Forensic evidence may have been compromised

Malaysian Insider

teoh-inquest-signpostBy Debra Chong

SHAH ALAM, Aug 13 — A police forensic expert told the coroner’s court today that a shoe print was found below a 14th-floor window of the MACC office here where political aide Teoh Beng Hock was suspected to have fallen to his death.

However, his Selangor-based colleague had found no such trace when he swept the same area three days earlier, on July 16, the day Teoh was found dead.

DSP Shahrul Othman Mansor, who is based in the forensic laboratory in Cheras, told the inquest today that he had been ordered to carry out further checks of the Selangor branch of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) office here three days after the incident.

Shahrul testified that he found a faint trace of a shoe print measuring nine inches on the shoulder of the alleged window and ordered a photograph of the evidence taken.

However, he did not check to see where the shoe print came from or whose shoe it matched.

Selangor forensic cops swabbed the MACC office sofa where Teoh is said to have rested after intensive interrogation by its officers.

Lawyer Sreekant Pillai, acting for the Selangor government, then asked Shahrul whether he had run any fingerprint checks at the window area or noticed any scratches or dents that could point towards a struggle.

“No. Because we were informed by ASP Ahmad Nazri that the initial examination had been done by the Selangor forensics,” he said.

Also, I came three days later. I believe there is a possibility of contamination at the place,” Shahrul added, referring to the 14th-floor window area alleged to be the one Teoh had fallen from to his death nine floors below onto a 5th-floor landing.

His Selangor counterpart who had taken the witness stand earlier this morning, Chief Inspector Mazli Jusoh, told the inquest he had found no trace of fingerprints or shoe prints at the very same site on July 16 because “the window was dirty and dusty.”

Under questioning from the chief lawyer for the Attorney General’s team aiding the inquest, Tan Hock Chuan, the forensic cop said the window could be opened to a 45-degree angle and a man could have stepped out onto the narrow ledge outside.

Mazli, who was among the first forensics crew to reach Plaza Masalam on July 16, carried out inspections at three main areas on the 14th floor: the alleged window, the MACC’s main conference room where he was told by its IO, Mohd Anuar Ismail, that Teoh had been interrogated and a sofa where he was told Teoh had rested.

He took a total of four swabs that day — two from the window area and two more from the sofa.

Mazli told the inquest he did not inspect the additional office occupied by MACC on level 15 that day because he was “not aware” of the fact, in reply to a question from Malik.

He then went down to the corridor on level five where Teoh was found and took account of the various items found on the body as well as nearby.

Two of the three government pathologists who arrived later accompanied him in investigating the scene of death but none of them carried out a “core temperature reading” on Teoh’s body, Mazli said.

Tan had earlier asked Mazli to show the court and describe one by one the various items and clothing taken by the forensics team from the scene as evidence.

Mazli gave evidence today.

Mazli was subjected to a grilling by Malik over the condition of the right shoe that was found on Teoh’s foot at the death scene — the left shoe had flown off the foot and was found on the ground nearby.

Directing the forensic cop’s attention to the stitches and cloth sticking out from the front and sides of the sole which had peeled off, the lawyer asked if there was a possibility that Teoh had been dragged to the window and thrown out.

Mazli rejected the idea initially, claiming there would have been signs of wear on the heel area as the victim would likely have dug in his heels into the ground and struggled.

But he admitted it could happen when Malik suggested the victim could have been been in a weakened state and was dragged on the side.

Mazli, however, could not answer Malik on where a mysterious chalky white substance on the shoe came from, saying he had not done any checks.

He added he assumed it came from the ground where Teoh’s body was found, noting an indentation nearby which he had removed as evidence.

Malik had also asked the cop earlier if he had the freedom of his own discretion in investigating the death scene or if he had to follow certain orders issued by the IO.

Mazli replied he had the discretion but based his investigations on the IO’s directions.

The coroner postponed the inquest to tomorrow morning to enable government pathologist Dr Khairul Azman Ibrahim to return to the witness stand. He had complained of being unwell earlier this week.

Speaking to reporters later, Malik said today’s inquest raised more questions over Teoh’s death.

The idea that he stood and jumped cannot be established because there were no footprints on the inside or outside ledge of the window,” he said, referring to Mazli’s testimony.

Highlighting the scratch marks on Teoh’s right shoe, he noted that Mazli had also said they were important but had not carried out further checks to find out more.

Malik added that the testimony of Shahrul, the other forensic cop, was also revealing. The latter had told the court earlier that he needed the IO, Ahmad Nazri, to open a green Toyota Avanza, believed to belong to Teoh to enable him to inspect the car’s interior.

“Who had the car keys?” Malik asked, pointing out that it was not listed among the items found on Teoh.

He added that it would a subject the lawyers intended to pursue later.

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