Police slam FT story on coroner's inquiry

It 'grossly misrepresented' police's position on Shane Todd case

The police yesterday came out strongly against a news story in the Financial Times (FT) about an impending coroner's inquiry into the death of American researcher Shane Todd.

In a statement, the police said the article "Singapore inquiry prepares to open into Shane Todd's death" by FT journalists Jeremy Grant and Raymond Bonner last Friday had "grossly misrepresented the position of the Singapore Police Force".

Dr Todd was found hanged in his apartment last June, shortly after he quit the Singapore Institute of Microelectronics (IME), part of the national Agency for Science, Technology and Research.

His parents alleged that he was murdered because of his work there, and the coroner's inquiry to determine his cause of death starts tomorrow.

Citing an anonymous source who had supposedly spoken with the police, the FT reported that the police were sticking to their finding of suicide and that their "latest version" of how Dr Todd died differed from what they had told his parents last June.

The police yesterday refuted this, adding that the FT had made no attempts to confirm these points with the force. The police said: "(The FT) reported the 'latest version' of the police's 'scenario' concerning how Dr Shane Todd hanged himself based on an unnamed source who allegedly spoke with the police.

"The police categorically deny any such communication, nor that this is our 'latest scenario'."

They added that the state coroner will make a determination on this issue once the inquiry starts and also said the FT had presented alleged statements between Dr Todd's parents and the police as fact.

In a February article, the FT quoted Dr Todd's parents as saying the police had told them last June that their son had drilled holes in his bathroom wall, affixed bolts and wrapped a strap through a pulley over the door to kill himself.

In its latest article, the FT repeated the supposed police statements but omitted that they were based on what Dr Todd's parents had said.

"This is presented as a fact, which is highly inappropriate. Whether such statements were made by the police is a matter to be determined by the coroner in the inquiry," the police said.

The police said the reporting in the latest FT article was "inaccurate and mischievous, and appears to have been calculated to interfere with the administration of justice in Singapore".

"We would expect more objective reporting from a paper of the FT's repute while an open inquiry is in progress," they added.

The London-based FT had not yet replied to this newspaper's queries at press time.

The inquiry starting tomorrow is scheduled to continue till May 28, and lawyers involved have said that 63 witnesses have been prepared, although not all may be called to testify. The coroner's finding is expected three to four weeks after the inquiry ends.

A hard disk which Dr Todd's parents said they found in their son's apartment shortly after he died as well as suicide notes discovered at the scene are expected to be central to the inquiry.

Dr Todd's parents, who are in Singapore for the inquiry, have alleged that their son's work files are on the hard drive, and that these link the IME to a Chinese firm seen by the United States as a security threat. They also do not believe that the suicide notes were written by their son.

The case has drawn international scrutiny, with Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam meeting his US counterpart John Kerry over the matter. Mr Shanmugam has promised a full and transparent investigation, and both he and the IME have invited an American team to audit the institute to prove there was no improper transfer of technology.

zengkun@sph.com.sg