Singapore inquest rules American killed himself

AP News
Posted: Jul 08, 2013 12:04 AM

SINGAPORE (AP) — A judge ruled Monday that an American engineer who was found dead in his apartment in Singapore last year killed himself, rejecting suspicions by the man's parents that he was murdered because of research into sensitive technology.

The inquest into Shane Truman Todd's death has been criticized by Todd's parents, who walked out of hearings earlier this year, saying they had lost faith in the process.

Todd's body was found by his girlfriend in June 2012. State counsel presented evidence of links to suicide websites on the 31-year-old's laptop and suicide letters written to family members and loved ones.

Judge Chay Yuen Fatt said Monday he found no evidence of foul play, ruling that Todd "committed suicide by hanging himself."

Chay recorded the official cause of death as "asphyxia due to hanging" and voiced hopes that Todd's family and loved ones would be able to find closure.

Todd's parents have said they believe he may have been murdered over his research in the U.S. into material used to make heat-resistant semiconductors, a technology with both civilian and military applications.

Todd's father, Rick, left Singapore with his wife, Mary, in May before the inquest ended, saying they believe the evidence of suicide presented by Singapore's police was faked.

Mary Todd told The Associated Press by telephone from her home state of Montana after the judge's ruling Monday that "today's result means nothing to us because we expected it." Her husband said last week the family no longer trusts Singapore's legal system.

"It was apparent that the state was only interested in proving suicide and that was why we left," Rick Todd wrote in an email. "It became obvious from the court that they never investigated the possibility of murder."

Singapore's Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam said in May that the family should have formally testified during the inquest, adding their assertions could have been properly addressed that way. The inquest ruling cannot be appealed.

While Todd's parents were in Singapore, they said they found a hard drive in their son's apartment that contained documents he had backed up from his work computer, including a draft of a project outline between Singapore's Institute of Microelectronics — Shane Todd's former employer — and Chinese telecom giant Huawei on the development of a device that utilized gallium nitride.

The heat-resistant material has civilian uses in products like LED screens and cellphone towers, and military applications possibly for radar and satellite systems.

Todd had been trained in the U.S. on proprietary equipment that produces the material but is restricted for export because of the potential military applications. Singapore's Institute of Microelectronics has said neither Todd nor the company was involved in any classified research, while Huawei has said it had no cooperation with the institute related to gallium nitride.