Teoh Beng Hock inquest: Less likely to be murder, says pathologist

(NST) SHAH ALAM: It was most likely political aide Teoh Beng Hock committed suicide and less likely a case of murder.

Witness Dr Prashant Naresh Samberkar told the coroner's court yesterday this was based on the injuries Teoh sustained and the two site visits to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission's office in Plaza Masalam on July 16 and 22.

"The most likely manner of death in this case would be suicidal or self-inflicted," said Dr Prashant, a forensic pathologist from University Malaya Medical Centre.

Dr Prashant, 42, who is also a forensic pathology lecturer at the Department of Pathology in Universiti Malaya, listed nine reasons why he came to this conclusion:

– Teoh's injuries were consistent with fall from height;
– Injuries to the right lower limbs especially the fractures of the long bones showed "guarding effect" (the muscle tone was maintained at the time of the fall which resulted in fractures of the long bones);
– Multiple tears at groin area of Teoh's pants and the lower back had vertical splits. These tears, he said, occurred due to the extensive stretching of the loin area due to the impact;
– The barrier (window sill) which can prevent a fall was not below the centre of gravity (the point in the middle of his pelvis). He said this ruled out accidental death as he could not have slipped (the floor near the window of the 14th floor which Teoh was believed to have fallen from was carpeted);
– There were 3mm scratch marks at the sole of Teoh's shoes which were consistent with a person squatting on the window frame;

(In earlier proceedings, another forensic pathologist Dr Khairul Azman Ibrahim claimed Teoh sat on the window frame and swung his feet to the outer side of the window before taking the plunge).

– His toxicology report was negative which indicated he was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
– There were no signs of asphyxiation or signs of tongue bite which indicated a struggle;
– No defence wounds; and
– No sign of restraint.

Dr Prashant, the 15th witness, also said he had considered the possibility of homicide but based on his examination, it was less likely that Teoh could have been murdered.

Dr Prashant conducted the post-mortem on Teoh at the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital with Dr Khairul on July 17.

His findings (suicide) yesterday concurred with that of Dr Khairul who testified last week.

"Based on the post-mortem, I found that Teoh had died from multiple injuries due to fall from height," he said when questioned by counsel Tan Hock Chuan.

"I also believe that he was alive at the time of impact on the fifth floor corridor as the injuries he sustained could only occur if the person was alive (when he hit the ground)."

On the tear and white chalky scratch found on the shoe, Dr Prashant said it was due to the impact from the fall. (In previous proceedings, there were suggestions that the scratches on the shoe could have indicated Teoh was dragged).

"The tear was a result of the shoe carrying the weight of a 70kg man falling at a high velocity and the shoe hitting the rough surface causing friction and tearing."

"The white chalky scratch occurred because it hit the ground causing friction."

This, he said, correlated with the marks on the floor where Teoh's body was found.

"I also conducted a test during my visit to the scene by banging my right shoe on the fifth floor.

"My shoe also left an imprint of white chalky material."

Dr Prashant added that he saw smudging on the 14th floor window which he believed were caused by fingerprint drag marks.

When questioned by counsel Gobind Singh Deo, he agreed that these marks could be a form of resistance.