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Prisoner had traces of meth in blood before suicide, inquest hears

Dr. Matthew Orde spoke at Moose Jaw Court of King’s Bench on day 2 of the inquest looking into the events surrounding Jeremy Sabourin’s death on Oct. 7, 2021.
An autopsy table and cadaver.

Assiniboia resident Jeremy Sabourin had traces of methamphetamine and amphetamine in his system when he died by suicide in Moose Jaw Police Service cells, a forensic pathologist told a coroner’s inquest. 

Dr. Matthew Orde spoke at Moose Jaw Court of King’s Bench on April 16 on day 2 of the inquest, which looked into the events surrounding Sabourin’s death on Oct. 7, 2021, and how to prevent similar incidents from happening.

Orde — who appeared by phone from Alberta — performed Sabourin’s autopsy a day after the man’s death. 

The Australian-born, Scotland-educated doctor told the inquiry that he has worked in pathology since 1994 and been a full-time forensic pathologist since 2005, while he has conducted more than 4,300 autopsies and supervised trainees conducting a similar number of physical investigations. 

He has also been an expert witness for other court cases in Canada and the United Kingdom.

Orde explained that he typically learns more about someone’s death by talking with other physicians and police involved in some way. He then conducts an external examination of a victim’s clothing and skin for visible injuries and then opens the body and searches through the cavities. 

Afterward, he conducts a toxicology screening to look for drugs and takes tissue samples to analyze under a microscope. Once the results return, he carefully considers them, forms an opinion based on the evidence, and produces an autopsy report.

With Sabourin’s situation, Orde said it was a gunshot wound to the head — front to back — through the roof of the mouth that killed the Assiniboia man. Moreover, there were some “microscopic features around the entrance wound” to the mouth roof, “suggesting a very close range with discharge,” while there were injuries to the brain, from which the doctor recovered a deformed bullet.  

There were also injuries to and around the mouth, a laceration on Sabourin’s lower-left forehead due to a fall after his death, and fractures to the front of the neck possibly related to the fall or when he was being moved to the morgue. 

Orde also found a single shotgun pellet on the left side of Sabourin’s head near his ear, which he believed was from an old injury. 

“Internally, the subject’s heart was fairly large, but he was a fairly big guy, so perhaps it just reflects his overall stature,” Orde said, noting Sabourin was 1.96 metres tall (6-4 feet) and weighed 101 kilograms (222 pounds). 

Furthermore, there was an accumulation of blood in the lungs, while Sabourin had a slightly fatty liver. Also, the toxicology report indicated that there was a presence of methamphetamine and amphetamine in the man’s system. 

Orde’s autopsy report — presented to the jury with other evidentiary documentation — indicated that Sabourin had 493 nanograms per millilitre (ng/ml) of meth and 78 ng/ml in his blood — or 0.0005 milligrams per millilitre and 0.000078 mg/ml, respectively. 

It also noted that the man had a history of back pain and asthma. 

In drug testing, ng/ml refers to the concentration of a drug or its metabolites in a urine or blood sample. In Canada, any detectable level of meth is considered a Criminal Code offence.

Orde said the gunshot wound to the head was the main cause of Sabourin’s death, while there were “no other significant factors.” Also, he did not find anything hidden in the man’s anus. 

Asked if it’s possible to survive a gunshot wound to the head, Orde said no, although there are exceptions based on what part of the brain the bullet hits, the volume of blood loss and how fast medical personnel help.

“In this case, this was quite a severe injury. I think the injury would almost certainly have been fatal,” he added. “Even if he had received immediate treatment … I guess it’s possible he might have survived, but it is exceedingly unlikely (that he could have been saved).”

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