Boxing

More details on Gatti's death revealed by Brazilian police

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The Canadian Press
7/31/2009 6:19:37 PM
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The controversy surrounding Arturo Gatti's death took another twist Friday with confirmation that a second autopsy will be conducted on the body of the former world boxing champion.

Bernard Barre, Gatti's former trainer and a family friend, told The Canadian Press the Quebec coroner's office has approved the exhumation of the body and a re-examination of it at the request of the family.

Gilles Ethier, a deputy chief Quebec coroner, says Gatti's body is presently at the Montreal morgue.

The autopsy is scheduled to be performed Saturday morning. Ethier says the family has retained an American pathologist who will be present and assist with the autopsy.

Gatti's family has strenuously rejected a conclusion by Brazillian authorities that he committed suicide at a resort in the northeastern part of the country on July 11.

"We need to quickly conclude this file," Barre said of the new autopsy. "I'm very happy now that the government has gone into the file. We hope we will have a good conclusion on this affair.

"The family is happy. The family wanted that."

The Canadian government has also formally asked Brazilian authorities for "more information" about Gatti's death.

A judge has ordered the release of Gatti's 23-year-old Brazilian wife, Amanda Rodrigues, who had been held since July 12 on suspicion of murder.

"This case has been resolved," said Milena Saraiva, a spokeswoman for police in the northeastern city of Recife. "While the evidence at the scene first led us to think Gatti was murdered, the autopsy results and a detailed crime scene analysis simply pointed to a different outcome."

Canada wants to see for itself.

"The government of Canada is seeking more information on the investigation into the death of its citizen, and on the findings of the investigation," Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said in a statement Friday.

A spokesman for Cannon declined further comment when contacted by The Canadian Press.

A lawyer for Rodrigues said he was not opposed to a second autopsy.

"The exhumation does not surprise me at all. It makes perfect sense," Celio Avelino told The Associated Press by telephone. "Gatti's family was first told by police that Amanda had killed him, and now they are saying he committed suicide. Of course, family and friends have doubts and are demanding another autopsy -- as they should."

"I am absolutely sure, that the second autopsy will reconfirm that he committed suicide," he said.

Gatti, a Montreal native who held two world titles in his 16-year pro career, retired in 2007 with a record of 40-9.

Gatti's family and friends expressed disbelief that the boxer could have killed himself.

Gatti's manager, Pat Lynch, said during a Thursday night memorial service for Gatti in northern New Jersey that he was shocked when he heard about the suicide ruling.

"I'm not going to rest," he said. "We've got a lot of investigation ahead of us."

Ellen Haley, a spokeswoman for Main Events, the longtime promoter of Gatti's bouts, said in a statement Friday "we do not believe that he took his own life.

"We believe that once the results of that investigation are revealed, the truth will come to light and justice will be done."

On Friday, Brazilian police released more details about the incident, saying Gatti hanged himself with a bag strap that he tied around a wooden staircase column more than two metres off the ground, looping it around his neck and then kicking the stool from underneath him.

Saraiva says police first thought Gatti was strangled by his wife -- after the pair had a violent, drunken fight in public hours before -- because his body was found on the floor.

But an autopsy report indicated Gatti was suspended off the ground for some three hours early July 11. A crime scene analysis found markings on the staircase column.

Gatti was found several hours later by his wife.

On Thursday, a judge ordered the release of Rodrigues in Recife. She and Gatti arrived at the resort town of Porto de Galinhas with their 10-month-old son a few days earlier. They had rented a two-level apartment.

Rodrigues said she was sleeping with the pair's son in an upstairs bedroom. She told police she went downstairs about 6 a.m. to get milk for the boy, saw Gatti's body on the floor but assumed he was drunk and asleep. It was not until she went back downstairs at 9 a.m. that she discovered Gatti was dead and called police.

Saraiva said no suicide note was found.

"The first investigators to arrive at the scene only saw his body on the floor and the bloodied strap near his body," Saraiva said. "They assumed his wife strangled him."

Saraiva also provided details gathered from 17 witnesses police interviewed about the tumultuous evening Gatti and Rodrigues had the night before his death.

The investigation revealed that the pair got into a loud fight on a street near the beach in the resort town late July 10. Saraiva said Gatti had drank about seven cans of beer, along with two bottles of wine during a dinner and later at a bar.

Witnesses told police Gatti at one point picked up Rodrigues, who weighs about 100 pounds, by her chin with his right hand and tossed her to the ground.

She had visible wounds to her chin and left arm the following day when police arrived at her cell following her arrest.

Saraiva said that a security guard for a local hotel intervened when the couple's fight became violent, only to be punched in the face by Gatti. A small crowd gathered at the scene and started throwing stones at the boxer, the police spokeswoman said.

One of the stones hit Gatti in the back of the head, causing a wound that police originally said was caused by a small steak knife found near his body in the apartment. Saraiva said the scene in the centre of town eventually broke up, and that Gatti and Rodrigues returned to their apartment in separate taxis.

In a telephone interview with The Associated Press upon her release from prison Thursday, Rodrigues said Gatti may have killed himself because he feared she would leave him after their fight, one of many during a rocky two-year marriage.

"I believe that when we got home and he saw that he hurt me, he thought I would leave him, that I would tell him to just let me go, that I would separate from him," she said. "He did that in a moment of weakness. He was drunk, maybe he didn't know what he was doing, maybe he thought I would leave him the next day."

According to family and friends, the couple's marriage was fraught with problems.

Records at the Court of Quebec's criminal and penal division show that Gatti was charged on April 16 for violating a restraining order that had been filed against him. They didn't indicate who filed the restraining order, but Gatti's mother, Ida, said Rodrigues had taken one out against him.

Gatti's brother Fabrizio would not comment on reports the family is preparing to contest Rodrigues' custody of the couple's child.

With files from Associated Press writer Bradley Brooks in Rio de Janeiro.

Arturo Gatti (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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