Govt pathologist disputes Thai expert’s theories on Teoh’s death

Written by Chua Sue-Ann, The Edge 

Sungai Buloh Hospital forensic pathologist Dr Shahidan Md Noor today testified that political secretary Teoh Beng Hock died from a high fall, with the former disputing Thai expert Dr Porntip Rojanasunan’s preliminary view that it was not suicide.

Rojanasunan had caused a stir in the case when she testified on Oct 21, 2009 that Teoh’s death was more likely a homicide, noting that Teoh could have been strangled and suffered beatings by a piece of wood to his thighs as well as anal penetration by an object.

Shahidan, who conducted the second post mortem on Teoh’s body on Nov 22, 2009, today told the inquest that Teoh’s death was caused by multiple injuries from a fall from height, which also resulted in multiple bone fractures and internal organ injuries.

When asked, Shahidan disagreed with Rojanasunan’s earlier observations that Teoh’s neck injuries were compatible with that of manual strangulation but acknowledged that force appeared to have been applied on Teoh’s neck.

“External injuries to the neck can suggest pressure to the neck area but because there was also internal injuries in the neck region, it can be caused by a fall from height,” Shahidan replied to questions by counsel Tan Hock Chuan, who is leading the Attorney-General’s team in the inquest.

According to Shahidan, the contusions on Teoh’s neck appeared similar to the other wounds found on the body, possibly from impact.

But where strangulation was the cause of death, the neck bruises would appear different due to difference in pressure points applied, Shahidan said.

Shahidan, who heads the Sungai Buloh Hospital’s forensics medicine department, also noted there was no sign of asphyxiation and that Teoh’s hyoid bone and thyroid cartilage was still intact.

Shahidan also said the external wounds or scratch marks found behind Teoh’s thighs were unlikely caused by beating by a piece of wood as Rojanasunan had opined.

“I think the abrasion and deep muscle bruising does not suggest beating but a process that can only happen from injuries of deceleration, for example during a fall,” Shahidan said.

Questioned on Teoh’s anal injuries, Shahidan said the patterns of injury and its severity were more consistent with those sustained from a fall as anal penetration would cause more severe abrasions.

Shahidan said he conducted the two-hour post mortem on Teoh’s body at about 12.45pm on Nov 22, 2009 at the Sungai Buloh Hospital.

Also present were Rojanasunan, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) British expert Dr Peter Vanesiz as well as the two government pathologists who had conducted the first autopsy, Dr Khairul Azman Ibrahim and Dr Prashant Naresh Samberkar.

Shahidan said Teoh’s body was still in good condition despite having being buried for four months because Teoh’s body had been embalmed but showed stitch-marks from the first autopsy.

Shahidan also said he earlier was given the first post mortem report, photographs and Rojanasunan’s evidence in court but not the Thai expert’s one-page preliminary report.

He acknowledged that the second post mortem could have “some limitations” as four months had passed between Teoh’s burial in July and the second post mortem in November of last year.

Shahidan also said he was “reluctant” to conduct the second post mortem on Teoh when approached by Selangor menteri besar’s research officer Tricia Yeoh and the Teoh family’s lawyer Gobind Singh Deo.

“I was reluctant. If possible I did not want to do it. I asked her (Yeoh) to contact the Ministry of Health to make a formal application,” Shahidan said, adding that he was later informed that the court had ordered him to conduct the autopsy.

Coroner Azmil Muntapha Abas then adjourned the inquest to March 1 for Shahidan to be questioned by Gobind and other lawyers representing interested parties in the inquest.

The court also fixed March 10 to hear from Shahidan, if necessary, or Kajang councillor Tan Boon Wah, who was questioned by the Selangor MACC at around the same time as Teoh.

Teoh was questioned overnight on July 15 at Selangor MACC’s previous office at Plaza Masalam here before he was found dead the next day on the fifth-floor landing.

Commenting on Shahidan’s testimony today, Gobind said, “Well, that’s an opinion for now. We have our own opinions, certain stands … Let us cross-examine the witness and put forward our theories”.