American's death: Family rejects evidence request

They offer to send Singapore police copy of hard drive's contents instead

ST 20130219 SHANE19 3530844m

THE family of Dr Shane Todd, an American researcher who died under disputed circumstances in Singapore last June, have told The Straits Times they will not give the police here a piece of evidence that could shed light on his death.

Dr Todd's parents found a hard drive, supposedly containing documents about their son's research, at his apartment soon after he was found hanged there, in an apparent suicide.

The police requested the drive for investigations, but Dr Todd's brother Chet told The Straits Times that the family was sticking to its offer to send a copy of its contents instead.

The family believes the 32-year-old was murdered over his work at Singapore's Institute of Microelectronics (IME), which is part of the national Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star).

"We are going to come to the (coroner's) inquiry but the date is not set yet," said Dr Todd's mother Mary, from her Montana home.

A Financial Times (FT) report last Friday quoted Dr Todd's parents as saying that he seemed stressed before his death and that he was "uncomfortable" about dealings with a Chinese firm.

The Todds told FT they would not hand over the drive because they believe the Singapore police were mishandling the investigation and were not fully considering foul play. The police, however, have denied this.

The hard drive supposedly contains thousands of files, including an IME plan to work with Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies on a gallium nitride (GaN) amplifier, a device which can improve satellite communications.

The United States has suspected Huawei of spying, and FT cited experts as saying that the device could be put to military uses.

In an e-mail to The Straits Times, Mrs Todd cited things the family found suspicious about Dr Todd's death, including bruises on his hands and a bump on his forehead.

She also hit back at claims that he was mentally unwell. To her knowledge, Dr Todd saw a psychiatrist only once while at IME, for anxiety.

The psychiatrist's medical report was cited in the FT and said Dr Todd "did not feel that life had no meaning nor were there any suicidal ideations expressed".

Dr Todd resigned from IME last May, and sources at the institute said he seemed "positive" in his final weeks.

An acquaintance who declined to be named said: "Anyone would have considered (his leaving IME) a fresh start for him because he had gotten a job offer."

Some employees were unhappy about how the incident was handled. One said: "(IME) only sent an e-mail saying he had passed away with no details."

Mrs Todd urged the police here to accept the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) offer of assistance. The police said they have kept the embassy and FBI informed.

Said Mrs Todd: "Why would a young man with a loving family, lots of friends, a new job waiting in the US, bags packed, ticket bought and plans made, hang himself?"

zengkun@sph.com.sg