Sulphuric acid caused death of NPP Regional chair — Forensic toxicologist

BY: Emmanuel Ebo Hawkson
The late Adams Mahama
The late Adams Mahama

A forensic toxicologist, Mr Peter Quartey Papafio, has testified that the substance that allegedly caused the death of a former Upper East Regional Chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Alhaji Adams Mahama, was sulphuric acid.

He also stated that tests conducted by him also revealed traces of sulphuric acid on the tracksuit of Gregory Afoko, the man charged with the murder of Alhaji Mahama.

According to him, further tests revealed that the traces of sulphuric acid found on Afoko’s tracksuit was the same sulphuric acid in the gallon that was allegedly found at the scene where Alhaji Adams was said to have been attacked.

It is the case of the prosecution that the acid in the gallon was what Afoko and Asabke Alangi, the other accused person, who is now at large, used to attack Alhaji Adams.

Mr Papafio, who works with the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA), made the revelation on Thursday, during his evidence –in –chief at the Accra High Court.

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He informed the court, presided over by Mr Justice Lawrence L. Mensah, that he had been working with the GSA for the past 12 years.

Not guilty

Alhaji Mahama suffered severe injuries after a substance suspected to be acid was allegedly poured on him in front of his house in Bolgatanga around 11 p.m. on May 20, 2015.

He later died from the injuries.

Afoko has denied any involvement in the murder and pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

High concentration of acid

The forensic toxicologist is the 10th prosecution witness and the expert who conducted the tests on certain pieces of evidence gathered by the police.

The evidence included a gallon containing a liquid suspected to be acid, which was found at the crime scene, the mat in the car Alhaji Mahama was driving when he was attacked, a burnt foam material of the car seat, and Alhaji Mahama’s shoes and clothes when he was attacked.

Other evidence were a tracksuit belonging to Afoko, plastic cup suspected to have been used to fetch the acid, and a transparent zip lock bag found in Alhaji Adams car.

Mr Papafio explained that he used two methods –chemical and titrimetric to conduct the tests on the evidence.

The test, he said, confirmed that the substance in the gallon was sulphuric acid with a concentration of 16.89 (molar).

“A sulphuric acid with such concentration is about 90 to 95 per cent pure and it is very corrosive and harmful when it comes in contact with the skin. It can cause severe injury when it comes into contact with the skin,” he said

At that point the prosecutor, Mr Matthew Amponsah, a Chief State Attorney, asked the witness if such a concentration could cause death.

“Due to the corrosive nature of sulphuric acid, it can cause death upon contact,’’ the toxicologist replied.

Residues and traces of acid

Continuing with his testimony, Mr Papafio said the test revealed residues of sulphuric acid on the other evidence given to him by the police, but there were traces of sulphuric acid on Afoko’s tracksuit.

Justice Mensah then asked the toxicologist the difference between traces and residues.

Mr Papafio answered that it was easy to identify residues as compared to traces.

He, however, stated that further tests were conducted on the tracksuit and it revealed that the acid found on it was the same acid in the gallon.

“All the exhibits had residues of sulphuric which was traced to the contents of Exhibit A (gallon),” he said.

Motor rider

During cross –examination, counsel for Afoko, Mr Sarfo Buabeng, told the witness that the burns on the tracksuit were not caused by acid, but rather by exhaust fumes.

Below are excerpts of what ensued between him and Mr Papafio.

Mr Buabeng: Are you aware that the accused (Afoko) was a motor rider?

Mr Papafio: No

Mr Buabeng: These burns were there as the results of contacts with exhaust of a motorbike

Mr Papafio:  It was highly improbable for fumes of the exhaust to cause those burns on the tracksuit. But as to whether it was caused by the exhaust of the motor cycle, I wouldn’t know.

Mr Buabeng:  I am putting it to you that there were no traces of sulphuric acid on the tracksuit of the accused (Afoko)

Mr Papafio:  It tested positive for traces of sulphuric acid and upon further test it was confirmed to be sulphate ions and that the residues were from sulphuric acid.

Hearing continues on June 11, 2018, where the prosecution is expected to call its 11th witness.