‘Teoh could have been strangled, choked before death’
SHAH ALAM: Government pathologist Dr Shahidan Md Noor admitted that political aide Teoh Beng Hock could have been strangled or chocked prior to his death.
However, Dr Shahidan reiterated that, in his opinion, Teoh’s death was due to fall from height and not from strangulation.
Teoh’s family counsel Gobind Singh Deo also asked Dr Shahidan if there was a possibility that Teoh had been strangled at the MACC office.
“I didn’t say strangled to death, I said strangled,” said Gobind.
He then suggested that Teoh was tortured before falling to his death.
“Its possible but not probable,” said Dr Shahidan.
To a question by Gobind if he would consider the possibility that Teoh had been unconscious and was thrown down, Dr Shahidan said:
When being questioned by counsel appointed by the Selangor government Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, Dr Shahidan said he also noticed a hematoma (a bruise resulting from internal bleeding), which suggested that force might have been applied to the neck.
He also told Malik Imtiaz there were signs of oxygen deprivation to the brain and such a condition could have led to fainting or collapsing.
Dr Shahidan also conceded there might be flaws in the first post-mortem conducted on political aide Teoh’s remains.
Pathologists Dr Khairul Azman Ibrahim and Dr Prashant Samberkar conducted the initial post-mortem on July 17 last year.
Teoh, 30, the political secretary to Selangor executive council member Ean Yong Hian Wah, was found dead the morning after he was taken to the state Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) office in Plaza Masalam here for questioning on July 15 last year over alleged irregularity in disbursement of funds.
Dr Shahidan’s testimony Monday contradicts what he told coroner Azmil Muntapha Abas during cross-examination on Feb 19.
He had said the post-mortem report by Dr Khairul Azman and Dr Prashant was very good and there were clear signs indicating Teoh had not been manually strangled.
Dr Shahidan, who is Sungai Buloh Hospital Pathology Unit head, agreed to a suggestion by Gobind that the post-mortem might not have been done prudently and competently.
This was because Teoh’s neck had not been examined for possible strangulation.
Internal examination on certain muscled parts of the body to investigate if Teoh had been beaten had also not been carried out.
When questioned by Gobind on what he would have looked out for in custodial deaths, Dr Shahidan said he would have looked for signs of strangulation and beatings.
Gobind: In cases where one looks for signs of beatings, you agree with me that quite often there are signs that are not apparent from a visual look at the body itself?
Dr Shahidan: Yes, there are incidences where one cannot see external injuries.
Gobind: How to find signs of beatings when cannot be seen visually?
Dr Shahidan said dissections would be done on the muscles on the head, back, chest, abdomen, feet and limbs as well as other muscled areas to determine if the victim had been flogged.
Gobind then pointed out that the dissections in these areas were only done during the second post-mortem conducted by Dr Shahidan and not done at all during the initial post-mortem.
Gobind: So in your opinion, as head of department, when examining a case in which there’s a possibility of custodial death, it would be prudent to look for injuries such as pressure marks on the neck and internal injuries to the body?
Dr Shahidan: Yes.
Dr Shahidan also agreed with Gobind that checking for strangulation marks and conducting an internal examination, to determine if the victim had been beaten, was the usual protocol adhered to in cases of custodial death.
He also admitted to finding superficial bruises in the neck region, which was not mentioned, in the first post-mortem report.
Gobind then said if it had not been for Thai pathologist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand, the marks on Teoh’s neck would not have been known.
“How is it that our doctors didn’t pick it up but Dr Pornthip did from the picture?” asked Gobind.
However, Dr Shahidan vehemently defended the initial post-mortem report and openly declared in court that he would not say anything harsh against it.
“The superficial injuries to the neck may have only been evident after 24 hours, that’s why they couldnt see the marks,” he said.
Gobind also said it was strange that the two most crucial tests had not been carried out given that Teoh had died while in custody.
He asked Dr Shahidan if that suggested a cover-up if these two crucial tests had not been carried out at a post-mortem involving a custodial death.
“Yes,” said Dr Shahidan.
Azmil Muntapha adjourned Dr Shahidan’s cross-examination to March 10.
Dr Pornthip had on Oct 21 last year told the inquest that Teoh's death was 80% homicide and several injuries found on him appeared to be pre-fall injuries.