Porntip’s findings dangerous, says govt doc

By Teoh El Sen, FMT

KUALA LUMPUR: A government pathologist today questioned the credibility of Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand’s findings, describing them as “dangerous”.

Testifying before the Royal Commission of Inquiry investigating the death of Teoh Beng Hock, Dr Khairul Azman Ibrahim said he doubted the accuracy of the Thai pathologist’s views because she inspected the body long after Teoh was dead.

During the coroner’s inquest that began in 2009 and ended early this year, Pornthip testified that Teoh had suffered from pre-fall injuries evident in the bruises on his neck, which she said could have been caused by a blunt object or strangulation.

She had arrived at her conclusion after observing a second post-mortem on Teoh.

“I disagree with Pornthip’s view because she was only observing the second post-mortem and the incident happened long before the second post-mortem,” he said.

He said he and colleague Dr Prashant Naresh Samberkar did not find “such external bruises” in the first post-mortem.

What Pornthip saw, he suggested, could have been the staining caused by the breakdown of blood following the first post-mortem.

“When we opened up the neck and flipped open the skin, it would have been stretched, causing trauma to the area.”

Khairul also said invasive methods in the first post-mortem could have caused an appearance of bruises.

He told the inquiry panel he was of the opinion that when Teoh fell, the impact would have caused an “expansion and compression” of the body.

He said that was probably why a button on Teoh’s shirt popped out, his watch dislodged, his belt broke, and his trousers torn in several places.

Red dot in the eyes

Bar Council representative Christopher Leong heavily challenged Khairul’s theory, bombarding him with questions about “expansion and compression”.

However, commission chairman James Foong told Leong to change his hostile attitude.

“If this is a trial, then we need to prove beyond reasonable doubt,” Foong said. “But this is an inquiry. The best thing is to call the dead man and ask him to testify, but we can’t do that.”

In the earlier part of the proceedings, much attention was centred on the presence of petechiae (red dots in the eyes), which can indicate whether a person has been strangled.

Asked if petechiae could still be present between the first and second post-mortems, Khairul said he was unsure.

“Petechiae is caused by the increased pressure on the blood vessels and it can be seen in the form of small red dots,” he said. “It’s an important criterion for determining asphyxia, but it may not be present in all cases.”

He admitted that he mentioned petechiae in his draft report although the final post-mortem report prepared by him and Dr Prashant did not refer to it.

“To diagnose strangulation, I must have clear evidence to say it,” he said. “But in this case it is not very clear, as there is only a small abrasion on the skin which I think is due to the pen (in Teoh’s pocket).