Singapore Foreign Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said it was regretful that the family of U.S. research engineer Shane Todd pulled out from a coroner’s inquest yesterday.
The Todd family quit the inquest, opened by Singapore to determine how the 31-year-old died in June, after walking out of the courtroom on May 21. Edward Adelstein, a medical examiner engaged by the family, testified earlier this week Todd may have been shot by a taser gun or killed in an arm-lock after earlier saying he may have been strangled to death based on pictures of the body.
“It’s unfortunate that they decided to leave after their key witness” Adelstein testified, Shanmugam told reporters in the city state yesterday. “He, of course, has changed his original testimony and has confirmed that Dr. Todd was not killed by garroting.”
The family had said Todd may have been killed because of his sensitive work at Singapore’s Institute of Microelectronics and possible technology transfers to China’s Huawei Technologies Co.. The island’s police ruled he committed suicide by hanging.
The family has claimed that Todd’s external hard drive was accessed by an unknown person after he died. A May 9 U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation report said the drive the family found in the apartment was the same device the Singapore police had examined.
“It’s unfortunate that if they don’t take part, this assertion which formed a key part of their conspiracy theory can’t be tested,” Shanmugam said.
Singapore is committed to presenting all the evidence, he said, adding the inquiry will continue. The inquest, which started on May 13, is scheduled to end on May 28.
“We no longer have confidence in the transparency and the fairness of the system,” the family said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. “It appears to us that the outcome has been pre-determined.”
Shanmugam declined to comment on “aspersions cast” by the family or talk of a possible movie deal for them.
“Conclusions are for the court to come to,” he said.
Rick Todd, the engineer’s father, said in a phone interview yesterday that while “anybody would be interested in a fascinating story,” there is no movie deal. The family would “absolutely not” take part in the inquest, he said.
“The state said this would be a non-confrontational process,” he said. “It has been so adversarial.”
The case drew queries from Democratic Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester of Todd’s home state of Montana. Shanmugam, who met with Baucus on March 12 during a visit to the U.S., has said there were no illegal technology transfers at the institute, which is subject to rigorous audits.
The institute said it doesn’t do classified military-related research and didn’t collaborate with Huawei on a gallium-nitride project, the focus of Todd’s work. Huawei said April 8 it doesn’t pose a U.S. security threat as it defended itself against foreign governments’ concerns that it aids intelligence agencies.
The family walked out of the courtroom after their request to delay the hearing to examine claims made by a witness was initially rejected by the judge. The witness, a former colleague, said he met Todd on June 23, the day before his body was found.
Senior State Counsel Tai Wei Shyong had said May 13 a “proper determination” of Todd’s death will be made at the inquest. Todd suffered from depression, visited suicide websites and left a suicide letter before he died, according to lawyers representing the Singapore government.
“We have decided that our presence in Singapore will have no bearing on the outcome,” the family said in the statement. “The Todd family will now turn to the court of public opinion.”
The Coroner’s Inquiry is Shane Truman Todd. CI002014 of 2012. Singapore Subordinate Courts.
To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Tan in Singapore at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Douglas Wong at email@example.com