Was Bosch embalmed to mask traces of poisoning?

A cricketer’s body was exhumed this week to discover the true cause of death, writes Paul Kirk

Tertius Bosch, fast bowler and dentist, died aged 33 from a disease that afflicts fewer than one person in 100 000 and kills just 2% of its victims.

Now a series of irregularities and the preliminary results of his post-mortem suggest the young sportsman might have been murdered.

Bosch, who opened the bowling in the only Test match he played against the West Indies in Bridge-town in 1992, South Africa’s first after readmission fell victim to Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare affliction about which very little is known. At least, Guillain-Barre syndrome is what was recorded on his death certificate when he died in February last year.

Bosch had an excellent chance of recovery when he was diagnosed with the syndrome. More than 80% of sufferers recover with no ill effects while about 15% recover with some disability. Bosch was more likely to have died from a bad case of ‘flu.

However, this week’s exhumation of Bosch’s body revealed that his body had been embalmed an extremely expensive process that can be used to hide traces of poisoning.

According to a senior staff member at Doves and Adlam Reid Funeral Parlour in Durban, this process is only carried out at the specific request of the family.

The process is extremely complex and involves the draining of blood, and sometimes the removal of certain internal organs most notably the stomach.

Embalming is normally only done when a body is to be transported or placed in a tomb. It would not normally be undertaken if a body was to be buried like Bosch’s was.

In a number of internationally documented cases embalming has been used by poisoners to remove evidence of foul play.

In the most famous of all suspected poisoning cases, Pope John Paul I who is known to have been preparing to blow the whistle on crooked cardinals was embalmed within hours of his death in 1978.

It has long been suspected that the pontiff may have been poisoned and the embalming process used to disguise poison. This has been hypothesised in a number of best-sellers, including the controversial In God’s Name by David Yallop and A Thief in the Night by John Cornwell.

Bosch, who worked as a dentist, is thought by police, a pathologist and family members possibly to have been poisoned with dental amalgam a substance used to fill teeth. The poisonous component of dental amalgam is mercury.

At present an American court is hearing the case of Dr William Sybers, who is accused of poisoning his wife with dental medication and then having her body embalmed to mask traces of the poison.

This week Dr Reggie Perumal, a forensic pathologist, announced that he was able to obtain good and usable samples of tissue and organs. He also said he had found evidence of kidney dysfunction a sign of poisoning as well as hair loss and discoloured skin.

Bosch’s sister ordered the body to be exhumed.

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