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8 coroner inquiries reopened after investigation officer allegedly forged witness statements

8 coroner inquiries reopened after investigation officer allegedly forged witness statements

File photo of the State Courts in Singapore (Photo: Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: Eight coroner inquiries were reopened after an investigation officer allegedly forged multiple statements of witnesses.

Station inspector Kenny Cheong Chyuan Lih was involved in probing eight separate accidents.

In findings into six of the reopened coroner inquiries released on Monday (Oct 18), coroner Marvin Bay reiterated his earlier findings that all six were unfortunate traffic misadventures. The traffic accidents occurred between August 2015 and July 2017.

The remaining two inquiries are unconcluded and are set to continue on Tuesday.

According to Judge Bay, the basis of the reopening of the inquiries is from investigations by the Singapore Police Force's (SPF) Internal Affairs Office into the conduct of the case by Mr Cheong.

Investigations found that Mr Cheong allegedly fabricated multiple statements given by witnesses.

In response to CNA's queries, SPF said the possible offences surfaced during a review of Mr Cheong's investigation file in March 2018, after which police "swiftly" initiated investigations into him.

As part of the investigations, the State Courts was directed by the public prosecutor to reopen the eight coroner inquiries under Section 26(3) of the Coroner's Act.

This was "to ascertain if the alleged forgeries had materially affected the Court's ruling on the circumstances of the deceased’s deaths", said SPF.

The affected next-of-kin were informed of the re-hearing dates for the inquiries and invited to attend them.

However, the coroner found that the forensic findings and investigative findings were correct and unaffected by the alleged fabrication.

The six concluded findings involved traffic accidents, with the deceased including a Malaysian motorcyclist on an expressway, a drunk driver who collided into a motorcycle rain shelter and a construction worker who died after being hit by a lorry.

Mr Cheong allegedly forged statements by witnesses, passengers and next-of-kin of the deceased in the six cases.

In one case, a 56-year-old man died after a taxi collided with his motorcycle along the slip road of the Pan Island Expressway on Jul 10, 2017.

Mr Cheong purportedly forged three conditioned statements - the taxi driver's, the taxi passenger's and the sister of the deceased.

The forged statement of the taxi passenger stated that she saw the deceased riding his motorcycle on her left, and that she saw the motorcycle collide into the taxi's mirror.

The falsified statement of the deceased's sister claimed that the deceased had no suicidal tendencies but asserted he was a frequent drinker, and that she had seen the deceased riding his motorcycle after consuming alcohol.

The coroner found on Monday that the deceased had three times the legal limit of ethanol in his blood, and was likely severely intoxicated.

Mr Cheong has been suspended since Dec 27, 2018, pending the outcome of the investigations, said the police.

"Officers of the Singapore Police Force are expected to uphold the law and maintain the highest standards of conduct and integrity," said SPF.

"We deal with officers who break the law severely, including charging them in court."

SPF added that it is unable to comment further as investigations are ongoing.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said the State Courts directed the public prosecutor to reopen the eight coroner inquiries. This is incorrect. We apologise for the error.

Source: CNA/ll(rw)

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