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US scientist's body could be exhumed

Singapore police admit not following protocol when inspecting Shane Todd's flat as they thought his death was a suicide.

Last Modified: 27 May 2013 17:27
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Rick and Mary Todd maintain that their son did not commit suicide [Reuters]

The body of an American scientist found hanged in Singapore last year may be exhumed as part of an ongoing campaign by his family to prove he was murdered.

Rick Todd, the father of 31-year-old electronics researcher Shane Todd, made the announcement in a written statement that was read on Monday.

Earlier in the week Todd's parents and brothers had walked out of the hearing saying they had lost faith in the process, but left behind statements for the inquestI.

The Singapore state coroner's verdict on whether Todd killed himself or was murdered, as his family maintains, will be read in open court on July 8, officials said.

Airline pilot Rick Todd said he was convinced a second autopsy would shed light on the investigation.

'Not suicide'

"Based on my investigations, I believed that Shane did not commit suicide," the statement said.

"I am now convinced that a second autopsy should have been done and I have to consider obtaining an opinion from another expert who can come to Singapore to testify or to have Shane's body exhumed."

Shane Todd's body was found on June 24, 2012 in his Singapore apartment by his girlfriend. He was preparing to return to the United States after a stint with a state-linked Singapore research institute.

Singapore police who examined Todd's flat after his death on Monday admitted that they deviated from official protocols by not dusting for fingerprints or collecting DNA samples, and by examining the contents of a laptop computer there.

Asked at the inquest why police did not fully investigate the apartment, Sergeant Muhammad Khaldun Bin Sarif said he had made a preliminary assessment that pointed to suicide and determined there were no signs of foul play.

Todd's parents say that their son feared he was being made to compromise US national security as part of a secret project involving a Chinese telecoms firm accused of international espionage.

Singapore's Institute of Microelectronics and China's Huawei Technologies, which last year was labelled as a potential security threat to the US, said they only held preliminary talks on a potential project with commercial applications, but did not proceed.

Thai forensics

Rick Todd, who worked in a family-owned mortuary in Pomona, California before becoming a commercial pilot, said he sought the opinion of a prominent Thai forensic pathologist, Porntip Rojanasunan, earlier this month in a conference call.

He said family lawyer Peter Ong met Porntip and she was shown the autopsy report, photographs taken at the Singapore apartment and mortuary, and pictures of the body lying in a casket during a US memorial service.

Gloria James-Civetta, the head of a team of five lawyers who represented the Todds before they abandoned the inquiry, said the idea of having the body exhumed for a second autopsy was suggested by Porntip.

The Thai forensics expert denied she suggested a second autopsy, or speaking with Rick Todd.

"The lawyer is the one I talked to. I did not give any official consultation, because I only saw pictures, but I gave some opinions," Porntip told AFP in Bangkok.

"I did not advise a second autopsy. I said a second examination of a suspicious area of the body, in this case I meant the wrist, could be carried out."

Medical examiner Edward Adelstein, who was engaged by the Todd family, testified last week that the researcher may have been murdered by assassins, but two senior US pathologists backed Singapore's suicide report and rejected the murder scenario.

Other witnesses had described Todd, who had a history of depression, as showing signs of extreme stress before his death.

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