Wednesday, 18th August 2010
Taken From Malaysia Chronicle
The Teoh Beng Inquest began with star witness Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand affirming her view that Beng Hock had suffered extensive injury prior to his fall and that she was sure his death was not suicide.
"I still believe it is not suicide," the Thai forensic expert told the court.
Under questioning by Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, the lawyer acting for the Selangor state government, she pointed to the injury on his neck where she said a blunt object had caused the wounds.
"Wounds caused by blunt object. Someone put something on Teoh's neck or pressed his head on something," she told the court.
She was sure it was a pre-fall injury with "more force and more weight" used than under manual strangulation. The Thai forensic expert also ruled out the possibility that the wound was caused by a fracturing of the spine upon impact with the ground.
Disagrees with Vanezis
She disagreed with the findings of MACC expert witness Dr Peter Vanezis that the mark on Teoh's neck was due to a fracture of the chin. According to Pornthip, a chin fracture area was small, while in Beng Hock's case, the hemorrhage extended to the chest. She also pointed out there are no blood vessels on the chin to cause such an amount of bleeding.
Pornthip also disagreed with Vanezis that Teoh landed on his feet or that he was conscious when he fell. She reiterated that the first autopsy report showed cerebral edema. According to her, that indicated Teoh had experienced hypoxia, where brain does not receive oxygen, for at least 5 minutes. Dr Vanezis had said Teoh was probably alive when he hit the ground.
She also said there was no fracture to Beng Hock's wrist, which was not usual in fall cases as normally a person would instinctively reach out to break the fall. She pointed to the fracture and external wound above one ankle, but none at the base of the skull, which indicates it was highly unlikely that Teoh could have landed on his feet.
However, Pornthip retracted her previous view that the anal tear and injury to Beng Hock's buttocks was caused by aggravated beatings. She agreed with Vanezis and the other 4 federal-government appointed pathologists that the injury in the anal area was caused by the fall.
Malik had begun by referring to her past testimony where she had said there was 80 percent chance of homicide gauging from pictures taken of his corpse. This time, Pornthip declined to reiterate the odds but said she was sure it was not suicide.
Pornthip also confirmed that at the second post-mortem, she did not touch Beng Hock's body. However, she was able to form her conclusion as Sungai Buloh pathologist Dr Shahidan Md Noor had dissected on her behalf based on her instructions.
Attorney-General's 'suicide' note
Under questioning by Gobind Singh Deo, the lawyer for Teoh's family, Pornthip said any notes found should be tested for DNA, fingerprints and palm prints immediately, and then be subjected to handwriting analysis.
"Protocol for a crime investigator to search for notes to find, search for it. To prove scientifically in a homicide case, DNA, handwriting can be done & tested. Crucial," Pornthip said, adding that such notes were often emotional and she preferred to rely on scientific evidence as proof of suicide.
Gobind was referring to a so-called 'suicide' note that the authorities had purportedly found in Beng Hock's sling bag in October 2009 but only earlier this month informed the court, Teoh's family and the public at large about its existence.
Malaysia's Attoney General Gani Patail has come under fire for suppressing evidence and speculation is rife the note was fabricated and produced at the 11th hour to discredit Pornthip ahead of her testimony, which is damaging for the MACC.
"I work for the rights of the dead, not the Selangor government"
Indeed, when MACC's head prosecutor Abdul Razak Musa began cross-examination, he started by tearing at her experience and academic qualifications. He tried to denigrate her professional training but a calm and composed Pornthip told him her university was among the top 5 in Asia.
"You have to understand. I work for the rights of the dead, not the Selangor government. My objective is to help the dead," said Pornthip, drawing applause from the courtroom.
Razak had suggested her testimony was biased because she had been hired by the Selangor government. He also attacked her for ruling out suicide and questioned why she insisted he was strangled when there were no witnesses. "I never said he was strangled," Pornthip told him. "I said pre-fall injury."
Razak also grilled her on what he said were discrepancies between Pornthip's first and second reports. But Pornthip was able to counter each of his questions and spent time explaining to him and the court.
"If you say blunt object, where is the weapon," a frustrated Razak said. To which the quick-witted Pornthip replied, "I want to ask if you are a lawyer?"
Razak also reiterated several times to the court that all 4 federal-government appointed pathologists had said Beng Hock's neck injuries were caused by a fall. However, Malik objected, saying that "During cross-examination, Dr Shahidan had confirmed neck injuries were pre-fall."
Apart from Pornthip, Vanezis,Dr Shahidan, Dr K Saravanan and Dr Khairul Azman Ibrahim from the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital in Klang, and Dr Prashanth Samberker from the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre had conducted the second autopsy.
In summarizing for the Attorney General, specially-appointed criminal lawyer Tan Hock Chuan clarified with Pornthip if she was ruling out strangulation as the cause of death, which she said she was.
Coroner Azmil Muntapha Abas then grilled Pornthip on the her case studies, asking questions related to falls from height and the injuries that resulted.
He adjourned the hearing to September 1 at 2.30 pm after Gobind asked for time to study the 'suicide' note revealed by the Attorney General.
Beng Hock's death a symbol of injustice
Earlier, Dr Pornthip was greeted by loud cheering as she entered the packed courtroom. Many of Beng Hock’s supporters are attending the hearing, as to them, Pornthip’s testimony symbolizes the injustice of his death.
The 30-year old Selangor political officer, who was a former journalist, had died in mysterious and suspicious circumstances after overnight interrogation by the MACC. His body was found outside the MACC headquarters and it is believed he had fallen from its 14th floor office.
Federal-government pathologists, including Vanezis, say Beng Hock died from injuries due to a fall from a great height. Pornthip, who is acting on behalf of the Selangor government, has said there was an 80 percent chance of homicide. According to Vanezis, Beng Hock was conscious when he fell but the British expert declined to say it was suicide.
Beng Hock had been called in as a witness by the MACC in connection with a corruption probe against his boss Ean Yong and several other top DAP leaders. The probe is widely believed to have been part of a conspiracy plotted by Umno to topple the Pakatan Rakyat state government in Selangor.