SHAH ALAM, Aug 17 — DAP political aide Teoh Beng Hock may have been injured before he fell to his death on July 16, the government pathologist who carried out the autopsy today told the coroner’s court.
Dr Khairul Aznam Ibrahim from the Hospital Tengku Ampuan Rahimah (HTAR) in Klang admitted that he could not determine that the multiple injuries found on Teoh were the direct result of the injuries taken when he hit the ground.
Teoh had sustained massive injuries, some which are being disputed. They include a fractured skull, 22 broken ribs, certain marks which look like fingernail scratches and a punctured anus.
He added that he assumed the injuries were all a direct result of the fall because he did not see any “defensive injuries” on the deceased, pointing out the lack of cuts on Teoh’s palms in his autopsy report.
He had earlier explained that under ordinary conditions, a falling person would instinctively stretch out his hands to try to slow down his fall.
Teoh was said to have fallen nine storeys from a 14th-floor window in the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) Selangor head office at Plaza Masalam here on July 16 after being interrogated for 10 hours as a witness in an alleged misuse of state allocations.
Under intense interrogation from lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, the senior medical forensic expert said Teoh’s body was showing signs of decomposition by the time he performed the autopsy at noon the next day.
There was also no trace of solid food found in Teoh’s stomach, which suggests that Teoh may have been starving and in a weakened state when he died.
The pathologist explained that a person typically takes four hours to digest food.
Dr Khairul added that Teoh may still have been alive after his body hit the 5th floor landing as his hands were found clenched, indicating he had tried to move and hold on to something.
He also put Teoh’s time of death as early as 5am on July 16.
“The estimated time of around 5am is material as CCTV recordings show that some of Teoh’s investigation team left after that time,” Malik, who is acting for the Selangor government, clarified with The Malaysian Insider, referring to the security cameras monitoring the lobby floor of Plaza Masalam’s office tower block.
Malik highlighted too that the autopsy report, prepared jointly by Dr Khairul and another pathologist from Universiti Malaya, recorded multiple injuries to Teoh’s head, face, chest, arms, legs and buttocks.
But the lawyer pointed out that Dr Khairul’s explanations on how the injuries came to be, especially the ones on the head, face, hands and buttocks, did not match his own theory on how Teoh landed when he fell.
“Our theory is that he landed on his feet first and then fell forward, flattening his chest before ultimately falling sideways into the final position he was found,” Malik offered.
“There was a straight-line fracture veering to the right at the base on his crown,” Malik said, adding that Teoh’s lower jaw was broken, showing he had hit his chin when he fell forward and which Dr Khairul agreed happened, though the latter added that it could have occurred when Teoh’s knee or thigh bounced up and hit his chin.
The medical expert had earlier suggested to the court, under lawyer Gobind Singh Deo’s questioning, that the blow to Teoh’s head could have been caused by a hit on the sharp edge of the drain nearby after Teoh fell forward on his front.
Malik is disputing the medical forensic expert’s version of the possible causes of Teoh’s injuries.
During the inquest, he quizzed Dr Khairul, referring to autopsy photographs, about the cause of some marks resembling fingernail scratches on Teoh’s right hand just around where a wristwatch face would have been.
Malik: Could it have been caused by someone pulling on his watch?
Dr Khairul: It’s difficult to say.
Dr Khairul seemed reluctant to give an opinion on the alleged fingernail marks, claiming that it could have been a result of the wrist flexing up and backwards hitting the spot indicated in the autopsy photos. In his report, he had not recorded any injury on the top of the hand.
The normally soft-spoken Malik blew up.
Malik: This was no intentional jumping. He fell out of the window with several people near him. He fell, as the result of an accident, and someone grabbed his hand. His watch came off because we have not found the watch!
Dr Khairul: Possibility is, yes.
Questions were also raised on the severe injuries to Teoh’s buttocks, especially the anus which was found punctured.
Both Malik and Gobind, representing Teoh’s family, took it in turns to put forward the idea that the deceased could have been beaten at the rear end, causing an injury there which worsened when Teoh later fell to his death.
Dr Khairul replied that it was possible, and reluctantly suggested it could have been caused by a flat, wooden object when Gobind pressed him on the issue.
But, he insisted that the puncture wound was caused by the sacrum, a bone located just above the anus, which broke off upon Teoh’s impact on the ground and penetrated the rectum.
At the start of today’s inquest, Dr Khairul admitted he had found no facts to support his theory that Teoh, who was due to register his marriage to sweetheart Soh Cher Wei after a two-year courtship, had committed suicide.
Dr Khairul had interviewed Teoh’s elder brother and younger sister as well as his 29-year-old teacher fiancee on the same day.
It was so he could find out the deceased’s psychological background and whether there had been any suicidal tendencies or substance abuse.
Khairul said the facts showed that Teoh was not susceptible to suicide.
Teoh’s elder brother told him that the deceased was an “open and talkative person”, the pathologist added.
But Dr Khairul admitted, under intense grilling from Gobind, that he did not interview any of the anti-graft officers to check the possibility of a motive for murder, despite knowing that the political secretary to Selangor executive councillor Ean Yong Hian Wah had been subjected to an interrogation before he died.
“That is the duty of the police. Not me,” Dr Khairul replied.
The inquest, which spilled over into lunch time today, will continue tomorrow morning with the testimony from Dr Prashant Naresh Samberkar, a pathology lecturer with Universiti Malaya who had co-written the autopsy report with Dr Khairul. – MalaysianInsider