Doctor says shotgun victim's bowel looked like 'Swiss cheese'

·3 min read

Without medical intervention, Mark Shatford likely would have died from sepsis within 48 hours, said the emergency room doctor who operated on him.

"It was not obvious that very first day that he would survive," Dr. Sharon Chiu told the court on Day 3 of testimony in the second-degree murder trial of Justin David Breau.

The 37-year-old Saint John man is accused of shooting 42-year-old Shatford with a shotgun on Nov. 17, 2019.

Chiu told the jury that there were so many holes in Shatford's small bowel that it "looked like Swiss cheese."

In fact, she said there was very little of the bowel that wasn't damaged. Normally, she said, a person needs about 100 cm of small bowel in order to survive.

She said she ended up removing the damaged middle section and attaching the two ends together.

Roger Cosman/CBC
Roger Cosman/CBC

Chiu, who was declared by the court an expert in emergency room medicine and therefore entitled to give opinion evidence, told the jury about her first examination of Shatford on Nov. 17, 2019.

She said his abdomen had "innumerable" pellet holes that were approximately 5 mm in diameter. She said there were "really too many to count."

She said she opened him up "from sternum to pubis" to assess the internal damage.

While there was damage to other organs, the small bowel was the most affected.

"There really wasn't any part of the small bowel that didn't have holes," she told the jury.

Chiu said the accepted approach in emergency surgery is repair as much damage and as many holes as possible in the initial surgery, but not keep the patient in surgery for too long. The practice is to follow up with another operation within 24 to 48 hours, when the patient is more stable.

Shatford ended up having multiple surgeries, with more holes repaired, but his condition was "slowly deteriorating," Chiu testified.

In the final surgery that Chiu performed, she discovered that Shatford's abdominal muscles were dying, which was a very bad sign, she said.

She told the court that she was not surprised when he died.

The court has heard from 11 witnesses over three days of testimony.


Jurors heard that Shatford was shot after a botched, middle-of-the-night home invasion at his apartment on Nov. 17, 2019.

In outlining her case to the jury Wednesday, Crown prosecutor Joanne Park said Shatford and his girlfriend were in the bedroom of their apartment at 321 Duke Street West, when masked intruders entered shortly after 4 a.m.

She said one of the men demanded money or "dope." As Shatford wrestled with one of the men inside the apartment, his girlfriend managed to pull down the man's mask and recognize Breau, someone she had known for years.

Shatford pursued the men out of the apartment.

Park told the court that Breau headed for a nearby vehicle, reached in, grabbed a shotgun and fired it at Shatford, who tried to ward off the shot with his hand.

The trial will continue next week. Eight days have been set aside.