By Feng Zengkun
The expert witness who suggested that American researcher Shane Todd was murdered, has recanted part of the findings in his post-mortem report.
Dr Edward Adelstein, who was testifying at a coroner's inquiry on Tuesday via video-link from the United States, now says Dr Todd had not been garrotted - a term that means strangulation with a wire or cord. He says he now agrees with the reports by four other pathologist that it was not a garrotting because of the absence of broken blood vessels and neck injuries.
But he maintains that Dr Todd was killed, possibly by more than one man "because Shane is well-built, there must have been more than one assassin".
The body of Dr Todd was found hanged in his apartment last June but his parents believed he was murdered and had engaged Dr Adelstein to produce an independent post-mortem report.
He was initially supposed to testify to his report that their son - whom they believed was killed over his work at the Singapore Institute of Microelectronics (IME) - was strangled but changed his position when confronted by the State Counsel.
Dr Adelstein's earlier report was also the only one, out of five commissioned, which concluded that it was murder. Two of those reports from independent overseas experts engaged by the State had concluded it was suicide, while veteran pathologist, Dr Wee Keng Poh from the Health Sciences Authority, had testified last week that Dr Todd died from hanging.
Medical evidence supported that finding said Dr Wee, who has conducted more than 10,000 autopsies, including at least 800 cases of asphyxia due to hanging.
Dr Adelstein had told the court earlier that he is not a published forensic pathologist but medical examiner and a trained veterinarian. At the time of the review of Dr Todd's case last October, he had dealt with 25 hanging cases.
["He who pays the piper calls the tune." You hire an expert consultant to find proof that your son was murdered, he will focus on proofs that point to your son being murdered... even if he is only a horse doctor (vet), and the only human patients he sees are all dead (medical examiner).
No one wants to believe their son or loved ones will kill themselves. Maybe it is easier to believe conspiracy theories about industrial espionage, official cover-up, corruption, and incompetence.
But when your leading expert crumbles under cross-examination (by video link!), when your expert is the only one of five to believe it is murder (perhaps because you PAID him to find evidence of murder?), perhaps the corruption is on the part of your expert, the cover-up is your emotional cover-up for what you cannot accept, and the incompetence is purely that of your "expert" with limited experience.
I am sorry to say that you will find no closure in this. You want to believe it is a murder regardless of the evidence, evidence that you discount, disbelieve, and dismiss. You will cling to little shreds of contradictory evidence, find solace in minutiae, take refuge in little inconsistencies, all to shore up your belief that your son did not kill himself.
But he will still be dead. And your failure to accept his death will fester in you, demanding action, a response, closure, retribution, anything.
But there will be nothing. ]
Update: 24 May
The Straits Times has a page for this story. Not sure how long the page will be kept up and if it is free access.
The parents have decided not to participate in the inquiry since Wednesday (or Tues 21 May).
May 22, 2013
Shane Todd inquiry continues without his family, foreign pathologists take the stand
By Feng Zeng Kun
The coroner's inquiry into American researcher Shane Todd's death continued on Wednesday despite the Todd family's absence and news that they have discharged their Singapore lawyers earlier in the morning.
Dr Luis Montes, an ex-colleague of Dr Todd's at the Singapore Institute of Microelectronics, testified that he had previously met Dr Todd's parents at a gathering.
This contradicted what the Todd family told reporters on Tuesday afternoon - after storming out of the Subordinate Courts - that they had never met Dr Montes.
Two certified foreign pathologists from the United States engaged by the State then took the stand. Both pathologists disputed the family's expert Dr Edward Adelstein's testimony on Tuesday that Dr Todd could have been murdered.
Dr David Richard Fowler, the chief examiner for the state of Maryland, agreed with the autopsy report that the bruises on Dr Todd's hands were likely post-mortem pooling of blood, and any bruising would have been "evident" at the time of autopsy. Dr Valerie Rao agreed.
Both pathologists also disputed the lack of facial bleeding as having ruled out death by hanging, something that Dr Adelstein alleged. State Counsel Isaac Tan presented a medical paper by Dr Rao that surveyed 5,000 deaths. It concluded that post-mortem facial bleeding had a very low occurrence in cases of hanging.
The two experts concurred that there was no merit in Dr Adelstein's conjecture that Dr Todd had been killed by either a taser or an armlock. "It was a suicide," said Dr Fowler.
May 23, 2013
Friends and family of Shane Todd met with police at his apartment after his death
By Lim Yanliang
Friends and family of American researcher Shane Todd had met with police officers in his Chinatown apartment five days after his body was discovered there last June, a colleague of Dr Todd told the court on Thursday.
But Dr Jeffrey Soon, who worked with Dr Todd at the Singapore Institute of Microelectronics (IME), said he did not hear the police officers speaking much.
"They (the police) were listening most of the time," said Dr Soon, adding that it was mainly Dr Todd's mother, Mary, discussing how her son might have died.
[Which is the right thing to do. The police gather information. Not give them out. When they give information, they give it to their supervising or legal authority. ]
He added that there was talk of an "automatic screwdriver" which Dr Todd might have used to attach the strap to his toilet door, but Dr Soon told the court that he did not see such a tool in the apartment.
There was, however, no mention of nuts, bolts and pulleys during the three hour discussion between the police and Dr Todd's parents, his brothers and friends.
The court also heard that the American researcher began working longer hours and even the weekends after he transferred to a new team in July 2011, to a point where he no longer met Dr Soon and other friends at IME for lunch or dinner.
"He looked more tired and exhausted most of the time," said Dr Soon, who said his friend also started using the weekends to prepare slides for work.
But Dr Todd never told him he was depressed, or that he thought his life was in danger, added Dr Soon.
[But of course, this changes nothing as far as the parents are concern, as far as their belief that their son was murdered rather than having taken his own life. In a conspiracy theory, facts that do not fit your theory are part of the conspiracy, are manipulated or deceived by the conspirators. ]
[Update 2 Aug 2014:
Jul 31, 2014
Shane Todd's death: AGC denies towel and noose destroyed to block DNA test
His parents believe he was murdered even though evidence presented during a 10-day inquiry last year proved he had hanged himself against a door with a noose and towel around his neck.
They told the media in the United States last week that they had wanted the two items for DNA testing. "We have ample evidence that our son was murdered, but the towel and the strap were the only DNA evidence in Shane's case, and now they have been destroyed," they reportedly said.
The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC), however, told The Straits Times the items had been destroyed as a matter of protocol after the family of Dr Todd, who was 31 when he died, failed to meet the requirements to get them, despite being given ample time to do so.
The AGC said that in a hearing last year, State Coroner Chay Yuen Fatt had said it was the usual practice to dispose of items used in hanging cases. He gave Dr Todd's next-of-kin six months to explain why they wanted them.
But the family's Singapore lawyer, Mr Choo Zheng Xi, said he had written to the coroner to object to this, on the basis that the items belonged to the family under the law and they should not have to give a reason for wanting them back.
Mr Choo said he had repeated this point at subsequent hearings and in submissions to the court, and also cited previous case law.
When the six months passed, two more hearings were held, following which the State Coroner ordered the items to be handed to the State for destruction.
This was because they were not Dr Todd's personal effects and had no monetary or sentimental value, the State Coroner said, adding that returning the items to Dr Todd's next-of-kin would cause emotional trauma to them.
At this point, Mr Choo asked for two weeks to check whether Dr Todd's family had further instructions for him. This was granted, but there was no word from him or the family, said the AGC.
"It has never been the State's position to deny the next-of-kin a chance to retest the exhibits," said the AGC, adding that the objection was to returning the items when Dr Todd's family had not given any plausible reason for wanting them.
The AGC said the only other communication it received after the two-week extension was an e-mail from Mr Choo to confirm the items had been disposed of. It added that during the inquiry last year, Dr Todd's family members and their lawyers had not challenged the DNA analysis of the towel and noose.
A Health Sciences Authority analyst had said the items contained DNA traces that likely came from three people, but DNA could survive for years and it was impossible to tell when or how each of the DNA traces had been deposited.
Why keep evidence from cases that have been closed? Who will pay for the storage of these purposeless items? If these items should be stored, what about other evidence from other cases? These should be kept indefinitely on what basis? On the basis that the parents are Americans? On the basis that they cannot accept that their son killed himself? On the basis of conspiracy theories of distraught and emotional relatives who refuse to accept what is unacceptable to them? On the basis that they might come up with more conspiracy theories in the future? On the basis that they might want to go on a "fishing expedition" for other theories of the death (which has been ruled a suicide)?
They were asked for the reason why they wanted the items. They had NO probable reason. They basically answered thru their lawyers: "We want these items back because we are gawdamned Americans and it is our RIGHT!"
To which I say, "bullcrap!" They did not question the evidence then. They did not have a plausible reason for wanting the items after that.
Is there any harm to just give them the items?
Once the items leave our custody, it is no longer "evidence". Could they find OTHER evidence on the items after that? Of course!
Can we be sure it was not a "contamination" after it left our custody? Absolutely not!
Would that further smear SG's reputation? Would it cast further doubt on the findings? Would it settle the conspiracy theories, or further fuel them?
I'll answer with some questions: Do a percentage of Americans still believe Obama is a Kenyan Muslim Socialist? Do some Americans still believe that there is a second shooter on the grassy knoll who shot JFK? Are there Americans who believe 9/11 was a false flag event? Do some Americans still believe the Japanese were allowed to bomb Pearl Harbour in order to force the US into WWII?
Conspiracy Theories never die. They may not even fade away. Feeding the paranoia serves no purpose.]