A British forensic expert drafted in by actress Jiah Khan’s mother to assist with the investigation into her death has concluded that her hanging was staged.
The findings from Jason Payne-James from the UK-based Forensic Healthcare Services Ltd contradict the report on Khan’s death by Indian experts.
Her mother Rabia has enlisted the help of the expert in a bid to “find out the truth” about what happened to her daughter in 2013.
Rabia shared the new information with a city sessions court on Wednesday (September 21).
It comes over a month after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) told the Bombay high court that it had ruled out murder in the case.
Khan, who had been dating actor Aditya Pancholi’s son, Sooraj, was found hanged in her apartment on June 3, 2013.
Rabia has claimed that the 25-year-old (real name Nafisa Rizvi Khan) could not have committed suicide, and filed a petition for a thorough probe in the high court, which asked the CBI to take up the case.
In December last year, the agency charged Pancholi with abetment to suicide.
Payne-James studied the medical and post-mortem reports, analysed photographs of Khan’s body and reviewed CCTV images and pictures of her room for his investigation.
The state’s forensic experts said the injury marks on Khan’s lower lip were probably the result of “friction with the teeth during the commission of the act [suicide]”.
But Payne-James said the injuries “represent either abrasions or bruises”, and are indicative of “blunt force trauma to the mouth region (for example punching or a hand placed over the mouth).”
“In terms of their site and appearance, they are not typical of teeth marks,” the report states.
State forensic experts said the ligature marks on Jiah’s neck “may be caused due to slippage of ligature material [dupatta] slightly downwards or the ligature knot present at that site”.
But Payne-James concluded the dupatta could not have created such impressions. “It would seem unlikely that the diffuse pressure of the dupatta around the neck would cause the well-defined abraded ligature mark seen,” he has said.
He has also ruled out the possibility of the dupatta creating marks on Jiah’s lower jaw, contradicting the state’s expert’s opinion that said the injury may have been caused by multiple knots on the dupatta.
“I would have expected any forensic specialist to have insisted on seeing the dupatta. I do not see there is any realistic possibility of the dupatta creating the patterned injury under the chin. Other causes or objects should have been considered, such as a blunt impact from a patterned object, or a ligature made of different material,” Payne-James’s report states.
He has questioned Indian investigators’ failure to explore theories other than suicide.
“I do not believe the possibility of a staged hanging after death that has been caused previously has been properly considered (eg ligature strangulation with some other material and then Nafisa Khan being ‘hung’ with the dupatta),” he said.
Rabia’s counsel, Dinesh Tiwari, said the findings showed that Indian investigators had not done a thorough job.
“We will approach the court to take these findings into consideration,” he said.
But Aditya Pancholi raised doubts over the admissibility of the report. “This report is from a private forensic lab and it’s paid. We will see if a court admits it or not. The investigations have been done by different agencies and all of them have come to the same conclusion [that it was a suicide],” he said.
However, legal experts have said that a judge is unlikely to reject new findings into a case.