Medical examiner believes murder victim died from head trauma

Rosie Mullaley
Published on October 28, 2013
Dr. Simon Avis
— Telegram file photo

Dr. Simon Avis believes Ann Marie Shirran died from blunt force trauma to the head at around the time of her death, but, in cross-examination, admitted that he can't say how or when it happened.

"I don't know for sure," the province's chief medical examiner said today, while testifying at the trial of David Folker.

Folker is accused of killing Shirran, his girlfriend and mother of his son, in July 2010. Her body was discovered by campers in a wooded area in Cappahayden almost two months later.

Folker had first denied knowing anything about her disappearance and death, but on the second day of his trial earlier this month, shocked everyone by admitting that Shirran died as a result of a physical altercation between them. He also admitted to disposing of her personal items and her body

However, he's maintaining his not guilty pleas to charges of second-degree murder and interfering with a dead human body.

Folker is expected to take the stand Wednesday, when the defence will begin its case.

Avis was the Crown's final witness.

Avis testified that in examining Shirran's remains, he saw two fractures on her skull — one behind the ear on the left and one near the base on the right.

Because the injuries are separate and not connected, he concluded they were the result of two impacts.

He said the impacts could have been from two separate blows, or from a single blow, which caused compression, and injury, on the opposite side of the head.

"Not knowing more information, it's difficult to say," Avis said.

The determination was so difficult to make, he said, because he was dealing with merely skeletal remains with little soft tissue remaining.

Therefore, he could just look at the condition of the bones for evidence of injury.

He said judging from the stains inside the skull, caused by internal bleeding,  the fractures occurred at around the time of her death.

However, Avis admitted it could have been anywhere from a few hours before she died to a few hours after.

"You're missing a great deal if evidence, aren't you? The soft tissue," defence lawyer Jason Edwards said in cross-examination.

"Yes," Avis replied.

"You have a possible idea, but you don't know for sure," Edwards said.

Edwards asked Avis if it would be possible that the fractures happened at different times — one, say, from a fall and the other while someone was carrying the body after death on their shoulders and slipped and caused it to slam on hard surface.

Avis said that a simple slip would likely not have caused it, but conceded it would be possible if there was enough force.

After Folker testifies, Justice Wayne Dymond said there will probably be a break. He said lawyers will likely give closing arguments next Monday. He's expected to instruct the jury Tuesday before sequestering them.