Singapore police testify in US death inquiry

Officers say there were no signs of struggle in the apartment of Shane Todd, a US scientist found hanged last year.

Last Modified: 14 May 2013 19:53
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Todd's parents reject the autopsy findings that say their son committed suicide [Reuters]

Singapore police officers who inspected the apartment where a US high-tech researcher was found hanged last year have told an inquiry that they saw no signs of a struggle.

The bedroom where police found the body of Shane Todd, whose parents believe he was murdered, was neater than the rest of the apartment, sergeant Rajina Sharma Rajandran said on the second day of a coroner's inquest.

"It appeared that there were no signs that indicated that a struggle had taken place," the investigator said. "There were no trails of blood found on the floor of the apartment. The furniture in the bedroom was in place."

Todd's parents reject Singapore autopsy findings that he committed suicide. They believe he was killed because of his work for a Singapore research institute with alleged links to a Chinese telecom giant suspected of espionage.

The inquiry also heard evidence from an FBI report indicating Singapore police did not miss crucial evidence in the case from an external hard drive found in Todd's apartment, as claimed by Todd's parents.

The parents have said files from the drive show he may have been killed because of his work.

But the Federal Bureau of Investigation report said the device, which they later handed to the parents, was "identical" to one that had already been examined by the city state's police.

The couple, Rick and Mary Todd, declined to comment when asked about the FBI report.

"We just appreciate the process. We thought it went well," Rick Todd told reporters.

'Preserve the primary evidence'

Singapore's state-linked Institute of Microelectronics and China's Huawei Technologies have both denied working together on a project involving Todd on a semiconductor with potential military applications.

The family has not blamed anyone in particular for Todd's death. But it maintains that the 31-year-old could not have killed himself and was looking forward to returning home before his body was found last June.

A lawyer for the family questioned police Tuesday about the way Todd's body was handled after being found suspended from an improvised noose from the top of a locked toilet door.

The body had been brought down to the bedroom floor by other police officers before the investigators arrived.

Senior investigation officer Rayme Darman Koh said discolouration on the lower forearms and legs indicated Todd had been hanging for "around six hours on the door."

Amarjit Singh, part of a team of Singapore lawyers assisting the Todds, said: "More than six hours, no pulse, would it be better to leave him there to preserve the primary evidence than to bring the body down in an attempt to save his life?"

Koh maintained that it was standard procedure to bring the body down.

Todd was part of a team working on gallium nitride, a tough semiconductor material that can be used in radar and satellite communications.

A US congressional committee last year labelled Huawei and ZTE, another Chinese telecom firm, as potential security threats that should be excluded from US government contracts and barred from acquiring US firms.

The coroner's inquest will only determine the cause of Todd's death. A verdict is expected by late June after hearings end on May 28.

Todd's parents, who are expected to testify, have obtained an opinion from a US medical examiner who concluded that Todd was first killed by garrotting before being hanged to conceal the crime.

But two other US medical examiners described as independent experts have affirmed the Singapore autopsy report, according to a summary of evidence to be presented at the inquest.


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