Court: Fatal knife wound was “a purposeful act” suggests forensic pathologist

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The knife wound which killed a Sowerby mum-of-three has been described as “a purposeful act” by a forensic pathologist who examined her body.

Mahala Rhodes, 42, suffered a 16 centimetre deep knife wound to her chest during an incident in the kitchen of her home in Rooley Heights, Sowerby, and today (Tuesday) Dr Kirsten Hope told a jury at Bradford Crown Court that “moderate to severe force” would have been needed to cause the fatal injury.

Dr Hope described the wound as “a purposeful act”, but during cross-examination Malcolm Cromie’s barrister Richard Wright QC suggested that the injury could have been caused during a struggle over the knife when his client fell on top of Miss Rhodes.

The pathologist said she found that suggestion difficult to accept as being realistic, but Mr Wright described it as “simple physics”.

Cromie, 45, has denied murdering his on-off partner during the incident in May and he is due to give evidence to the jury tomorrow (Wed).

The jury heard that the knife had cut through three ribs and gone through Miss Rhodes’ heart before it penetrated her left lung.

The court heard that the knife recovered from the scene had a 19 centimetre long blade and it had gone into Miss Rhodes’ body almost its entire length.

Dr Hope said her examination also revealed a defensive-type injury to a finger on Miss Rhodes’ left hand.

The prosecution has alleged that Cromie stabbed himself five times in the chest and abdomen and Dr Hope said there were factors which indicated that those wounds could have been self-inflicted.

She noted that the wounds all appeared to be the same length, 2.5 centimetres, and Cromie did not appear to have suffered any defensive-type injuries himself.

But during Mr Wright’s cross-examination Dr Hope conceded that the pathological evidence could not make her sure that Cromie’s wounds were self-inflicted.

The jury heard that a toxicologist’s report also indicated that there were traces of amphetamine in Miss Rhodes’ bloodstream at the time of her death.

The court has heard that Cromie pleaded guilty in 2008 to assaulting his then pregnant partner and the prosecution has alleged that he also made threats to kill her before her death earlier this year.

The prosecution also allege that he had previously blamed Miss Rhodes for injuries which had been self-inflicted.

The trial continues.