SINGAPORE: The identity of a man whose decomposed body was found by fishermen in the waters off Tuas last year remains unknown, even after DNA analysis and police investigations.
While there was no basis to suggest foul play, a coroner said this week she was "constrained to deliver an open verdict", citing the lack of clarity surrounding his death.
An open verdict is given when there remains a level of uncertainty of circumstances surrounding the demise, or of how the death occurred, such that the coroner is unable to give a specific verdict on the legal cause of death.
The man, who was 162cm tall and weighed 42kg, was labelled "unknown" in the coroner's findings released this week. His age was not determined in court documents.
In July last year, a fisherman on a boat with four other people smelled a strong odour of decomposition from the sea, about 300m away from the Tuas South Boulevard Yard.
The fisherman shone a torchlight into the sea and saw a decomposed body, floating face-up about 80m away from his boat, the court heard.
He called the police, saying: "I found one dead body in the water, send in the PCG." The body was recovered from the waters by the Police Coast Guard and the man was declared dead at 5.14am on Jul 11, 2020.
The man was dressed in a blue shirt and a pair of black Bermuda shorts, and had a black bangle around his left wrist. No identification documents were found on him.
Officers from the police force's forensics management branch were unable to lift any fingerprints from the body, as the ridges on the fingers were no longer visible due to decomposition, according to court documents.
An autopsy found the cause of death to be consistent with drowning. His body was found to be decomposed with loss of skin and soft tissues of the head and neck and towards the extremities of the upper and lower limbs. There was also evidence of maggot infestation.
No marks of external injuries were found, and the exposed skull and facial bones were intact, with no fractures or haemorrhages.
A tissue sample from the man's bone marrow was taken for DNA analysis, but there was no match in the DNA database.
ATTEMPTS TO TRACE HIS IDENTITY
A DNA profiling report was also sent to Interpol Kuala Lumpur, which did not find a match in its database.
A similar report was sent to Interpol Jakarta, which has yet to respond, according to court documents.
The Indonesian Embassy in Singapore said in September 2020 that they did not have any information on the possible identity of the body.
The Singapore police also confirmed that there were no missing persons reports lodged between Jul 1 and 11 last year that matched his description.
The coroner said in her report that the man was also unlikely to be one of three people who fell overboard from a craft on Jul 7 last year.
According to court documents, the Maritime Port Authority (MPA) received a request from the Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency on Jul 7 for assistance in a search and rescue operation in Singapore's territorial waters, after three people - who were suspected to be illegal immigrants from Indonesia - fell overboard.
The Police Coast Guard was informed by the Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency that the trio included one man and two women. The Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency later told Singapore authorities that they recovered a male body on Jul 8, 2020, according to court documents.
"As the man-overboard incident on 7 July 2020 comprised only one male body, it is less likely that the decomposed body was involved in the man-overboard incident on 7 July 2020," said State Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam.
"Based on the evidence led, there is no basis to suspect foul play," she said. "As the identity of the decomposed body remains unknown and the circumstances of the death despite extensive police investigations remain unclear, I am constrained to deliver an open verdict."