Anyway, the Press went to town yesterday and had a field day at the Inquest on the death of Teoh Beng Hock when a Thai forensic expert shocked the nation by saying that Teoh's death had an 80 percent chance of being homicide and only 20 percent of suicide.
Teoh, political aide to Selangor Exco member Ean Yong Hian Wah, had died from a fall from the building of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) office on the 14th floor of the Plaza Masalam building in Shah Alam on 16 July 2009. An Inquest had been called to determine the cause and circumstances leading to his death.
At the Inquest yesterday, renowned Thai forensic pathologist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand, the director-general of Thailand’s Ministry of Justices Central Institute of Forensic Science, was called in to give her expert opinion. She is well-known for her prowess in cracking open complicated homicide cases. Dr Porntip is the author of Investigation of Corpses, which sold 100,000 copies in Thailand, and she also led a group of international forensic scientists in 2004 to identify the remains of the Asian tsunami victims. More recently she was working on the death of Hollywood star David Carradine. Her life and work was narrated in the National Geographic documentary Crime Scene Bangkok in 2004.
A few stunning revelations pointed out by her:
- Teoh suffered an anal tear caused by a "bottom-up" penetrative injury and not caused by a bone protrusion
- There were abrasions on Teoh’s right upper thigh that looked like he had been beaten with a piece of wood
- There was also an abrasion just below the chin which was consistent with manual strangulation
- Teoh’s skull fracture was not typical of a transferred injury due to a fall but was more compatible with a blunt force trauma directly on the skull
- Teoh was probably still alive when he hit the ground but might have been unconscious before the fall
Tan: “Since you did not conduct the post mortem or inspect the body or go to the scene of the incident and you are not furnished with all the reports and photos, is it appropriate to form an opinion on mathematical terms that suicide is 20% and homicide 80%?”
Dr Pornthip: I disagree. In my line of work, I care for the rights of the dead and to find out what happened. In this case, I did not know this was a political issue. I do not take sides. I am just here to tell you what my findings were. I need to do a second post-mortem (for a more conclusive finding).
Tan: Who told you this was a political issue?
Dr Pornthip: The Thai ambassador. I never wanted to attend court but I was invited to do this. You have to understand my limitations (of not having the opportunity to conduct the post-mortem).
When Tan rephrased his question to suggest that the limitations she faced could not have helped her arrive at her conclusion that it was 80% homicide and 20% suicide, Dr Pornthip replied: “It is my field, my work and I believe in that. It is more scientific.”
Dr Pornthip also said she did not agree with some of Universiti Malaya Medical Centre’s Dr Prashant Samberkar’s opinions, in particular that Teoh’s death could have been a suicide. However, she said that she did not want to criticise the opinion of the other forensic pathologists and wanted the Press to know that her opinion was based on her years of experience and not aimed at contradicting the police or other medical professionals.