The Continuing Fight for Justice following a Sudden Death Abroad

Giambrone’s cross-border criminal team, headed by Vincenzo Senatore a senior associate in London and Milan, is assisting Trudy Cowan, a lecturer at Derby University, who lost her husband in suspicious circumstances in Italy. 

Russell Cowan had gone to Italy with friends to take part in a charity motor rally aiming at raising funds to fight prostate cancer.  On the evening of his death he had dinner with his friends and decided to go back to his hotel alone leaving his friends. He met his end from catastrophic head injuries having apparently fallen a distance of eight metres over a fence.  Suspicions were aroused by inconsistent witness statements together with doubts over how Mr. Cowan could have landed in the position in which he was found.  Despite the fact that the Italian judge mentioned Mr. Cowan had consumed alcohol the amount found in his body was far from excessive and would not have rendered him so unstable that he was likely to lose his balance when walking.   Mrs. Cowan stated that if his friends had felt that he had had too much to drink they would never have let him leave on his own.

Our lawyer, Vincenzo Senatore, assisted Ms. Cowan to obtain an expert witness "force dynamics" report, which appears to confirm that it is highly unlikely that he actually fell from the place the witness alleges he fell.   Vincenzo believes that the witness evidence is far from conclusive that Russell Cowan’s death resulted from a fall, commenting: “We believe that an assault or battery occurred inside the villa where he was found  – this is supported by the Fitbit signals where it is noted that the heart-rate frequency steadily increases at the time of his death”.  He adds: “This could mean that Mr Cowan was under the pressure of someone, and maybe he was involved in an assault or was running escaping from someone.”

Dame Vera Baird, a former solicitor general and Labour MP and recently appointed Victims Commissioner has written a report entitled Struggling for Justice in which she heavily criticises the level of support, which amounts to practically zero, available to the approximately 60-90 families each year whose relatives die abroad under suspicious circumstances.  Singling out Trudy Cowan in her report Dame Vera said: "She (Trudy Cowan) feels as though she and her family have been left to fend for themselves by the authorities, both in terms of the initial arrangements and through the subsequent emotional and financial impact that Russell’s death has had on Trudy and her family."  Dame Vera made 17 recommendations in her report for the improvement of assistance offered to families in the position of Trudy Cowan.

Vincenzo Senatore and the Giambrone criminal team are now considering the next step as Trudy Cowan has no intention of letting her husband’s death go until she satisfied that she knows the truth.  She feels very let down by the British authorities saying: "Russell was a British citizen and an RAF veteran who won medals - but regardless of that you would expect the country he loved and worked for would have supported him and his family at a time when they needed it most.  They have turned their backs on us, that's how I feel”.

The fact that there is minimal assistance for families in the unhappy position of seeking justice for their relatives who have died abroad in questionable situations, has resulted in pressure being put on the Foreign and Commonwealth  Office to provide a decent level of help, due to a number of tragic incidents that have been highlighted in the press.  FCO spokesperson said: “Last year we helped more than 22,000 British people overseas, including cases involving more than 4,000 deaths. We now have a dedicated team to support families of homicide victims, including funding translation where required.  “We will look at what more we can do, including implementing many of these recommendations. We also recently conducted our own review of the support we provide and will set out our proposals shortly.” 

All assistance is welcome as at the moment the victims’ families only have self-help and the very few charities dedicated to providing assistance.  The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Deaths Abroad Consular Services and Assistance Report 2019 has just been published which it is to be hoped will highlight the struggle faced by relatives of those who die abroad.

If you would like to know more about how the Giambrone criminal team can help you please click here