The case of Annie Borjesson, who was found drowned on the beach at Prestwick in Ayrshire on Sunday 4 December 2005, seems to have been treated by the police as an inconvenient accident.
Suicide or tragic accident?
After all, it was a Sunday. Might the case have been treated differently had she been found on a weekday?
I have been investigating this case now for nearly two years.
Well, part of my secondary education was completed in Ayrshire and a subsequent career teaching chemistry for over forty years seems to have coalesced into a number of cold case investigations.
As a provisional member of the ABI (Association of British Investigators), a Crime Intelligence Analyst and, more recently, an associate member of the National Union of Journalists, I have acquired a further skill set to add to my professional chemistry career.
This case, along with others I am pursuing, simply reeks of injustice and the seemingly casual way the case was investigated and reported raises more questions than answers.
Let’s look at the science
To understand why Annie Borjesson did not deliberately drown herself in the sea at Prestwick on the afternoon of Saturday 3 December 2005, let’s explore the science.
The first post-mortem, carried out at Crosshouse Hospital in Kilmarnock on Monday 5 December 2005, provided a standardised report of a death where there are “no suspicious circumstances”. In other words, the pathologists who were responsible for the report were indirectly supporting the police narrative – Annie’s death was a suicide so there was nothing further to investigate – ‘just provide a report please’.
The fact that the police said this in advance of Annie’s post-mortem result is disturbing and it was even reported in the local press, via information provided by “a police source”, that this was a tragic accident.
So, Annie was a young woman who had taken her own life despite a lack of corroborating evidence or any reasoning by the police (even basic conjecture) to explain why anyone living in Edinburgh would travel across Scotland to take her own life by drowning at Prestwick.
Tragic accident or a suicide?
In this case, there are some fundamental questions to answer which have never been fully addressed.
Annie’s body was subject to a second post mortem in Sweden in May 2007, some 18 months after her body had been repatriated there.
Why wait 18 months?
Bizarre though it sounds, the Swedish authorities had forgotten about Annie.
Diatoms – the science of marine and freshwater algae.
Analysis of Annie’s bone marrow revealed two frustules of the freshwater alga or diatom, Navicula lanceolata. According to Professor Bertrand Ludes, based at the European Council of Legal Medicine in Strasbourg, the initial findings of this diatom should have been further confirmed or validated by analysis of other body organs such as the lungs, liver and brain.
He stated that this is mandatory within the EU in cases of unexplained deaths.
His report is instructive and is quoted below:-
“it is mandatory to perform the analyses on closed organs (brain, liver, kidney) and on lung samples to validate the results obtained on bone marrow. The identification of diatoms in the lungs may allow us to have an idea of the site of drowning.”
No such further analyses were carried out, despite the expected mandate to confirm the existence of the diatom in other body organs. Based on the police narrative in Scotland, the presumption of suicide and the mind-set of the personnel involved would preclude further investigation along with the provision of a forensic pathologist.
Professor Bertrand Ludes, on 9 May 2013, reported that he was in favour of the conclusion of a death by drowning but that his hypothesis should be confirmed by further tests on the tissue samples kept in paraffin at the Rättsmedicinalverket, the Swedish National Board of Forensic Medicine.
A second opinion
Referring to the presence of the freshwater diatom found in Annie’s bone marrow, a Swedish diatom expert, Professor Pauline Snoeijs-Leijonmalm, indicated that the salinity of the seawater at Prestwick Bay was between 29 and 34 parts per thousand, meaning it was 2.9% – 3.4% parts per hundred.
So, what does the science tell us? Again, the words of the Swedish diatom expert Professor Pauline Snoeijs-Leijonmalm make chilling reading:-
“that is a salinity halt where Navicula lanceolata should not occur.”
Professor Ludes concluded in his letter to the Borjesson family:
“there are thousands of other species that are more common in sea water.”
There is a major difficulty here because if Annie took her own life by walking into the sea at low tide, casting off her goose down jacket and travel bag, and drowning, then there should be significant volumes of marine diatoms in her stomach and lungs and from the frothing found in her nasal cavities.
No mention of marine diatoms can be found in the pathology report from Crosshouse Hospital, nor in the later report from the Swedish authorities.
So, can a conclusion be reached that Annie did not drown in the sea, that she was not suicidal, that she did not take her own life?
Is it more likely that between arriving in Prestwick, being seen on the Esplanade around 4:30pm (which has never been confirmed) and being found below the Esplanade wall the following morning at 8:23am, that she was dumped there?
In other words, she had been drowned in a freshwater environment, murdered, and then conveniently found on the beach below the parapet on Sunday morning.
How long had she been in the water?
What forensic information was collected at the time Annie was found which may have helped establish the time of death? No one has ever reported the state of her body, the degree of rigor mortis, the likelihood of a time-line suggesting how long she had been in the water. This essential part of the forensic investigative process has apparently been overlooked. If Annie was seen on the esplanade at 4:30pm on Saturday afternoon and then walked into the sea, a forensic pathologist would be able to determine if the body had been in the sea for a significant length of time.
‘A police source’
One police source suggested that the body was in such a poor state because it had been in the water for ‘a few days’ when in reality, the maximum length of time could not have exceeded sixteen hours. The state of the body reported in the pathology report did not suggest a time of death. There is only a death certificate giving the time of death as 10:30am on Sunday 4 December, the time when her body was removed from the beach.
Freedom of Information requests to the Crown Office – ‘not in the public interest’
Several requests to the Crown Office about the investigation into Annie’s death have been met with very limited responses. Dishearteningly, replies to our investigation state that further disclosures are ‘not in the public interest’.
There is something very disturbing about the reluctance of the Scottish authorities to fully investigate this death.
There is evidence from the original post-mortem report that Annie drowned, that is almost a given, but our investigation indicates that the science was neglected and the affidavit from the Swedish undertakers, that Annie had been given a severe beating, was also ignored.
The circumstances surrounding Annie Borjesson’s death should not have been ignored. I believe that her case should be reviewed. She deserves justice.