Singapore coroner rules US scientist committed suicide


US scientist Shane Todd’s family lawyer, Gloria James (center) speaks to reporters outside the Subordinate courts in Singapore on Monday. AFP PHOTO

SINGAPORE: A Singapore coroner ruled on 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 claimed.

The US government, which had expressed strong interest in the case of electronics engineer Shane Todd, said the coroner’s inquiry was “comprehensive, fair and transparent”.

The body of 31-year-old Todd was discovered by his girlfriend in his flat in June 2012, sparking a controversy that reached the highest levels of both governments after his parents refused to accept Singapore police findings that he killed himself.

The family, citing documents found in Todd’s computer files, said he was working on a secret project with military applications and murdered as part of a conspiracy involving a Chinese technology firm and a state-linked Singapore research institute.

There was no immediate reaction from the family to the verdict.

“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. The investigation was limited by law to the cause of death and did not address the family’s conspiracy claims.

“The evidence was incontrovertibly consistent with asphyxia due to hanging,” Chay told a packed court, adding that evidence presented during a 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 earlier 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 said he was murdered as part of a conspiracy involving his former employer, Singapore’s Institute of Microelectronics (IME), and Chinese technology giant Huawei Technologies, a firm accused by US officials of involvement in espionage.

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



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