U.S. research engineer Shane Todd committed suicide by hanging, a Singapore judge ruled, disagreeing with the Todd family that he was murdered in the Asian city.
“There was no foul play involved,” Singapore district judge and coroner Chay Yuen Fatt said in handing down his verdict today. “The evidence was incontrovertibly consistent with asphyxia due to hanging.” Chay’s decision can’t be appealed.
Singapore police and government lawyers said Todd killed himself in June 2012. The Todd family quit the inquest on May 22 saying the outcome had been pre-determined. The family claims Todd probably was murdered because of his work that may have involved technology transfers to China’s Huawei Technologies Co.
“We are disappointed but not surprised” by the verdict Mary Todd, Shane’s mother, said in an e-mailed statement today. “The state was represented by five of its top lawyers who never investigated the possibility of murder, but were at the inquest solely to prove Dr. Todd committed suicide.”
The case has caused friction between the U.S. and Singapore, which the U.S. calls “a close strategic partner.” Two U.S. Democratic senators proposed blocking funding to Singapore’s Institute of Microelectronics where Todd had worked.
Relations between the two countries ought not to be affected by the case, Singapore’s Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam said at a news conference today.
“The verdict is clear: Dr. Todd committed suicide,” Shanmugam said. “The world can see what we’ve done.”
Shanmugam said the family has avoided explaining its “conspiracy theory” by refusing to testify in court.
“The inquiry into Dr. Todd’s death was comprehensive, fair and transparent,” the U.S. embassy in Singapore said in an e-mailed statement today. “The Todd family was given the opportunity to participate in the hearing.”
Shane Todd faced “great difficulty in coping,” may have had a relapse of depression and had suicidal thoughts, evidence in the 10-day inquest showed, Chay said. The Todd family’s former lawyers were in court when the verdict was read.
“We went to the inquiry with great expectations because we were told that it was going to be an open, fact-finding, non-adversarial hearing,” Mary Todd said. “Nothing could have been further from the truth.”
The Todds have been in contact with two Senators and two Congressman and plan to seek a U.S. congressional probe into how Shane Todd died, his father Rick Todd said before the verdict.
The Todd family’s murder “theory is entirely misplaced and unfounded,” Singapore Senior State Counsel Tai Wei Shyong said in closing submissions on June 17. Todd was depressed, had trouble coping and visited suicide-related websites before he died, Tai said.
The inquiry in May heard from 65 witnesses giving evidence including Edward Adelstein, a medical examiner hired by the family.
Adelstein had testified Todd may have been tasered or killed by a choke hold. He had earlier said Todd may have been strangled to death based on pictures of the body.
Calling Adelstein an “incredible and unreliable expert witness,” Chay said the examiner’s evidence “was nothing short of bizarre” and his change in opinion was “surprising and unsatisfactory.”
The Institute of Microelectronics 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.
A U.S. congressional committee last year said Huawei’s connections to the Chinese army created the potential for electronic spying and urged U.S. companies to avoid doing business with it. Huawei has said it doesn’t pose a U.S. security threat.
The Coroner’s Inquiry is Shane Truman Todd. CI002014 of 2012. Singapore Subordinate Courts.
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