Pathologist offers evidence at trial

A BLOW to the head may have been all that was needed to fatally injure Andrew Walker.

That was what forensic pathologist Dr Johan Duflou told a murder trial in the Coffs Harbour Supreme Court yesterday.

Sandy Beach truckie Grant Connelly, 36, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Walker, his 41-year-old boss, in December 2005.

The court heard a torn artery had caused Mr Walker's brain to bleed, leading to his death the day after he was involved in a fight with Mr Connelly at a Christmas party at Mr Walker's Moonee Beach home.

Dr Duflou said this blood vessel tear was a rare injury, but could happen if a 'significantly' intoxicated person is punched once or more in the face, leading to unconsciousness and death.

A sample taken from Mr Walker when he was admitted to Coffs Harbour hospital the morning of the assault showed a high blood alcohol reading of .223.

Dr Duflou also said a bruise on Mr Walker's scalp was consistent with being punched, but it did not indicate how many times he was punched.

However, he did not believe Mr Walker's injuries were consistent with him being hit up to 25 times.

The doctor yesterday heard different versions of Connelly's assault on Mr Walker, and was asked to determine when the artery would have torn.

In the case of Connelly hitting Mr Walker's head twice with hard punches, causing Mr Walker to buckle at the knees and then fall over, with Connelly hitting him in the head up to four more times, Dr Duflou said it was 'very likely' the damage to the blood vessel was done by the first or second punch, while Mr Walker was still upright.

The additional punches may have contributed, Dr Duflou said.

In the instance of Mr Connelly delivering a very hard punch to Mr Walker's head, causing him to hit the ground, and Connelly giving him three more blows to the head, Dr Duflou said: "I favour the very first punch as having caused the fatal injury."

When it was suggested Mr Walker's face was punched once and he struck his head on a fence railing on his way down, and the punching continued, Dr Duflou believed the initial punch, and not the railing, would have caused the deadly injury, providing the punch had first knocked him unconscious.

Jurors had to get their heads around a vast array of medical terminology during the doctor's testimony, which took up most of yesterday's proceedings.

However, they were helped along the way by the prosecution asking Dr Duflou to explain it all in layman's terms.

The trial continues.

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