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Singapore coroner rules US scientist committed suicide

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

A Singapore state coroner ruled Monday that a US scientist found hanged in the city-state in 2012 committed suicide during a bout of depression and was not murdered as his family claims.

The body of 31-year-old electronics engineer Shane Todd was discovered by his girlfriend in his flat in June 2012, sparking a controversy that reached the highest levels of the Singapore and US governments after his parents refused to accept suicide findings by the Singapore police.

Todd's family say that he was murdered as part of a conspiracy involving a Chinese technology firm.

"The evidence before me... compels me to find, beyond reasonable doubt, that the deceased had committed suicide by hanging himself," state coroner Chay Yuen Fatt said in his verdict on Todd's death.

The coroner's ruling cannot be appealed. It was limited by law to the cause of death and did not address the family's claims that Todd was murdered.

"The evidence was incontrovertibly consistent with asphyxia due to hanging," Chay told a packed court, adding that evidence presented during the two-week public inquest in May was "inconsistent with the possibility that there was foul play".

Chay said the evidence also showed that before his death, Todd had suffered a relapse of depression. Witnesses testified that Todd had suffered from the condition as a university student.

"His psychiatric condition included suicidal ideations of an overall increasing severity over the last few months of his life, which he had masked from the people around him," Chay said.

Todd's parents say he was murdered as part of a conspiracy involving his former employer, Singapore's state-linked Institute of Microelectronics (IME), and Chinese technology firm Huawei Technologies.

IME and Huawei said they only held preliminary talks on a potential project with commercial applications, but did not proceed.

The family attended the Singapore inquest in May but angrily walked out after six days and flew home, saying they had "lost faith" in the proceedings.

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

Instead he presented a new scenario -- that Todd was killed by assassins who either used a stun gun or choked him to knock the scientist unconscious before hanging him to make his death look like 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.

In his verdict on Monday, coroner Chay rejected Adelstein's testimony, calling it "nothing short of bizarre and extremely unhelpful in the way that it detracted from the critical pathological issues before the court".

He said he did not doubt the "independence or competence" of American pathologists Dr Valerie Rao and Dr David Fowler, who affirmed Singaporean forensic experts' conclusion that Todd had committed suicide.

The lead lawyer of the Todd family's Singaporean legal team, Gloria James-Civetta, told reporters that the family would study the verdict before making a statement on a website they had set up called "Justice 4 Shane Todd".

The death of the American scientist was first thrust into the spotlight after the Financial Times reported in February that Todd's family suspected he was murdered because of his work on a joint project with Huawei involving gallium nitride, a semiconductor material with military and commercial applications.

Singapore quickly moved to dispel allegations that it had improper ties with Huawei and vowed to conduct a transparent investigation into the case. Police investigators in the city-state subsequently shared information with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130708/singapore-coroner-rules-us-scientist-committed-suicide-0