8 coroner's inquiries reopened after cop alleged to have forged statements

The alleged offences came to light following investigations by the Singapore Police Force's Internal Affairs Office.
The alleged offences came to light following investigations by the Singapore Police Force's Internal Affairs Office.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Eight coroner's inquiries that were earlier concluded were reopened over allegations that the investigation officer (IO) who handled the cases had forged statements from people including family members of the dead. 

The court heard on Monday (Oct 18) that the cases involved Station Inspector Kenny Cheong Chyuan Lih, whose alleged offences came to light following investigations by the Internal Affairs Office of the Singapore Police Force (SPF). 

Responding to queries from The Straits Times on Monday evening, the police said that he has been “interdicted” (a technical term for suspended) since Dec 27, 2018, pending the outcome of the investigations.

The police added: “The possible offences against Station Insp Cheong... were surfaced during review of his investigation file in March 2018, after which SPF swiftly initiated investigations on him.”

All of the affected inquiries were earlier handled by then State Coroner Marvin Bay, and he had to look into the cases again.

The six cases heard on Monday involved fatal traffic accidents. The inquiries into these cases had initially taken place between 2016 and 2018. 

The police added in their statement: “After the re-hearings of the six (cases, Coroner Bay) was satisfied that there was no miscarriage of justice.”

One of the cases involved deliveryman Tan Kiah Huat, who was riding a motorcycle shortly before he was involved in a traffic accident on Dec 21, 2016.

A man was driving a lorry in Jalan Bukit Merah towards Alexandra Road that day when he felt an impact on the rear of his vehicle.

Mr Tan was later found lying on the road and the police were notified at 3.25pm.

The 62-year-old Singaporean was taken to Singapore General Hospital and he died of multiple injuries about an hour later.

The court heard that Station Insp Cheong later prepared a statement purportedly from Mr Tan's sister, who cannot speak or hear.

In the statement, she supposedly said that her brother was "behaving normally" before his death and that he had no suicidal tendencies.

It turned out that the statement had been fabricated.

A sign language interpreter later communicated with the woman and learnt that she could not recall being approached by Station Insp Cheong to give her statement.

Coroner Bay said on Monday that it is uncertain what source material the policeman had referred to in allegedly fabricating the document.

He added: "Despite the fact of the conditioned statement of the next of kin being forged, (it concerned only) background information on Mr Tan's health and his absence of suicidal intent... I reconfirm my verdict of Mr Tan's demise from an unfortunate traffic misadventure."

Another case involved construction worker Mahamudul Islam Zia Md Sikat Ali, 36.

On Jan 16, 2016, the Bangladeshi was seen running across Kitchener Road in Little India before a lorry knocked him down.

He was taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital and he died of his injuries two days later.

On Monday, the court heard that Station Insp Cheong allegedly forged a statement from an eyewitness for this case.

Investigations revealed that the content of this forged document was similar to that of an earlier written statement taken by another IO, who came from a team that dealt with non-fatal accidents.

Coroner Bay said on Monday: "(The other IO) had not been aware of the (victim's) demise at the time that she recorded the statement from (the witness). She had been required by existing protocol to hand (the case) over to Station Insp Cheong upon Mr Mahamudul's demise.

"I would reconfirm my verdict that Mr Mahamudul's death is an unfortunate traffic misadventure."

Station Insp Cheong is also said to have forged the statement of a man whose father died in a 2016 incident.

The father, Mr Ismail Mohd Noh, was riding a bicycle near Bedok North Road in the wee hours of Aug 3 that year when a taxi knocked him down.

He was taken to Changi General Hospital and he died of heart and lung injuries later that morning.

Station Insp Cheong later allegedly forged a statement from Mr Ismail's son.

The court heard that the son recalled talking to the policeman only over the phone and had never met him personally.

Coroner Bay noted on Monday that the son said he had never been asked to sign a conditioned statement.

"While the conditioned statement of the next of kin was undeniably forged, (the evidence of Mr Ismail's son) would have been rather tangential background information as he had lost contact with his father," said the coroner.

"All considered, I would reconfirm that Mr Ismail's demise is an unfortunate traffic misadventure."

In their statement, the police said: “Officers of the (SPF) are expected to uphold the law and maintain the highest standards of conduct and integrity. We deal with officers who break the law severely, including charging them in court... We are unable to comment further as investigations are ongoing.”

The remaining two inquiries will take place on Tuesday.