Internal bleeding caused death of D. J. Gamble, Nunavut court hears
Minimal outer bleeding and stable vital signs, masked dire situation
A forensic pathologist said at the trial of Colin Makpah in Iqaluit this week that D.J. Gamble could have survived hours longer than expected before succumbing to an abdominal stab wound.
Dr. Charles Littman, a Manitoba pathologist who examined Gamble’s body and determined the cause of death, told the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit May 6 that the Rankin Inlet man sustained five “sharp wound injuries.”
Makpah, 29, is currently on trial for the stabbing death of Gamble, 23, on Aug. 14, 2010. Justice Neil Sharkey is presiding over the trial by judge alone. The trial is into week two of its scheduled three weeks.
Witnesses until now have described the brawl that took place in the early morning hours before Gamble died and the medical care he received afterwards.
The pathologist offered the court a description of how the wounds looked after his death, the effect they had on Gamble’s body and the likely cause of death.
The fatal injury, Littman testified, was consistent with a stab wound to the abdomen, adding that a single-edged blade could have caused it.
He told Crown prosecutor Faiyaz Amir Alibhai that the blade penetrated the small intestine, cutting through fatty tissue and several blood vessels.
Blood started collecting in Gamble’s abdominal cavity — about 1.5 litres of it, which was enough to cause his death. Littman said there would have been minimal external bleeding.
This is consistent with earlier testimony from a doctor and nurses who treated Gamble after the stabbing and told the court his vital signs were stable when he entered the health clinic and that there was little blood coming from his wounds.
The pathologist said he also found a stab wound that entered Gamble’s lung.
On the witness stand, Littman examined a blade that had been entered as evidence — a filet knife. He said he believed that knife caused the wounds.
After being stabbed that way, a person would normally have 30 to 60 minutes to live if untreated, he told Alibhai.
But during cross-examination on May 7, Littman told defence lawyer Shayne Kert that Gamble could have actually lasted longer than that.
If Gamble remained still for an extended period of time, an internal organ could have temporarily stemmed the bleeding.
When the organs moved, the bleeding could have started again.
Earlier in the trial, Gamble’s common law spouse testified that after the fight, Gamble slumped down on the front porch of his friend Abraham Nakoolak’s house for a while.
Kert offered a hypothetical scenario to Littman in court — she asked if it were possible that Gamble had been stabbed at 1:40 a.m., and survived until his heart stopped beating at 4:30 a.m.
“Yes, it’s possible,” Littman said.
Earlier this week the court heard Gamble had been “thrashing” around on the examining table, and was described by a doctor and nurses as being “combative.”
Gamble’s blood alcohol level had been between 150 and 160, Littman testified — enough to cause intoxication in any person.
Littman also found marijuana in Gamble’s system, which could have further impaired his judgment and motor skills.
Makpah sat perfectly still in court throughout the pathologist’s testimony. He wore a navy blue hooded sweatshirt and stared straight ahead. He is currently free on bail.