Monday, August 1, 2011
Beng Hock not suicidal, psychiatrist tells RCI
KUALA LUMPUR, May 10 — Teoh Beng Hock was in the lowest risk group for suicide when he entered the custody of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), a forensic psychiatrist said in his report to a royal panel investigating the DAP political aide’s death today.
Dr Paul Mullen also said in his report to the royal commission of inquiry (RCI) investigating Teoh’s death that there was no reason for Teoh to conclude that he had shamed himself or betrayed his colleagues when he was questioned by the MACC.
“In brief, it is my opinion that Teoh Beng Hock was firmly in the lowest risk group for suicide when he was taken into MACC custody,” said Dr Mullen in his report, which was provided to the press today.
“His statement (to the MACC)... does not seem to clearly implicate him, or anyone else, in offences... this is not a context which, in my experience, leads to suicide in custody... there is nothing of which I have been made aware to explain panic and distress sufficient to drive him to conclude his honour had been irreparably tarnished,” added the Australian doctor.
Dr Mullen’s report came as the RCI concluded hearing testimony from 70 witnesses today in its bid to unravel the mysterious circumstances behind Teoh’s death.
Dr Mullen was not called to give oral testimony at the inquiry.
Teoh was found dead on July 16, 2009 on the fifth-floor corridor of Plaza Masalam in Shah Alam after he was questioned overnight by MACC officers at their then-Selangor headquarters on the 14th floor.
Teoh, 30, had been the political secretary to Selangor executive councillor Ean Yong Hian Wah, who is also the Seri Kembangan assemblyman from the DAP.
The graftbusters were investigating a claim that his boss was abusing state funds.
Dr Mullen, who has been a forensic psychiatrist for three decades, said his findings were based on several documents as well as joint interviews with local government psychiatrists Dr Badi’ah Yahya and Dr Nor Hayati Ali, Teoh’s fiancée, family members, friends, boss and colleagues.
Dr Mullen’s report as well as Dr Badi’ah’s and Dr Nor Hayati’s joint report were the first psychiatric evidence about Teoh’s mysterious plunge as no psychiatrists had previously testified at the coroner’s inquest into Teoh’s death that ruled out both suicide and homicide.
MACC lawyer Datuk Seri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah suggested recently that Teoh had committed “honour suicide” to protect his boss and the DAP from being exposed as corrupt.
But Ean Yong has dismissed Shafee’s suggestion, pointing out that the MACC had cleared him of abusing state funds.
MACC headquarters investigating officer (IO) Ahmad Shafik Abdul Rahman testified recently that Ean Yong was innocent of abusing state funds as all projects in his constituency were completed in 2008.
Ahmad Shafik said he could not conduct further investigations against Ean Yong as Teoh’s testimony was crucial, adding that the public prosecutor ordered investigations to be dropped due to lack of evidence.
Dr Mullen said Teoh was in the lowest risk group for suicide when he entered MACC custody. — Picture by Boo Su-Lyn
Dr Mullen, a professor at Monash University in Australia, said suicide rates were higher among those in custody, but pointed out that Teoh was a witness who was not charged with any offence.
“There is to my knowledge no evidence about, or even reported cases of, people who have killed themselves when having witness statements taken by authorities,” said the 66-year-old expert.
“If the Commission were also to accept the claims that Teoh Beng Hock was co-operative, not showing obvious distress, and willingly chose to remain in the MACC office, this, in my opinion, would virtually exclude the chances of Teoh Beng Hock having taken his own life,” he added.
He said the statements from MACC officers painted a picture of a co-operative witness who “was so relaxed about his presence in the offices that when told he could leave, he preferred to settle down for a sleep on a sofa.”
The forensic psychiatrist also highlighted various factors that slashed Teoh’s risk of suicide.
Dr Mullen said Teoh did not have previous suicide attempts or self-harm, or a family history of suicide.
He also pointed out that Teoh was employed, had plans to get married soon, enjoyed close family ties, had a range of friends and colleagues, had not suffered a recent bereavement and had no financial or gambling problems.
“Suicide is very uncommon among those with robust social networks in the form of close family ties, a range of friends, and positive relationships at work,” said Dr Mullen.
“Teoh Beng Hock showed no evidence for a lowered mood, let alone depression, prior to being taken into custody. In fact, he appears to have been more elated than usual because of the prospect of marriage and fatherhood,” the psychiatrist added.
Teoh’s fiancée Soh Cher Wei testified yesterday that they had planned to wed in October 2009 after she discovered early July 2009 that she was pregnant.
The white-haired Dr Mullen, who obtained his PhD when he was just 22 years old, also said Teoh’s personality did not suggest any increased risk of suicide.
“Enquiries made of those interviewed suggested that Teoh Beng Hock was a well-organised, tidy man with a tendency to be perfectionalistic,” he said.
“No evidence was found, however, for dysfunctional obsessional traits, or unusual rigidity... suicide is more common among rigid, obsessional individuals when they are placed under particular forms of stress, such as being arrested and charged with serious crimes,” he added.
He did not make a conclusion on a mystery note found in Teoh’s bag, saying that it was up to the commission to decide if the document allegedly written by Teoh was indeed a suicide note.
“If the commission does not give credence to the note being a suicide note, in my opinion, this greatly reduces the probability that Teoh Beng Hock killed himself,” said the psychiatric expert.
Teoh’s sister Lee Lan insisted yesterday that her brother did not write the note.
The mystery note stirred a controversy when it surfaced after the Attorney-General’s Chambers tendered it as evidence last August — some 10 months after the start of the coroner’s inquest into Teoh’s death.
The accuracy of the note’s court translation was also disputed after official interpreter Ting Chin Kin admitted to using free online service Google Translate to do the job.
Dr Badi’ah and Dr Nor Hayati concluded in their joint report, which was provided to the press, that Teoh had “both risk factors favouring him for suicide and protective factors that reduce his likely risk for suicide.”
They said Teoh appeared to be in a “fear-inducing situation” when MACC officers searched Ean Yong’s office, but pointed out that Teoh did not have a history of depression, suicide attempts or a family history of suicide.
Dr Badi’ah has been a forensic psychiatrist since 2002, while Dr Nor Hayati is the principal investigator of the National Suicide Registry and has been a psychiatrist for 11 years.
“In my opinion, prior to entering custody, Teoh Beng Hock was in a low risk group for suicide,” said Dr Mullen.
“If he did kill himself, in my opinion, things are likely to have occurred both to undermine his psychological stability and to frighten him literally to death,” he added.
RCI chairman Tan Sri James Foong said today that all parties were to hand in their submissions by May 25.
He added that the commission has to submit its report to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong by June 24 as the June 25 deadline falls on a Saturday.
The commission, which enlisted the help of Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) former chief investigator Michael Leslie Squires, had heard testimonies from forensic pathologists, chemists, MACC and police officers, MACC witnesses, Teoh’s fiancée, family members, friends, boss and colleagues.
The RCI was tasked to uncover the circumstances behind Teoh’s fatal plunge and to determine if there was any impropriety in MACC’s investigation against Ean Yong.
Among the testimonies at the RCI, which were not heard at the inquest, were by two MACC officers who said they were instructed to cover up the role of then-Selangor MACC deputy director Hishamuddin Hashim in the probe against Ean Yong.
MACC assistant superintendent Azeem Hafeez Jamaluddin had said Hishamuddin had ordered him to testify that the operation was led by Selangor MACC investigation unit head Hairul Ilham Hamzah instead.