situation of having both defence counsels appearing by video link.