Thursday, October 1, 2020

British detectives probing claims of cover-up in Palapye death

Two British policemen were in Botswana this week conducting an independent week-long investigation into allegation of perjury and cover ups surrounding the death of a 52-year-old British national, Michael McGrath, in Palapye two years ago.

Inspector Senan Ryan and Sergeant Paul Reidy conducted an interview with an individual in Botswana into an allegation of perjury. It is understood their inquiries are now completed and a file will be forwarded to the British Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in the near future.

McGrath, from Knockgarry, Mitchelstown, was found in the bathroom of the Palapye Primary Hospital on December 13, 2006, by two police officers who were stationed there to protect him from himself, an inquest held into his death in Mallow last May heard.

The inquest heard that the two police officers found McGrath with a deep laceration to his throat, inflicted by glass, between 5am and 5.30am on December 13, 2006.

However, McGrath’s brother, Tom, claims that his brother “absolutely did not” take his own life and there is, he claims, a “deep conspiracy” to cover up his brother’s death. He is alleging there wasn’t any glass or weapons found at the scene and statements which were furnished contain “huge gaping holes”.

Tom McGrath claims that a barrister which he hired, Jennifer Wild, went to Botswana in July 2007 two months after the inquest in Mallow, where she conducted numerous interviews and she has, according to Mr McGrath, found “huge gaping holes and lots of lies”.
At the inquest last year, pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster said she “could not rule out” the possibility of a third party being involved in the death of Mr McGrath.

Dr Bolster told coroner Dr Michael Kennedy that she carried out the second post mortem at the request of family on January 8, 2007 and said it was difficult to interpret the cause of death because of the previous post mortem. She said statements from police were that of self-inflicted wound and the case of death was hemorrhage and shock.

The inquest in Mallow heard that Dr Shanthani Mugoma said he had known the deceased since 2002 when he rented property from him while he undertook his medical studies in Cork. Dr Mugoma had invited Mr McGrath to Botswana to stay with him for the doctor’s wedding. Mr McGrath left for Botswana on December 6, 2006 and he was in good form but on December 12, Dr Mugoma claimed, the 52 year-old’s mood changed. Michael said he wanted to go back to Ireland and said, “if I arrive safely”, Dr Mugoma told the Mallow inquest.

According to Dr Mugoma, he said that McGrath had about $450 with him and he didn’t have enough money. “He said he had money problems in Ireland. I told him I would give him money for the rest of the holiday,” said Dr Mugoma at the inquest.

On December 12, 2006, Dr Mugoma’s fianc├®e, Gorata Ogotseng, was driving when suddenly he felt a gush of air and found Mr McGrath, a back seat passenger, had thrown himself from the car.
He was bleeding but he refused to get back into the car, said the doctor.
A prison van stopped and offered assistance and he said Mr McGrath went into the van. Dr Mugoma claimed while in the van, Mr McGrath attempted to take his own life by using a belt.
He told the inquest sitting that he felt Mr McGrath was clinically depressed and told doctors at the Palapye Primary Hospital. He said before he left he shook McGrath’s hand and hugged him and felt he was calm.

Later on, he told the inquest that he received a call from police to say Mr McGrath had died in his bathroom. He said the officers were stationed at the hospital to protect him from himself.
At the inquest in Mallow on May 2007, barrister John Brooks, who represented brothers Peter and Tom McGrath, said Michael McGrath was a man well known to carry between $6,000- $7,000 in cash with him at all times.

Brooks further alleged there was a text message on the deceased’s mobile saying “looking for money for a wedding”. However, Dr Kennedy told him this was not relevant at an inquest sitting and requested that it be moved on.
Inspector Senan Ryan read a statement given by police officer Michael Phiri, who was one of the two officers observing Mr McGrath in the Botswana hospital, which stated he requested to use the bathroom and did not come out. They kicked down the door and found him in a bloodied state.

Dr Bolster said while she could not rule out the possibility that another person had inflicted the wound, she said the statements given were consistent with that of suicide. Mr McGrath, who was right-handed, had a wound which extended from his right-hand side jaw line across his jugular to the left hand side. She said she had personally come across cases where a right handed person had previously inflicted such a wound.
While the inquest recorded an open verdict, Mr Tom McGrath this week told The Corkman: “There are lies and lots of lies surrounding the murder of my brother and this 250 paged report proves this. I have now sworn affidavits and visual proof which will prove that Michael was murdered. He was beaten and murdered.”

He said he has written to the Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern and when Ms Wild has her report completely finished Mr McGrath said he will give it to detectives in Dublin. “I truly believe that Michael was attacked and beaten and murdered. I am absolutely certain there was a third party involved. Jennifer has found evidence which shows a complete cover-up?” said Mr McGrath.

He said he has also been in contact with Deputy Tom Hayes (FG), who will raise the findings in the Dáil.

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