The Guayana government's top pathologist has told the Chicago Tribune he belives that murder, not suicide, claimed more than 700 of the 911 persons who died at the Peoples Temple in Jonestown, Guayana.
"I do not believe there were ever more than 200 persons who died voluntarily," said Dr. C. Leslie Mootoo, chief medical examiner and first doctor at the scence of the Nov. 18 tragedy.
He said that dozens of adult victims whose bodies he examined and died of poison injected into a portion of their upper arms. Mootoo said it is virtually impossible for a person to inject himself in that part of the upper arm.
He said the jungle heat and magnitude of the tragedy made it impossible to conduct autopsies on all 911 bodies. But he said his extensive experience in determining causes of death made him certain of his conclusions at Jonestown.
Mootoo, interviewed in his home in Georgetown, Guayana, said he suspects but cannot prove that cult leader Jim Jones did not commit suicide. He said Jone's body was too badly decomposed to determine exactly how the cult leader died.
"I just don't buy the suicide [theory]," he said. "I don't believe [Jones] was a megalomanic as people have said. I do believe he was power-drunk, but a person like that would never kill himself."
He said he based his conclusions on 70 autopsies performed on victims, as well as his examination of other bodies and an inspection of the scene.
Mootoo has been a witness at a coroner's jury inques into the deaths. The jury is expected to issue a report this week, the Tribune said. Mootoo said the Jonestown deaths occurred over four hours. He said he was convinced most cult members were forced to drink the poison because seeing the first group of people go into convulsions and die "would persuade the others not to take the liquid voluntarily."
He also noted that 260 of the victims were children. "found a 2-year-old child with poison injected into an arm. Could a child that age take his life voluntarily in that way?" he asked.