Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Singapore: US Parents of American Engineer, 31, Give Up on Singaporean Justice

According to The Daily Mail, Rick and Mary Todd, the parents of American software engineer Shane Todd, 31,  who was found hanged in his apartment in Singapore in June 24, 2012, said earlier today (May 22) they were withdrawing from the Singapore government's inquest into their son's death on the basis that they do not believe their son committed suicide, but rather was killed because of the sensitive nature of his work. 

Mr. Todd's girlfriend, Shirly Sarmiento, a nurse from the Philippines, found the American's body. Singaporean police continue to contend that Mr. Todd died from his own hand. 

The engineer was found hanging in his apartment after he had reportedly been unhappy at work and had written suicide notes before he died, according to authorities. 

Police found no signs of forced entry into the apartment and he had no visible signs of injury on his body except redness on his forearms and legs. 

Police did find links to suicide websites on his laptop and suicide letters written to Todd's family members and loved ones. 

Todd's girlfriend Shirly Sarmiento had earlier told the inquest that he suffered from depression and that he had mounting unhappiness with the unethical environment in which he was working. 

COMMENT: Rick and Mary Todd have said they consider the evidence presented by Singaporean police to be incorrect. 

Rick Todd said his son in early 2012 had expressed concerns to his parents that he was being asked to compromise US security, yet he said that Shane was not specific in his statement.  

Mary Todd also said the alleged suicide note was obviously fraudulent because it thanked the Institute of Microelectronics, the former employer he had grown to dislike. 

On Tuesday (May 21), a key witness in the ongoing inquest withdrew his initial claims that Todd was strangled. The state, meanwhile, introduced a witness who contradicts the parents' claim that their son was killed before June 23. 

On Wednesday (May 22), both Rick and Mary Todd issued a statement saying they will no longer participate in the inquest and will return to the US. 

The parents, who had been expected to testify at the inquest, also have said the crime scene at their son's apartment was compromised, with key computer evidence mishandled. Nevertheless, the FBI has supported Singapore police claims that a hard drive found at Todd's apartment was handled by Singapore authorities who were conducting a forensic investigation, and not by unknown persons. 

Singapore Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said the government regrets the family's decision to leave the inquiry. 

While Singapore authorities insist there was no evidence of foul play in Todd's death, the parents maintain he was murdered over his work researching semiconductor technology in a secretive project involving the Institute of Microelectronics and Chinese telecom giant, Huawei. 

If Shane's parents clearly believe that Singaporean forensic investigators erred in their conclusions, they should retain independent experts who can conduct another autopsy of Shane's remains and interview all sources on which the Singaporean government's conclusions are based on. 

Rick and Mary Todd seemingly do not possess any documentation, evidence or leads that would cause an independent expert to draw conclusions that would suggest that Shane Todd was murdered. 

As I have said so often in the past, investigating any suspicious death abroad is fraught with insurmountable challenges stemming from best-practices; cultural differences;  foreign language nuances; written policies, procedures and protocols; and differences in forensic investigative techniques, any one of which could skew the conclusions. 

It is our understanding that the Todds met with the US Ambassador to Singapore David Adelman during their visit to the city-state. Hopefully, they explored options available to the Todd family in terms of attempting to prove the couple's theory that their son was murdered and was not the victim of a suicide.