/ / “The Two Murders”

“The Two Murders”

I had planned to write letters that afternoon but was interrupted by a Belgian official who had come with a request for help. There had been a fire in the house nearby and two people had been burned to death. There was some suspicion that the fire and even the deaths had been of a criminal nature. He asked if I would be able to go with him and perform autopsies on the two people who had died.

I agreed and we walked 2 kilometres to reach the village where the fire had occurred. The Chief, his elders, and a large crowd had gathered around the house. We went in. Only the walls remain with the grass roof completely destroyed. We saw two bodies badly charred lying on the floor opposite the door. We set up a table outside the house and removed the two cadavers to the table where I could begin the examination. I immediately noted that there was a large penetrating hole just above the left ear that went through to the brain. There were fractures radiating from the penetration. It appeared to me that an object, something like a hammer, had been used to inflict trauma to the head. I looked over at the second victim, a woman, and she too had a similar trauma to her head with a wound through to the brain. Fractures radiated too from the sides of the open trauma and grey matter oozed from the wound. The fire had been intense. The hands and feet were missing because their bones had disintegrated when they were moved. Carefully I examined all the remaining aspects to eliminate any further trauma but could find no other evidence. The acrid smell of burnt flesh is something that one can never forget.

The Belgian official was amazed and shocked to see the damage that had been so violently inflicted on the bodies. I told him that I felt sure that the fire had been set with an attempt to destroy the evidence of a double murder. He asked me for a written report which I produced and delivered the next day. Seeing that our investigation was completed, the villagers pressed forward. The Chief spoke to the crowd and they stepped back. Only the elders of the tribe remained near him. He told them what we had found. Since the crowd had seen all they had wanted to see and had heard all that was said by the Chief, they dispersed talking quietly amongst themselves. I asked the Chief and the Belgian official if they had any idea of who had done the murders and why the crime was committed. The Chief replied that they had an idea of who had done the killings but that a full investigation had to be completed and that the perpetrators would be brought to justice in due time.

The Belgian Official and I quietly and thoughtfully returned home.

The Congo has suffered many many years of violence, both domestic and international—- it is a tragic country.

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