SINGAPORE — An investigating officer alleged to have forged witness and next-of-kin statements in eight coroner inquiries had been “grossly wrong” in his duties, Coroner Marvin Bay said on Tuesday (19 October).
Coroner Bay was speaking during the closing of seven of the cases, which were reopened this week due to the investigation officer (IO)'s alleged misbehaviour.
Delivering a summary of the seven cases, Coroner Bay noted that IO Kenny Cheong Chyuan Lih had forged statements with information he had garnered from conversations or from previous statements that witnesses had given to other investigation officers.
All eight cases relate to people who had died from traffic accidents, with Coroner Bay reaffirming seven of the original verdicts of unfortunate traffic misadventures.
The eighth case, involving a 66-year-old lorry driver who died in a collision with a car, has not been completed as the next-of-kin of the deceased raised concerns relating to the speeds of the vehicles involved during its reopening on Tuesday.
At the request of the next-of-kin, Coroner Bay asked that the accident scene be reconstructed, which will take at least two months. The case was then adjourned and will be heard at a later date.
Among the statements that IO Cheong had allegedly forged, one involved a female next-of-kin who was deaf and mute, and as such, the IO was unlikely to have communicated with her.
One of the cases involved four forged statements of a driver. In another case, IO Cheong had allegedly forged three statements from a driver, an eyewitness and a next-of-kin.
Similarly, one case involved a forged statement by an eyewitness whose recollection was recorded by a different IO.
In closing, Coroner Bay stated that IO Cheong would have seemed to make “wholesale fabrications” in conditioned statements that touched on tangential issues, such as the lifestyle and general travel patterns of the deceased. With more salient issues that were central to the cases, including the cause of accident, the IO's tendency appeared to be to draw from sources – such as police long statements, or calls to the witnesses and involved parties – to base his content of the falsified statements.
This has prevented the "wholesale contamination of the body of evidence" with entirely fabricated accounts, which could have thrown investigations completely off their tracks, said the coroner.
“Notwithstanding this, what IO Kenny Cheong has done is still grossly wrong and none of this should, of course, detract from the gravity of his acts, particularly where they concern his duties as an investigation officer entrusted with a heavy responsibility of serving the coronial justice system with integrity and probity,” added Coroner Bay.
State Counsel Thiagesh Sukumaran said that the Attorney-General’s Chambers would take into account Coroner Bay's comments when considering further action to be taken against IO Cheong.
Coroner Bay added that he was “satisfied” that the investigations for the re-opened cases had been "extensive and thorough".