Autopsy reports confirm Taiwan stand-off prisoners committed suicide

Armed riot police gathering outside the Kaohsiung Prison in southern Taiwan on Feb 11, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
Armed riot police gathering outside the Kaohsiung Prison in southern Taiwan on Feb 11, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP

TAIPEI (AFP) - Autopsy reports on Wednesday confirmed that six prisoners in Taiwan who took hostages in a prison stand-off this month to demand their freedom had committed suicide, following intense speculation over how they died.

The inmates broke into a weapons storage room at Kaohsiung city prison in southern Taiwan on February 11, took four rifles and six handguns, and initially took three staff hostage.

They later agreed to release them in exchange for the warden and a senior staffer.

They were locked in a 14-hour stand-off with police before shooting themselves inside the prison early next morning, while the hostages were unharmed, according to the justice ministry.

However, speculation was rife in local media that some inmates may not have taken their own lives. There were theories they were shot by snipers or that the group leader had killed the others.

"The primary cause of death of the six inmates is 'single contact gunshot wound' and the medical examiners ruled that they committed suicide based on the evidence," said the Kaohsiung district prosecutor's office in a statement, citing the autopsy reports.

The medical examiners concluded from evidence such as muzzle imprints, gunshot residue and burn marks that each inmate had shot himself with a handgun.

The gunshot wounds to their heads were fatal. Three of the inmates were also shot by the others in the chest, arms and back while they were dying, according to the statement.

The prisoners were serving sentences for crimes including murder, robbery and drugs offences.

The leader was identified by police as Cheng Li-teh, a top member of a notorious triad group known as the Bamboo Union Gang who was serving 28 years.