Psychiatrist: Teoh is in low risk of suicide group

S Pathmawathy
May 10, 11

Teoh Beng Hock had killed himself… things are likely to have occurred both to undermine his psychological stability and to frighten him literally to death, opined a forensic psychiatrist today.

According to a report by Dr Paul E Mullen, which was submitted to the royal commission of inquiry (RCI) investigating Teoh’s death, the deceased was classified to be in the “low risk group”.

Mullen, a professor of forensic psychiatry at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, was engaged by the Bar Council to determine Teoh’s personality and state of mind in order to assist the RCI resolving the circumstances surrounding and contributed to his death.

“Enquires made from those interviewed suggested that Teoh was a well-organised, tidy man with a tendency to be perfectionistic.

“No evidence was found, however, for dysfunctional obsessional traits or unusual rigidity.

“In my opinion, what we learned of Teoh’s personality and behaviour do not suggest any increased risk of suicide.

“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,” stated Mullen.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) had engaged consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Badi’ah Yahya and community psychiatrist Dr Nor Hayati Ali.

Badi’ah is based in Hospital Permai in Johor while Nor Hayati is from Hospital Selayang, Selangor.

Both Badi’ah and Nor Hayati in their report had come to an inconclusive summary.

“In our opinion Teoh has both risk factors favouring him for suicide and proctective factors that reduce his likely risk for suicide,” they said.

Teoh was taken to the Selangor MACC headquarters at the 14th floor of Plaza Masalam in Shah Alam on July 15, 2009, for questioning on alleged irregular disbursement of state funds by his employer, Seri Kembangan assemblyperson Ean Yong Hian Wah.

He was discovered dead on the fifth floor corridor of the building the following day.

Testimony presented by a senior MACC officer during the proceedings has cleared Ean Yong of any wrongdoing.

An 18-month inquest returned an ‘open verdict’, leading to the formation of the RCI. It will present its report to the Agong by June 25.

Testimonies before RCI taken into account

Mullen’s report focused primarily on the probability of Teoh having committed suicide.

He and the local experts had conducted a string of interviews with Teoh’s family members – brother Meng Kee, sister Lee Lan and wife Soh Cher Wei, as well as with his friends and colleagues.

Mullen supported his conclusion by taking into evidence from testimonies given during the RCI proceedings which begin on Feb 14, among them:

•On July 15, 2009, officers of Selangor MACC carried out a raid on the political offices of Ean Yong, culminating in Teoh being taken to the Selangor MACC office for questioning about 6.30pm. That he drove his own car, accompanied by two officers, to the MACC office may suggest that he was cooperating voluntarily.
•Teoh was questioned by MACC officers between 6.30pm and 10.30pm. At this point the questioning was transferred from the lounge area to a meeting room where it continued until 12.30am on July 16. The procedure is then said to have moved to the recording of Teoh’s statement, possibly by different MACC officers. This is said to have taken place between 12.30am and 3.30am on July 16, though this is disputed. Mullen says he is led to understand that MACC officers claim to have told Teoh that he could leave at this point, but he voluntarily chose to stay.
Taking into account that Teoh was questioned for a total eight hours and there were no audio and video recordings nor detailed interview notes, Mullen said there were disputed “elements in the case”.

“The most important, from the psychiatric viewpoint, is the note said to have been discovered in Teoh’s bag, left in the MACC office.

“The view the commission comes to, firstly, is whether this note was written by Teoh on the day of his death, and secondly, whether the content can plausibly be considered a suicide note, is critical to any consideration of the possibility of suicide,” said Mullen.

MACC lawyers had previously tried to establish Teoh’s death as an “honour suicide” to protect the integrity of his boss Ean Yong and DAP, the political party Teoh was affiliated to.

In his findings, Mullen pointed out that risk of suicide in those taken into custody is “usually related to panic… this can be induced by confusion and/or disorientation”.
Teoh a precise and well-organised man

In most common circumstances, such a situation is caused by the withdrawal effects of drugs and alcohol, and it can also be attributed to physical illness, particularly “head injury”.

“A state of panic can also be induced by interrogation techniques, which induce fear through frightening threats, serious bullying, or overwhelming physical stress and/or by deliberately inducing disorientation of time and place”.

He said interviews with Teoh’s family members, particularly Lee Lan, portrayed her brother as “devoted to his family” and presented a picture that was “partial and, to some extent, idealised”.

However, the interviews established that Teoh was “precise and well-organised”.

Mullen also raised the issue of Teoh’s romantic relationship with Soh, which resulted in her becoming pregnant before their marriage.
Yesterday, Soh testified that Teoh was excited when she told him she had conceived as he was pressing the idea of marriage months before that.
She had told the RCI that both families were enthusiastic upon knowledge of her pregnancy and were in the process of preparing for a wedding on Oct 3.
Soh (right) married Teoh posthumously in a Chinese traditional ceremony on Aug 15, 2009, and gave birth to their son, Er Jia, on Feb 22 last year.

It was also established that pregnancy prior to marriage was neither unusual or a subject for shame and negative comment.
Mullen said Teoh’s employer Ean Yong provided a less idealised and more balanced account of Teoh’s behaviourism, although he emphasised on Teoh’s positive qualities of responsibility and commitment to his family.
He also said that MACC officers who testified before the RCI painted a picture that Teoh was cooperative throughout and appeared relaxed.
Teoh was in a regular employment, had a partner who he was soon to marry, had close family ties, a range of friends and colleagues, had not suffered a recent bereavement, and had no known financial problems.

Factors decreasing the risk of suicide

“These are all factors decreasing the risk of suicide. He was in early adult life (25-40 years), had no history of suicide attempts or self harm, did not gamble excessively, and had no family history of suicide.

“Teoh showed no evidence for a lowered mood, let alone depression, prior to being taken into custody, in fact, he appeared to have been more elated than usual because of the prospect of marriage and fatherhood,” said Mullen.

He also contradicted MACC’s argument that Teoh could have felt that his statement to the investigators led to “shame or the betrayal” of his colleagues.

“There is nothing I have been made aware of to explain panic and distress sufficient to drive him to conclude his honour had been irreparably tarnished. The reported suicide note does nothing in my opinion to clarify this,” said Mullen.

The RCI had summed up its evidence taking today, after the submission of the psychiatrists’ reports.

To date, 70 witnesses have testified, among the most controversial being, differing views from forensic pathologists and a slew of MACC officers who were directly and indirectly involved in the probe of state funds misappropriation in 2009.

Thailand’s forensics pathologist Dr Pornthip Rojanansunand deduced that the contusions and other injuries on Teoh’s body indicated an 80 percent probability that his death was homicide.

British pathologist Dr Peter Vanezis projected a different viewpoint that Teoh was conscious at the time of his fall and injuries sustained were in line with that found in cases of fall from height.

There were also MACC officers, particularly assistant superintendent Azeem Hafeez Jamaluddin and senior enforcement officer Azian Umar, who revealed about an order to cover-up the involvement of their then commanding officer, Hishamuddin Hashim.

As the RCI completed its probe today, the representatives of the Bar Council and MACC to prepare their submissions which should be sent directly to the royal panel’s secretariat by May 25.

  1. #1 by Loh on Tuesday, 10 May 2011 - 8:18 pm

    ///“In our opinion Teoh has both risk factors favouring him for suicide and proctective factors that reduce his likely risk for suicide,” they said.///–Badi’ah Yahya and Nor Hayati

    That is equivalent to saying that a person ABC has the risk factors of meeting traffic accident, if he is not at home.

    Would MACC claim that inconclusive 2 homicide one; inclusive have it?

    Strangely even expert opinion is polarized in Malaysia.

    The distance TBH fell from the wall is too far for him to push out sitting on the windowsill, and it was concluded that TBH did not jump. TBH was murdered.

  2. #2 by dagen on Wednesday, 11 May 2011 - 10:09 am

    Based on what was written it appears to me that the two macc experts made bare assertion of their opinions without any supporting reasons and arguments. Mullen’s testimony on the other hand is well supported with reasons.

You must be logged in to post a comment.