Knife penetration would have needed ‘considerable force’

Police car-Sept2013-01A surgeon has assessed that “considerable force” would have been needed to embed a knife into the side of the skull of a man injured at a Christchurch party.

Dr Leslie Snape, an oral and maxillo-facial surgeon, gave his evidence on the fourth day of the trial of 20-year-old Nivard Juan Caine Smith, of Mairehau.

He produced in court a plastic skull with a metal rod inserted into the same position as the knife penetrated into the skull of 20-year-old Sam Doyle during a melee at a party in Flockton Street, St Albans, early on February 16.

The trial before Judge Brian Callaghan and a jury has heard witnesses’ accounts of the fracas that began the house’s backyard and continued in the street outside and ended with the knife being embedded in Mr Doyle’s skull.

Smith, who admits the stabbing, denies the charge of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. He told police he had acted in self-defence.

Dr Snape told of being called in to Christchurch Hospital when Mr Doyle was brought in with the knife embedded in his temple.

The knife had penetrated skull-bone 8mm thick, passed through the top and rear of the left eye socket and entered the base of the skull. It had to be pulled out exactly along the trajectory of the wound to avoid causing further injury.

It had penetrated within 2mm of the optic nerve and within 1.3cm of the carotid artery which was the main blood supply to the brain.

With a specialist trauma team in place in the operating theatre, Dr Snape tried to pull out the knife but it was too tightly embedded. An instrument was then used to slightly widen the split in the skull, and the knife could then be removed.

Mr Doyle remained in hospital for three days. His movement of his left eye and vision were tested as normal. He had almost fully recovered, but there had been some double vision for a time.

The doctor likened the situation to the force required for the sharp knife to penetrate a piece of wood of a similar thickness.

To cause the wound would have required that the knife be held rigidly, and that it strike the skull at right angles with considerable force, he told the trial.

The person holding the knife would have had to flex their elbow from 90 degrees to the point of entry, or to use a stiff arm.

Defence counsel Phillip Allan put to Dr Snape that Smith would say that the stabbing had been delivered as a backward blow while Mr Doyle was behind him. The witness said that sort of arc would be sufficient for the degree of force required.

“That’s possible. There are so many variables here,” said Dr Snape.

Police Constable Carl Christensen, a former ambulance paramedic, told of finding Mr Doyle at the scene and dressing the wound so that the knife would not move and cause any more serious injury. He was talking to Mr Doyle, and his father was with him.

Mr Doyle and his family thought he was dying. Mr Doyle said: “Before I die, I need to tell you who did this.” He then told the constable the name Nivard.

Because of his experience, the constable was able to drive the ambulance to the hospital while both ambulance officers and an advanced paramedic worked on Mr Doyle in the back.

The trial is continuing to about the end of this week.

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