Update: Hong Kong police provide statement on Basha case

Sister raises more questions about Joey Basha’s death

Ashley Fitzpatrick afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com
Published on December 30, 2011

At 10 a.m. today (9:30 p.m. Hong Kong local time), police in Hong Kong responded to a request from The Telegram for an update in regards to the case of the late Joseph Basha.

Basha, who is from St. John’s, was found dead near his home in Hong Kong on Dec. 21.

In their email, the police have said a determination on a cause of death for Basha remains “subject to the eventual findings of the toxicology report.”

As reported in today’s edition of The Telegram, the Basha family has objected to how the investigation into Joey Basha’s death has proceeded to date, and to reports accepting the theory the death was due to, as the police have stated, a drug overdose.

For those following the case, the statement from Hong Kong police is provided in its entirety.

•••

Thank you for your enquiry. Please find our reply below:

At 1220hrs on December 21, Police received a report that an expatriate male

aged between approximately 25 and 30 years of age was found collapsed

inside a public toilet situated in Market Street, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon.

Upon the attendance of the emergency services, the male was certified dead

by the ambulance men at the scene, and several days later was formally

identified as being a Mr. Joseph Basha, a Canadian citizen studying in Hong

Kong.  An autopsy conducted has preliminary indicated that the cause of

death of Mr. Basha was due to "overdose" although this is subject to the

eventual findings of the toxicology report; the results of which are

expected to be available only after several months.

Police officers from Yau Tsim District are currently focusing enquiries in

relation to the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Basha and which

will also include ascertaining the whereabouts of certain items of his

personal property which cannot be accounted for at this stage.  Since the

police investigation remains on-going, it would also be too early to

comment on the possibility of a death inquest being held.

Best regards,

Duty Officer

Police Public Relations Branch

••••

The cause of death of a St. John’s man, whose body was found in Hong Kong on Dec. 21, remains undetermined.

That is despite statements reportedly being made by Hong Kong police, suggesting the 25-year-old’s death was the result of a drug overdose.

On Thursday morning, CBC reported police in Hong Kong had stated an autopsy of Joseph Basha’s body had shown an overdose to be a “likely” cause of death.

Yet Basha’s older sister, Jacquelin — who flew to Hong Kong on reports of her brother’s disappearance and had the task of identifying her brother’s body on Tuesday — said that statement is, as yet, unfounded.

She objected to the media reports repeating the statement and to the investigative efforts of Hong Kong police on the case to date.

“I’m very concerned about the way this investigation is going,” she said, speaking with The Telegram Thursday afternoon — between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. in Hong Kong.

“(Police) are basing this assumption on the fact there’s two puncture marks on my brother’s left forearm and there was something tied around his arm and there was a hypodermic needle.”

While this might sound convincing, Basha’s sister said there are too many oddities about the scene and questions yet unanswered.

A doctor, she has spoken with police and has run through the initial autopsy findings with the coroner and, from all of the available evidence, feels it is too soon to draw any conclusions.

“There is no toxicology report right now,” she noted. “They have no idea what’s in his blood.”

It might be two or three months before those test results are available, she said.

There are also physical aspects that don’t sit well with Basha’s older sister — including the tie off and puncture marks on her brother’s left arm, instead of his right.

“My brother was left-handed. Meaning, he would have been injecting his dominant hand with his non-dominant hand,” she said.

“There was no other puncture marks at all — not old, there’s no scarring that would suggest he’s an IV drug user. So they’re suggesting that this was a first-time heroin use.”

She said her brother’s autopsy also found bruising on the back of his head.

Then there’s what she described as a lack of follow-up by police. She said police have not performed proper interviews, have not pulled bank records to see if Basha’s credit card has been used and, when Jacquelin offered phone records available through his account, she said the police were more interested in how she had obtained them.

She said there has been no look into the apparent theft of her brother’s wallet and cell phone from the scene.

“It’s also possible that my brother did decide to use heroin once and overdosed. I fully realize that is possible,” she said. “But I feel like there has to be an investigation before we can make that conclusion and certainly before we slander him in the media.”

•••

Meanwhile, as Western media outlets were reporting a drug overdose in a bathroom stall as the “likely” last moments of Joey Basha, a collection of his friends, along with family, were attending a night of music and “a warm sharing” of remembrances of Basha in Hong Kong.

The event was held at Hidden Agenda, a club in Kwun Tong played by Basha’s indie band Milkteeth.

Basha’s roommate, Dino Lee, said the venue was a favourite of Basha’s and, when the owners got word of the memorial event plans, the place was offered up free of charge.

Friends jumped in and arranged for flowers, videos and a slideshow. Between 50 and 60 people attended, offering condolences and donations to the Basha family.

“People were just so willing to help to do something for Joey,” Lee said Thursday, after recalling Basha’s love of cooking and his need to watch horror movies late at night, even after they scared him enough to have him turn on the lights.

Basha had been living in Hong Kong since 2008, most recently studying at the University of Hong Kong.

The Facebook invitation to his memorial gathering called him “an extremely passionate and talented musician.” He was described by friends as an inspiration, as “the rock star, who keeps shining right above us.”

Here in Newfoundland and Labrador, his academic passions were noted by faculty and staff of the Department of Classics at Memorial University of Newfoundland, as they offered condolences to his family in a posting on their website.

“Joey was, in his time at Memorial University, a regular and very memorable fixture in our department, where he exercised his passion for classical languages and culture,” it stated.

An outpouring of condolences and a flood of gifts from Basha’s friends locally have been handled by Basha’s friend Stevie Flynn, who also set up a “Basha Family Fund” on the IndieGogo — a fundraising website typically used for artistic projects.

“As many of you are aware, our dear friend, brother, son, bandmate, classmate and student, Joey Basha has passed away suddenly in Hong Kong. This has taken us all by surprise and we are trying to do everything we can to help his family,” it states.

As of midday (Newfoundland time) on Thursday, $669 had been raised for the family. More than $1,000 had been donated as of 6 p.m. The goal is to raise $2,000 to help the family with the funderal costs here and in Hong Kong.

“This is why Joey has the best friends in the world,” Basha’s younger sister, Cindy Basha, wrote on her Facebook wall, with a link.

Home in Newfoundland for the holidays, Basha’s younger sister posted links to the snowballing news coverage of his disappearance and confirmation when her brother — whom she described as her “best friend and hero” — was indeed found dead.

“My brother was so loved and had such a significant impact on all of those who knew him. This was a such a tremendous loss for us all,” she stated.

As for Basha’s older sister, she said she and her husband will stay in Hong Kong for now, attempting to find firm answers for her family about Basha’s death.

Meanwhile, Basha will be cremated and his remains flown back to Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Telegram left messages with Hong Kong police public relations officials in regards to this story, but had no response as of press time.

 

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com