The release of her postmortem report has left the family and colleagues of The Citizen’s late news editor, Yadhana Jadoo, with more questions than answers after her sudden death while on assignment in Egypt earlier this year.
Jadoo, 34, who had just been promoted from senior reporter, was in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, as a guest of the Egyptian government and the African Journalist Union, along with 22 other African journalists, for a three-week fellowship programme.
Days before her death, on April 25, Jadoo had been sharing images and chatting to friends and family about her exciting trip. Jadoo, who arrived in Cairo on April 21, spent most of her four days in the country with her new friend and room-mate, Ghanaian journalist Gertrude Ankah Nyavi.
The two shared a room at the Armoured Vehicle Hotel in Cairo. But on the eve of her death, she started complaining to friends and family that she wanted to return home.
Jadoo’s last night
According to messages she sent to her family, Jadoo said she felt unsafe in the country and was wishing to return home.
“I want to come home … But I don’t want them to detain me.”
While family members tried to decipher why she wanted to return home, Jadoo instead told her family to contact the Egyptian Embassy in South Africa should they not hear from her within 24 hours.
That was the last time her family heard from her. Speaking to The Citizen, Nyavi and a Ugandan journalist on the programme, Justin Emedot, recalled the last moments leading to Jadoo’s sudden death.
Nyavi said, on the eve of her passing, that Jadoo had left her behind to go to town with Emedot. According to Emedot, he and Jadoo called an Uber to take them to town that Tuesday afternoon.
“We wanted to buy some wine but we couldn’t find a place. So, we decided to go back to the hotel, but before getting an Uber back, Yadhana found someone selling snacks on the side of the road,” Emedot told The Citizen.
Nyavi said Jadoo returned to their hotel room with a Coca-Cola and some snacks. That is when she started complaining about feeling cold, Nyavi said.
“I told her to take a bath to warm up. But she said she would use a hairdryer to warm herself like she normally did at home.
“She went to bed and told me I should keep checking on her. She said if she ran a fever, there was medication in her bag that I should give to her. I stayed up, checking on her, then went to bed around midnight,” Nyavi said.
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
At around 6am, Nyavi said she was woken by Jadoo, who requested her to call a doctor for her.
“She said she was feeling worse. I went to reception and reported that she was sick and they should get a doctor or first aid. But they called the ambulance.
“She was vomiting and said she was struggling to breathe. I took her outside the room and she continued vomiting. She asked to be taken back to the room, and that’s when she started foaming at the mouth. We were cleaning her up and then she started having a seizure.
“Yadhana became weak and was deteriorating very quickly,” Nyavi said.
Once the paramedics arrived, Jadoo was immediately treated in her room before being taken by wheelchair into the ambulance.
Nyavi said she also got into the ambulance with Jadoo.
“They tested her sugar levels and told me they were high. That is all they said. She continued having seizures and paramedics said we had to rush her to the hospital.”
Jadoo was rushed to Palestine Hospital, where she was declared dead. According to the autopsy report, Jadoo died en route to the hospital.
“I had to ask what they meant. I was shocked. Everything happened so quickly,” Nyavi said.
According to the coroner’s report, released shortly after her death, Jadoo’s hair on her head and arms had fallen out and she had blue marks around the eyes and lips.
“[This] indicates that the deceased has ingested a poisonous or toxic substance, which I can ascribe to be the likely cause of death,” read the report by coroner Dr Mai Mounir Shoukry.
Autopsy report finally released
While friends and family were left puzzled for months about what could have happened to Jadoo, an autopsy report released last week stated she died from methyl alcohol poisoning.
It declared that the prime cause of death could be attributed to methyl alcohol ingestion poisoning, which led to multiple vital organ collapse.
The report, however, did not state the concentration of the methyl alcohol ingested or which ingested substance contained the poison.
Methyl alcohol, also known as methanol, is a poisonous liquid obtained by the distillation of wood or the incomplete oxidation of natural gas.
It is often found in antifreeze, fuel and solvents. According to Carine Marks, poison expert and director of the Tygerberg Poison Information Centre in Cape Town, methanol can also be found in home-brewed alcohol as a cheaper substitute for ethanol, especially in Eastern Europe.
“As little as 10ml can be lethal. In South Africa, methanol is only found in laboratories and not over the counter. It might be she [Jadoo] drank something that contained methanol, or it was slipped into her drink. It tastes just like alcohol,” she told The Citizen.
The report further stated that all criminal suspicions were ruled out.
According to the final report, her room-mate Nyavi, who was actually with Jadoo until her death, was supposedly two hours away in Alexandria City at the time of the incident.
The final official report also failed to indicate the methanol concentration and quantity ingested by Jadoo, nor the substance that contained the methanol.
“This thing of me not being around when this happened is a total lie. Yadhana and I did everything together. We became like sisters,” said an upset Nyavi.
Another bizarre discrepancy was a preliminary report sent to the family in June this year by the department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco), stating that cause of death was a “diabetic coma and severe hypertension”.
Asked about the preliminary report and for further details on the report, Dirco spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya could not provide comment, referring all matters to the Egyptian embassy.
He also could not clarify the contradiction between the preliminary and final postmortem reports.
“Your questions are best directed to the people or the institution who did the postmortem and the investigators in Egypt,” Mabaya said.
The head of the Press and Information Office at the Egyptian Embassy in South Africa, counsellor Ayman Walash, said he could not comment on the report as it was finalised by the Nasr City prosecution office of the attorney-general.
“No further comments can be added to clarify the postmortem autopsy report. However, the family has the full right to inquire and ask for more details or information regarding the postmortem autopsy report through the relevant authorities.
“Strenuous efforts have been made by the Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt in SA and the Egyptian authorities in Cairo to reach all the facts,” Walash added.
What could have led to the mysterious untimely death of Jadoo has left the family puzzled, and with more questions. Jadoo’s sister, Vedharshi, who shares a birthday with her late sister, told The Citizen they were not pleased with the outcome of the autopsy report.
“After being very patient and understanding and waiting almost seven months for a final report, it’s very disturbing that this report has left us with more questions than answers,” she said.
Jadoo’s mother, Devika, has not been coping with the results, suspecting that something evil may have happened to her daughter.
“Only a mother can know this horrible pain of when your child is hurting. But losing your child to death and not knowing how … that is an indescribable feeling.
“This whole autopsy report is an absolute disgrace. First they said it looked like she was poisoned, then they said she went into a diabetic coma, and now it’s methanol poisoning.
“She was no ordinary journalist. She deserves better than this,” her mother said.
She said she was disappointed to have heard about her daughter’s death from Emedot, as she received no call from the Egyptian embassy or the African Journalists’ Union.
“Justin had to reach out to us on Facebook. We only found out about her death that afternoon. This does not give us any closure, but gives us more reasons to investigate what happened to Yadhana.”