The cause of political aide Teoh Beng Hock's death on July 16, 2009 is still a mystery after an inquest stretching 18 months. Coroner Azmil Muntapha Abas ruled out suicide and homicide and delivered an open verdict
to a packed courtroom this afternoon.
The "open verdict" was not well received by Teoh's family and various other interested parties who demanded for a royal commission of inquiry (RCI).
In delivering his 20-page decision
, Azmil said his role was to determine when, where, how and after what manner Teoh, the aide to Seri Kembangan assemblyman Ean Yong Hian Wah, came to his death on the fifth floor of Plaza Masalam and whether any person was criminally concerned in the cause of death.
WHEN: Based on the testimony of pathologists Dr Khairul Azman Ibrahim, Dr Prashant Naresh Samberkar and Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand, Azmil established that Teoh died between 7.15am and 11.15am.
WHERE: It is "irrefutable" that Teoh, died on a service corridor on Plaza Masalam’s 5th floor.
On HOW and AFTER WHAT MANNER Teoh died, whether anyone was criminally involved, Azmil narrated how he first considered and dismissed suicide.
"In considering suicide, I find that there remain some unsettled issues which are still questionable," he said.
"To fulfil this verdict of suicide would entail some form of guesswork on my part to connect the dots, so to speak, which I find as not acceptable. I rule out the verdict the deceased committed suicide," he said to a hushed courtroom.
Azmil said he also considered if Teoh had a suicidal intention based on the testimony of Teoh’s brother Meng Kee and a note found in Teoh’s bag.
"Handwriting expert Wong Kong Yong testified and produced two reports. However, his evidence only goes as far as to establish that the writing is similar to documents found in Teoh’s bag," he said.
Azmil pointed out two unresolved issues.
"The documents were not ascertained to contain Teoh’s handwriting, and no samples of Teoh’s writing were obtained for the purpose of the examination by Wong," he said, adding that it was settled law that evidence of a handwriting expert could never be conclusive as it was only opinion evidence.
He also noted the testimony of Meng Kee that Beng Hock did not have any suicidal tendencies and also acknowledged the submissions of Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) prosecution head Datuk Abdul Razak Musa.
"It was assumed that Teoh felt so guilty and was afraid to leave the MACC office because he was ashamed to face society, especially his boss (Ean Yong).
It was also submitted that Teoh was seen to be agitated, uneasy and looked guilty," said Azmil, who added that as a coroner, he was not qualified to make his own assessment "purely from such assumptions".
"At best, I can only assume the note was authored by Teoh, but I am not qualified to say it is a suicide note," he said.
also ruled out homicide due to inconsistencies in the theories put forward by pathologists, noting closely a 4cm x 3cm bruise on Teoh’s neck. He noted that three doctors had all not ruled out pre-fall pressure to the neck region.
“Evidence showed that Teoh did not have these injuries when he went into the MACC office, and you and I know he never left the MACC office.
“So how did he come by these injuries and who is responsible? These questions are of grave significance… do we just sit by and let it be?” asked the Teoh family's lawyer Gobind Singh Deo
“You rule out accident and suicide then what else is left? The family cannot have closure,”