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Georgian prosecutors reopen high-profile suicide case after investigator claims foul play

2 May 2023
Tamar Bachaliashvili Photo: Reginfo.ge

An investigator in the suicide of Tamar Bachaliashvili, a woman who disappeared and was found dead in July 2020, has claimed that evidence in the case had been tampered with. The Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation into his claims.

In December 2020, the Prosecutor’s Office ruled that Bachaliashvili, who was 23 at the time of her death, had died by suicide in July of that year.

According to official case reports, Bachaliashvili had taken lethal doses of sleep medication, anti-depressants, anti-histamines, blood pressure medication, and sodium caffeine benzoate.

She was found dead in her car outside Tbilisi four days after her disappearance.

On Saturday, Sergo Shubitidze, a former police detective who has reportedly investigated the case, contradicted the Prosecutor’s Office’s ruling and suggested that foul play was involved in Bachaliashvili’s death.

In an interview with TV Formula, he claimed that evidence pertaining to the case had been tampered with.

‘I don’t believe this [that Bachaliashvili killed herself]. I don’t want to carry this burden alone. Others should also carry what belongs to them’, Shubitidze said on 29 April to Formula, after which he left the investigative system.

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On Tuesday, the Prosecutor’s Office stated that they intended to ‘interrogate’ Shubitidze because of the Formula interview. They said that Shubitidze did not conduct any investigations that ‘would have any kind of influence’ on the case.

‘He will be interrogated regarding the information he has publicly disclosed, which will be given an appropriate legal assessment’.

In response, Shubitidze’s lawyer, Mariam Maghradze, told journalists he had refused to be questioned by the Prosecutor’s Office.

‘At this stage, Sergo Shubitidze has not given any testimony; he will be questioned in court. Our request and his desire were that he testify directly in front of the court and the magistrate judge and be questioned there’, said Maghradze. ‘He wants the first testimony to be in court’.

‘Suspicious circumstances’

Shubitidze claimed that Bachaliashvili’s corpse was found under suspicious circumstances; while official case files indicate that Bachaliashvili had died in her car, Shubitidze suspects that someone moved her body inside the car after her death.

He also noted that Bachaliashvili’s corpse was too far along the decomposition process despite being in a closed car.

‘The windows of the car were closed. How many flies could there be in the car?!’ he said during the Formula interview. ‘The corpse was full of [maggots]. Maybe these maggots originated through flies’.

Shubitidze added that he was unconvinced by the explanations provided by the forensics experts.

The investigator said that her belongings were mishandled; he had received her phone unsealed, with all of its call history before 18 July — the date of her disappearance — deleted.

He also claimed that the ‘wrong person’ handed him over the phone.

Formula also spoke to the Bachaliashvilis’ lawyers, who claimed that Tamar Bachaliashvili’s death was ‘caused’ by a different kind of medicine than the ones listed by the Prosecutor’s Office in their 2020 report.

Bachaliashvili was declared a missing person on 18 July and was found dead in her parked car in an uninhabited place near the Tetritskaro forest.

In Tuesday’s statement, the Prosecutor’s Office noted that the Bachaliashvilis had requested the transfer of the investigation from the local police department in the area to the Ministry of Internal Affairs on 29 July 2020.

The Prosecutor’s Office said it took over the case on 17 August 2020 after the Bachaliashvilis expressed their ‘lack of confidence’ in the ministry’s investigation.

Bachaliashvili’s family rejected the Prosecutor’s Office’s ruling of her death by suicide in December 2020, accusing them instead of improperly investigating the case.