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US scientist's family walks out of Singapore inquest

Rick Todd (2nd left), his wife Mary (left) and family members leave the Subordinate Courts in Singapore on May 21, 2013
Rick Todd (2nd left), his wife Mary (left) and family members leave the Subordinate Courts in Singapore on Tuesday. The family of a US scientist found hanged last year in Singapore walked out of a coroner's inquiry into his death Tuesday, saying they had

The family of a US scientist found hanged last year in Singapore walked out of a coroner's inquiry into his death Tuesday, saying they had "lost faith" in the proceedings.

The move came after their star witness, a US pathologist who never examined the body, came under intense questioning for saying Shane Todd may have been killed by assassins after quitting a high-tech project for two Asian firms.

Singapore authorities believe Todd, who had a history of depression, committed suicide and reject the conspiracy theory.

"Basically we actually have lost faith in the process," the late researcher's father Rick told reporters after leaving a packed courtroom with his wife Mary, three sons and daughter-in-law.

"We were told from the beginning that this will be honest and open. We were just chastised this morning for bringing forth evidence," the airline pilot said, referring to an email the family's lawyers had just introduced.

Rick Todd (right) and his wife Mary walk out of the Subordinate courts in Singapore on May 21, 2013
Rick Todd (right) and his wife Mary walk out of the Subordinate courts in Singapore on Tuesday.

The family quit the inquiry after learning that a French ex-colleague of Todd's, Luis Alejandro Andro Montes, was going to testify that the American was still alive the day before his body was found on June 24, 2012.

"We don't know who he is. Shane's girlfriend doesn't know who he is," said Todd's mother Mary, a Christian pastor in the state of Montana.

A coroner's inquest is a routine process in cases of "unnatural death" in Singapore. But US officials signalled strong interest in the case after Todd's family waged a high-profile lobbying and media campaign.

Singapore officials said the inquest will resume Wednesday despite the walkout. It was unclear if the family would return to the hearing.

A verdict is expected by late June and will only address the cause of death.

Earlier Tuesday Edward Adelstein, 75, a deputy medical examiner in Missouri engaged by the family, testified that Todd was murdered in his Singapore apartment and his death made to look like a suicide.

Speaking by video link from the United States, he admitted his conclusions were based only on funeral pictures of the body and second-hand information.

Adelstein said Todd could have been disabled with a taser -- an electronic device designed to stun -- and killed with an arm lock before being hanged.

Shane Todd, a high-tech researcher who died in Singapore in June, 2012
This handout photo made available to AFP on May 18, 2013 shows Shane Todd, a high-tech researcher who died in Singapore in June, 2012.

Giggles broke out in the audience during portions of his testimony and Adelstein was reminded by a judge overseeing the process to stick to forensic evidence instead of speculating.

As he wrapped up his testimony, Adelstein drawled: "As Obama says, we can have differences but we don't have to hate each other."

Todd's parents, who originally planned to testify, say their son was killed because of his work for a Singapore electronics research institute with alleged links to a Chinese firm accused of involvement in espionage.

Adelstein repeated the accusation, saying Todd was "a very dangerous person" to the two Asian companies.

He asserted without offering any evidence that "they had him killed" and well-trained assassins may have been involved.

Singapore's state-linked Institute of Microelectronics (IME) and China's Huawei Technologies have denied working on a project involving Todd, but confirmed they held preliminary talks on a potential research venture.

A US congressional committee last year labelled Huawei and ZTE, another Chinese telecom firm, as potential security threats that should be excluded from US government contracts and barred from acquiring US firms.

Todd was part of an IME research team working on gallium nitride, a semiconductor that can be used in radar and satellite communications.

Singapore police earlier testified that there were no signs of a struggle in the apartment where Todd's body was found.

A Singaporean psychiatrist told the inquiry that Todd was prescribed anti-depressants three months before his death.

Two other US medical examiners acting as independent experts support the suicide findings and have been lined up to testify at the inquest, according to Singapore state lawyers.