Wong Choon Mei
SHAH ALAM, Mach 16: Lawyers for Teoh Beng Hock’s family have slammed the latest press coverage of the inquest, pointing at headlines that suggested chief pathologist Dr Shahidan Md Noor had U-turned on an earlier admission that Teoh had been strangled prior to death.“This is terrible twisting of the facts that were clearly laid out in court. I cannot believe the extent of misrepresentation by the media, I only hope it was because they did not understand the proceedings,” chief counsel Gobind Singh Deo told Harakahdaily.
According to Gobind, Dr Shahidan did not waver from his testimony on March 1 that pressure marks found on Teoh’s neck were caused by strangulation. Neither did he change his stand that although strangulation may have occurred, it was not the cause of death.
“What we have said is that Teoh was strangled or choked. We did not say on March 1 or at any other time that he was strangled to death. There is a huge difference between strangled and strangled to death,” Gobind said.
"To strangle someone is to try to kill that person by squeezing the throat so as to choke or to suffocate. The word also means to cut off the oxygen supply to a person or to try to smother him. It doesn't mean if you strangle someone, that person must die from strangulation."
Manhandling, physical abuse even torture
Gobind stressed that even if Teoh’s death was caused by his fall, not by strangulation, the fact that he had been strangled or choked prior to death was important as it established the possibility of torture, manhandling or physical intimidation.
Indeed, mainstream and electronic media ran headlines on March 1 that said ‘Teoh could have been strangled’ but on March 11 they said ‘Now, doc says Teoh wasn’t strangled’.
“But if you read in the body of their stories, the comments from Dr Shahidan clearly affirms the presence of pressure marks around the neck from some form of hold or action on the neck – i.e. Teoh was strangled or choked. But he didn’t die from that. That’s what Shahidan said and we are not disputing that,” Gobind said.
Dr Shahidan, the chief pathologist from the Sungai Buloh Hospital, is the third government doctor to have conducted a post-mortem on Teoh. The other two were Dr Khairul Ibrahim from Hospital Tengku Ampuan Rahimah and Dr Prashant Samberkar from Universiti Malaya Medical Centre.
But unlike Khairul and Prashant, who did not report any such marks on Teoh’s neck, Shahidan found and reported the pressure marks when he conducted the second autopsy. Both men were also present at the second autopsy, along with Thai forensic specialist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand and British expert Dr Peter Vanezis.
Pornthip spotted marks from photos in first autopsy
It was Dr Pornthip who first spotted the pressure marks from photos taken during the first autopsy and based on this along with other evidence the Coroner had ordered an exhumation and second postmortem.
Teoh’s body was found on July 16, 2009, the day after he had gone to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s office at Plaza Masalam for questioning as a witness into an on-going probe against Pakatan Rakyat leaders in Selangor.
The MACC insist he committed suicide, but his family and colleagues are adamant foul play was involved. The MACC's interrogation techniques have since come under question.
Meanwhile, the coroner’s court has set April 20 for Dr Pornthip and April 26 and 27 for Dr Vanezis to testify on the findings of the second postmortem report.Dr Pornthip was appointed by the Selangor state government, while Dr Peter was appointed by the MACC.