Connect to share and comment

Singapore says US scientist hanged himself


The Singapore government on Monday rejected a conspiracy theory behind the death of an American scientist found hanged in the city-state last year, saying he killed himself after a bout of depression.

Summing up its position at a coroner's inquest into electronics engineer Shane Todd's death in June 2012, a government statement said "it is clear from the medical forensic evidence that the medical cause of Shane's death was asphyxia due to hanging."

Public hearings on the case were held from May 13-27. An independent coroner's verdict on the cause of death is due to be handed down on July 8.

Todd's family, who believe Todd was murdered, stormed out of the hearings on May 21, saying they had "lost faith" in the proceedings and describing it as one-sided. They later said they may have the body exhumed in California for further tests.

The head of the Singaporean legal team that assisted the family during the inquest told AFP that the Todds, now back in the United States, were still considering whether to file a formal closing submission to the coroner.

"They have contacted us," said Gloria James-Civetta. "A decision has not been reached on whether or not there will be a submission."

Lawyers for the Singapore government cited suicide notes left by Todd on his laptop computer, a psychiatrist's testimony that he suffered from depression, and a browsing history showing he accessed suicide websites before his death.

"The conspicuous absence of any evidence to support the next-of-kin's homicide theory must be viewed in juxtaposition with the overwhelming evidence pointing inexorably towards suicide," said a closing statement read in court by senior state counsel Tai Wei Shyong.

"It is submitted that (the) homicide case theory is entirely misplaced and unfounded, and that Shane's death was a suicide."

Tai said the scientist's depression had likely worsened in the months before his suicide, as evidence showed he did not complete a prescribed course of anti-depressants or schedule follow-up appointments with his psychiatrist.

"It is therefore highly likely his major depressive disorder was not being treated during the two months before his death," he said.

In earlier statements to the inquest, Todd's parents said he feared he was being made to compromise US national security in a secret project involving a Chinese telecom firm accused of international espionage and a state-linked Singapore institute that employed their son.

The two firms -- the Institute of Microelectronics (IME) and China's Huawei Technologies -- said they only held preliminary talks on a potential project with commercial applications, but did not proceed.

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.

In a separate closing summary to the coroner Monday, the IME said there was no evidence to support the family's allegation that Todd was forced to disclose sensitive information that could harm US national security.

During the hearings, the Todd family's star witness, US pathologist Edward Adelstein, recanted an earlier theory that Todd was garroted with a cord in his own apartment.

He presented a new theory: Todd was killed by assassins who used a stun gun before choking his neck and then hanging him to make it look like a suicide.

But Adelstein presented no evidence and two other US pathologists testified in support of Singapore police findings that Todd hanged himself from his bathroom door.