Family is left in dark over Africa death

Simone and Mohammed Jabakhanji. Simone, from Leyland,  was found dead in Gambia in August 2011
Simone and Mohammed Jabakhanji. Simone, from Leyland, was found dead in Gambia in August 2011

Mystery still surrounds the death of a Leyland woman who died at the age of 28 in Gambia.

Preston deputy coroner Simon Jones returned an open verdict at an inquest into Simone Jabakhanji’s death because of a lack of information from police in the tiny West African republic.

Simone, of The Pines, Moss Side, was found hanged in her home in the capital Banjul in August 2011, just hours after telling friends and relatives back home in Lancashire she had been arguing with her husband Mohammed.

But despite repeated requests through Interpol, the Foreign Office and the Gambian High Commissioner, only a limited amount of detail about the death had materialised.

No post-mortem had been carried out in Gambia and the body had been embalmed before repatriation to England.

Mr Jones said: “I have had no response to the letters I have written to the Gambian authorities. Regrettably this is not an uncommon occurrence.

“When we are dealing with deaths that occur outside England and Wales we are almost entirely dependent on the authorities in that country to provide us with information. As a coroner I have no power to require witnesses who live abroad to attend.

“What is apparent is that the Gambian authorities are satisfied there are no suspicious circumstances around Simone’s death.

“I appreciate that the family have concerns about that, but that is something for the Gambian authorities to investigate.”

Simone, whose maiden name was Lally, moved to the Gambia in 2009 and married Mohammed Farid Jabakhanji – known as ‘Carlos’ – a year later in a romantic beach service.

Just hours before she was found dead by her husband at home, she had been in coversation on Skype with both her mother, Janice Lally, and her best friend, Abi Stone, back in Lancashire.

Abi, of Green Lane, Freckleton, told the inquest she had talked to Simone for more than an hour about an argument she had with Carlos the previous evening.

“She was fine and happy,” she recalled.

“She was making plans to come over to see my new baby. She was really positive. I would never have left her (online) if I thought in any way she was upset. She wasn’t upset.”

Mrs Lally spoke to Simone the same evening and said her daughter “didn’t appear distressed or upset in any way.”

“She could be emotional – she had been all her life,” she said. “But I have never been aware of her making a threat to end her own life.

“I had spoken to her the day before and she was frightened of Carlos. So I spoke to him, eventually when he would talk to me, and he promised he would look after her.”

Just six hours after that final conversation Mrs Lally took a call from a tearful Carlos telling her he had found Simone hanged.

He had taken her down and rushed her to hospital, but she was pronounced dead.

Simone’s uncle, Paul Lally, who was in the Gambia at the time, said he visited the house which police, he said, referred to as “the crime scene.”

“It wasn’t taped off and it was like an open circus,” he said. “Her husband was there and his family were there.

“It was just open for everyone to come in and have a look. It looked like the cleaners had been in, it was immaculate.”

Home Office pathologist Dr Alison Armer, who carried out a post-mortem examination on Simone’s body when it was returned to the UK, decided death was due to hanging. Small abrasions to the head had not been

significant.

“There is no evidence to support the view that any unlawful act had taken place to cause this death,” she said.

Coroner Mr Jones said: “When a death like this happens in this country we get police statements, photographs of the scene. We have none of that here and what is clear is we are not going to get anything more than we have already.

“I have no reason to dispute the death was due to hanging. In terms of my decision it seems to me that there are limited options open to me.

“To record a verdict of suicide in the UK I have to be satisfied to a very high standard of proof that she did what she did intending to end her life.

“But we can’t be certain what she did was done with the intention of ending her life. That would be at odds with the conversations she had with family and friends.

“Similarly there is no evidence to suggest anyone else was involved. So the correct verdict to record is an open verdict.”