Autopsy rejects car accident in teacher's death
An autopsy conducted two years after the death of an American teacher in Guangzhou shows that he died of a blow to his head and not from a traffic accident as police alleged.
Darren Russell's mother, Maxine Russell, had his body exhumed in March and examined by David Posey, a California pathologist.
'There was no evidence of his being involved in a traffic accident,' Dr Posey said. 'He died of blunt force trauma to his head and brain.'
There was no difficulty conducting the examination, he said, because the body was 'extremely well embalmed'.
Guangzhou police told Ms Russell that her son died in a road accident outside his hotel on busy Huanshi East Road on April 14, 2005. They released her son's body on April 30 without an autopsy at the request of Ms Russell, who wanted to bury her son quickly according to Jewish rites.
Dr Posey said he stood by his findings and the Chinese authorities could 'dispute all they want'.
The Guangzhou Public Security Bureau did not respond immediately to requests for clarification about Dr Posey's findings.
'We need some time to investigate,' a police spokeswoman said. 'We will get in touch with you again after we have finished investigating.'
A US State Department officer had told Ms Russell that it would take 20 days to do an autopsy in Guangzhou and the body might be kept in the city for five months.
Although she suspected foul play in her son's death, Ms Russell did not have the money to pay for an autopsy in the United States before his burial. 'The money was no longer there for the autopsy and we felt he had been through enough,' she said.
Ms Russell embarked on a two-year campaign for an investigation into her son's death, including seeking the help of her congressman, and earlier this year decided she had to supply the hard facts for the investigation.
'A lot of people kept telling me, not that they don't believe me, 'Why are you afraid of an autopsy?' It's hard getting his body exhumed,' she said.
However, it turned out to be the best decision she made, Ms Russell said. 'The State Department said I was grieving and hysterical but now it's proven beyond doubt,' she said.
Russell had been teaching at an illegal English school where he was made to work long hours. He quit after the school failed to get him a work permit, made him work seven days a week and share his apartment.
He was robbed while staying at the hotel after leaving the school and had tried to get help from the American consulate.
An hour before he was found dead in the street, he had called his father and left a message saying, 'Please help me get home. I am so scared. I have never been this scared in my life.'
The administrator at the school had described him as moody and prone to skipping classes. She had also hinted that he had a drinking problem.
Many foreigners coming to China to teach English have complained of being cheated by their agents and found themselves signing contracts that do not protect them.