Elliott Smith’s sad story is not unique, I have read about similar stories that paralleled the succession of events in a very eerie manner, but I had never read about Colin Marr’s case. The case is definitively one of these examples: in 2007, Colin died from a single kitchen knife wound in the heart after a heated argument with his fiancée Candice Bonar. Colin was allegedly having an affair, the two were arguing and Candice said she threw her engagement ring to the floor, threatening to leave. She said Colin tried to stop her and heard Colin scream: ’I’ll kill myself if you leave me, I’ve got nothing to live for.’ When she came back into the living room, she said Colin had stabbed himself. When the police arrived, Candice immediately told them that Colin had committed suicide and the local police (Fife, a Scotland county) believed her right away.
This is almost a copycat scenario of Elliott’s sad demise; the only difference is that Elliott was stabbed twice and was still alive but on his way to the hospital when the police arrived. The knife had been removed from Colin’s chest, just like the knife had been removed from Elliott’s chest, and another important similarity, the knife had passed through Colin’s sternum.
However, there is a fundamental difference between Colin’s case and Elliott’s case: Colin’s family never accepted the quick verdict and fought for justice from the beginning.
Both investigations were botched as there is a fundamental rule in criminal investigations: any violent death should always be handled as a homicide until proven otherwise, and in both cases, this rule was completely ignored. In both cases, the police believed the only person who was there and bought the suicide story. Elliott’s case was reopened when the results of the autopsy report were made public, but the police were first happy to accept the suicide story without doing much more.
But Colin’s mother Margaret and stepdad Stuart Graham never gave up and complained about the way the Fife police handled the case and finally, in 2015, the police admitted the case had been mishandled, they revised their conclusion, and the then retired police officer, who was in charge of the case, faced criminal charges. This required persistent work from the family, something that didn’t happen in Elliott’s case for diverse reasons. Right away, Colin’s family thought his death was suspicious and knew to spot the serious mistakes made by the investigator like, for example, the absence of a pathology expert at the scene. They also got the help of a retired detective who helped them to expose the faults done during the original investigation.
I had the chance to exchange a few messages with Stuart, Colin’s stepfather, and he said that the family is now hopeful as they now know to a great detail what happened, despite the reluctance of the authorities. They know for example that the girlfriend did not call the ambulance right away or even first, something that should have been looked at in Elliott’s case.
They also suspect a third person may have been present at the scene. Colin may have been already unconscious when he was stabbed, possibly struck by a dumbbell first, whereas the presence of a third person at the scene had never been properly investigated. But the fact that the police never examined the dumbbell and let Candice’s family remove it from the apartment truly demonstrates how badly the investigation was handled. Little is known on the same subject regarding Elliott’s case, we don’t know what kind of evidence the police collected at the scene if any. Did the police notice the blood track that Elliott should have left from the spot where the stabbing occurred to the balcony where he allegedly crashed? Since there is no mention of blood in the house in the police report, every speculation is possible. The same can be said about Chiba’s appearance: was she covered in blood as she should have been after giving CPR to Elliott on 2 open wounds? And in this case, did she really sit at the kitchen table to talk to the police, while being all blood-soaked?
One important common point in both cases is the sternum injury. The information gathered by Colin’s family is highly consistent with the information I had received from the forensic experts I had consulted: ‘All of the pathology experts who gave evidence at the FAI agreed that ‘considerable force’ would be required to inflict such an injury and that it was possible it was self-inflicted (though one regarded this as ‘highly unlikely’).’ In both cases, the blade perforated the edge of the sternum, and after several consultations with different experts, Dr. Nat Carey, one of the UK’s leading pathologists, concluded that the stab wound ‘penetrated the sternum and would have required severe force,’ adding that it would be ‘unusual for a self-inflicted wound to pass through a bony structure.’ This is something that has already been discussed in Elliott’s case, and the opinion of this expert from the UK just corroborates what has already been said on the subject,
Laws probably differ between Scotland and the US, but this unsolved Scottish case is very telling: Colin’s family has put a lot of effort into exposing the police’s corruption and negligence while consulting eminent pathology professors. I am trying to do my part, but Elliott’s family has been very absent in this endeavor.
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