Teoh's death could well be homicide, says pathologist
Thu, Oct 22, 2009 New Straits Times By Rita Jong
SHAH ALAM: Political aide Teoh Beng Hock's death was likely to be a case of homicide based on some of the injuries he sustained, a forensic pathologist from Thailand told the coroner's court yesterday.
Dr Pornthip Rojanasunan testified that Teoh could have been tortured before he fell to his death, based on the injuries he sustained.
The forensic pathologist said her investigations revealed that Teoh could have had a foreign object forced into his anus, and had been strangled and beaten with a piece of wood before he died.
These findings, she told the coroner's court, were based on the autopsy report, the X-rays and photographs which were sent to her.
She further testified that after studying those items, she reached the conclusion that Teoh's death was 80 per cent homicide and 20 per cent suicide.
Dr Pornthip testified at the request of the Selangor government.
"Based on the photographs of the wound at the anal region, it looked as if an object was inserted," she said when questioned by counsel Malik Imtiaz Sarwar who is representing the Selangor state government.
"If there was bone penetration through the anus as a result of the fall, the wound would be in the opposite direction.
(In an earlier hearing, pathologist Dr Prashant Naresh Samberkar testified that the injury at the anal region could have been caused by a bone penetration.)
Dr Pornthip said there were pre-fall injuries to the body at the back of his right thigh, a fracture to the skull and bruises on his neck.
"I have never seen injuries such as these in a victim who had fallen from a high place," she said.
"There were also abrasions at the back of his right thigh which looked like a wound caused by beating with a piece of wood. There is a possibility that Teoh was tortured before he died."
Dr Pornthip said to determine if there was torture, she would need to open his posterior area to see if there was haemorrhaging under the skin.
"This was not done (by pathologists here who conducted the post-mortem) based on the autopsy report," she said.
"If there was bleeding, then the injury would not be compatible from a fall from height with a single impact."
Dr Pornthip then touched on the abrasion just below the chin which she said was consistent with manual strangulation.
On the fracture to the skull, the pathologist said she was of the view that it was caused by blunt force trauma directly on the skull.
She added that it was possible that this injury was sustained from the fall, but only as a result of a secondary impact when the body landed.
Dr Pornthip also said due to the absence of guarding wounds (injuries sustained when trying to break a fall), Teoh was believed to have been unconscious when he fell.
When questioned by Deputy public prosecutor Kevin Morais, who is representing the Selangor Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, she admitted that her findings were based on a less than perfect picture resolution which were scanned and sent to her to be examined.
Meanwhile, when questioned by counsel Tan Hock Chuan, who was appointed by the Attorney-General's Chambers to assist in the inquest, she said she was not supplied with all the reports (the toxicology or some of the DNA reports) or photographs.
Tan: Since you didn't inspect the body or conduct the post-mortem, nor did you go to the scene of the incident, I suggest that it is inappropriate for you to form an opinion in mathematical terms (80 per cent homicide and 20 per cent suicide).
Dr Pornthip: I disagree. In my line of work, I care for the right 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).
(Teoh's post-mortem was conducted by pathologists Dr Khairul Azman Ibrahim and Dr Prashant).
She said that she was not criticising the doctors' findings but her findings were based on her work and experience.
"My findings were only based on the relevant documents which were supplied to me.
"I would be able to come up with a conclusive finding if I am given a chance to conduct a second post-mortem," she said.
The inquest proceedings before coroner Azmil Muntapha Abas continues on Nov 9. -New Straits Times