Correspondence with Dr. Rabl
Appendix 3: Correspondence with Dr. Rabl
Note: On October 17, 2011 Lynda sent the following letter to Dr.
Rabl as an email attachment. In his
reply on November 10, 2011, he returned her letter and provided his answers to
her questions in the spaces below each question. To avoid confusion between the questions and
answers, I have placed his answers in italics.
17 October 2011
To: Dr. Walter Rabl
Institut für Gerichtliche Medizin
From: Lynda MacPherson
1630 Prince of Wales Avenue
S7K 3E4 Canada
It’s been almost a year since we
last corresponded. The years fly off the
calendar, and yet no matter how much time passes, Bob and I cannot seem to put
to rest the mystery of what happened to our son so long ago.
As you may
recall, back in 2009 we asked an author named John Leake to examine Duncan’s
story and possibly write a book about it.
You met with him at your institute in the autumn of 2009. After studying the case for the last two
years, John has raised a number of questions that we had not considered
before. I must confess that some of them
are rather disturbing.
treated us with warmth and kindness, so we really don’t like questioning your
involvement in the case. On the other
hand, we also don’t like to speculate, so we have decided simply to ask you the
following questions. We would be very
grateful if you would answer them at your convenience, either by e-mail or by
regular mail. If you would like to
discuss them on the phone, please let me know the best time to call and I will
assume the long distance charge.
Question 1: When we first met you at your institute on July 24,
2003, we told you we wanted an autopsy, because it was important for us to know
how Duncan died. You told us that you
had not been authorized to perform a forensic examination, only an
identification of the body. When we
repeatedly told you that we wanted to know the cause of Duncan’s death, why
didn’t you tell us that we could simply order a private autopsy?
I cannot remember exactly what we discussed
in our first meeting, but I´m sure if we had talked about it, I would have told
you the possibility of a private autopsy (in our Institute for private
autopsies we demand a mandate by a lawyer and the permission of the local
health office is necessary).
Question 2: You took us to view Duncan’s body; he was covered with
a sheet up to his chest; we did not uncover him. After we had viewed Duncan’s body, I
commented that I was surprised how good he looked, given he’d been in a glacier
for 14 years. You told me this was
because, shortly after Duncan died, the snow around him melted, and the ice
acted like a coffin, protecting his body.
Why did you not mention the damage to his limbs?
The damage of his body was not unusual for a
corpse that has been transported by the glacier for 14 years. We prepared the
corpse for you, so that you would see a complete body (normally we refer the
relatives to the funeral to see the body – this was an exception for you). I
did not mention the damage to his limbs and cervical spine because of ethical
reasons. Persons who see a dead body of a beloved relative should remind a
quiet and peaceful situation.
Question 3: In September 2006, in your interview for the fifth estate documentary, you said
that the damage to Duncan’s limbs was similar to damage you had seen on glacier
corpses. However, you then stated: “But
the injuries themselves, I could not examine exactly.” Why could you not examine the injuries
exactly? What hindered you?
We did not unclothe the body and reconstruct
the remaining bone fragments because the damage that could be seen without
unclothing was similar to other glacier corpses.
Question 4: In the same interview, you said that you never
unclothed the body. However, we know
from your photographs that you handled and saw Duncan’s amputated limbs, which
were not clothed. Though you mentioned a
cut to the left side of Duncan’s head in your ID report, you did not mention
the trauma to his limbs. Why not?
In my report I mentioned that parts of the body
were in different bags and that the head was completely severed. The clothes
were heavily damaged, so we could take samples for DNA-analysis without
unclothing the whole body.
Question 5: If you assumed that the limb amputations and fractures
were caused by the sheering force of ice flow, why didn’t you note this in your
The examination was ordered just to identify
Question 6: Over the last few years, we have shown the photographs
and radiographs of Duncan’s corpse to a number of forensic doctors, forensic
anthropologists, radiologists, trauma surgeons, orthopedic surgeons, and an
alpine accident investigator, and all of them agree that the injuries on
Duncan’s limbs have the characteristic injury patterns of contact with
machinery. Given your extensive training
and experience in forensic medicine, it is hard for us to understand why you
didn’t share this perception—at least enough to recognize that the injuries to
Duncan’s limbs warranted investigation.
According to the Innsbruck public prosecutor Richard Freyschlag, you
never contacted his office to express concern about the injuries to Duncan’s
limbs. Did you really see no cause for
concern that these injuries were caused by machinery, and not by glacier ice
Usually the police has the contact with the
public prosecutor – so in Duncan`s case too. I am still convinced that the
damage to Duncan’s body originated from the movement of the glacier.
Question 7: You told us that in your estimation, Duncan probably
died from non-asphyctic suffocation. Did
you rule out the possibility that he had died as a result of the massive trauma
to his limbs? If so, how did you rule
I cannot imagine a situation where (only)
injuries to the limbs (both arms and legs) and the cervical spine
(decapitation) occur without any fracture of ribs, skull or pelvis. The
assumption of the cause of death was made according to my general experience.
Question 8: If you were not authorized to perform a forensic
examination of Duncan’s body at the Institute of Forensic Medicine, how were
you authorized to requisition a CT scan of the body from the Uni-Klinik’s
Department of Radiology?
I was not officially authorized to order the
CT scan. Because of your request I contacted my colleague Dr. Waldenberger and
he made it possible to do the CT of Duncan.
Question 9: After the CT examination was performed on July 31,
2003, why did you not promptly send us the complete set of images and the
I did not get the report earlier. In
November 2003 I wrote an e-mail and mentioned that I did not get the x-rays
Question 10: When you finally did send us four digital radiographs
on November 21, 2003, why did you not include an image of Duncan’s destroyed
Because Dr. Waldenberger just made CT-scans
from the torso. I think this had technical reasons and the main question was
whether serious injuries of the thorax, pelvis or spine occurred or not.
Question 11: According to Dr. Waldenberger, you requested the CT examination
solely for us, as Duncan’s case was officially closed. This suggests that you knew in advance that
the CT scan would not reveal anything suspicious or inconsistent with a simple
crevasse fall. Yet you told us that the
CT examination could help to determine how Duncan had died, or at least to
confirm that he had not died from violent actions that are often associated
with bone fractures. Likewise, Dr. Knapp
at the Bezirkshauptmannschaft told our Vice-consul William Douglas that the CT
scan was performed to determine the possible presence of fractures. This gave us and our consular representative
the impression that the cause of Duncan’s death was being investigated. Can you explain the discrepancy between what
you told Dr. Waldenberger and what you told us?
I requested the examinations just for you
without any previous suggestion. Dr.Knapp
had nothing to do with this CT.
Question 12: Given that Duncan’s limbs had, in fact, sustained
multiple, segmental fractures, why weren’t these fractures scanned in the CT
examination and analyzed in a report? If
these fractures were scanned and analyzed, where are the images and report?
See Q 10
Question 13: Why was Duncan’s radiological examination filed under
the alias “Wissenschaft Waldi” and the false birthdate of July 13, 2003?
Every CT-examination is registered. For the
system a patients name and birthdate is needed. For scientific reasons
(“Wissenschaft”; “Waldi” is the abbreviation for Waldenberger) examinations can
be made by the radiologists without an invoice by the hospital.
Question 14: According to Dr. Jaschke, in cases such as Duncan’s,
“the Department of Radiology reports all findings to the Department of Forensic
Medicine.” Where is Dr. Waldenberger’s
report, and why didn’t you send us a copy of it?
I did not get an official report because
this was not an official investigation. Dr. Waldenberger told me his scientific
opinion and this is what I told you (and Derrick).
Question 15: In a letter to Vice-consul Douglas, dated March 26,
2004, Dr. Knapp stated that “the exact cause of death was established by the
Innsbruck Institute of Forensic Medicine.”
Do you know the source of Knapp’s information?
No, this is not true.
Question 16: In his interview with the fifth estate, Werner Pürstl,
Justice Ministry Section Head for Penal Law, stated: “The body was of course
examined externally; there were no indications of a violent act against the
deceased and there was a very obvious explanation for the events.” Do you know the source of Pürstl’s
No. I never had contact with Pürstl.
Question 17: In your emails of December 5, 2003 and October 6,
2004, you discouraged us from filing a lawsuit against the Stubai Glacier
because you claimed that “the definite cause of death remains unclear.” Given that knowing the cause of Duncan’s
death was critical for building our case against the Stubai Glacier, and given
that we repeatedly told you our desire to learn the cause of death, I come back
to Question 1: Why didn’t you tell us that we had the right to order a private
forensic examination of our son’s body?