The mysterious death by hanging of a 31-year-old U.S. citizen in Singapore has his family asking questions over what it has described as the many discrepancies in how, where and why the young electrical engineer died, and has raised questions for authorities in two countries.
Shane Todd was said by police in Singapore to have killed himself in June by hanging himself from a bathroom door in his apartment, a conclusion not shared by the family and others.
The death came after the young electrical engineer had found another job in the U.S. and was headed home in just two days.
“This was a murder,” Rick Todd, the man’s father, told The Washington Times in a telephone interview Sunday. “Shane was an expert in his field and had become uncomfortable with the project his company was working on and what they were asking him to do. He thought it might compromise U.S. security and he was an honorable man.”
The elder Mr. Todd said he did not know what the project involved, but a forensics specialist hired by the family who examined the young engineer’s computers reported that he “was quite alarmed at what was being proposed.” The family obtained the hard drive from their son’s computer in Singapore when they went to the apartment to pack up his belongings. He said an analysis of the hard drive showed that someone tried to access the computer at 3 a.m.
The death came at a time of continuing global concerns over the extent of spying operations by the Chinese government, most of which have been aimed at U.S. businesses and organizations.
Shane Todd, who lived in Marion, Mont., most recently was employed by the Institute of Microelectronics, a Singaporean government research agency, where he is said to have been involved in key research involving his company and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., the Chinese telecommunications giant.
The Financial Times reported that Huawei has said it discussed a venture with the institute but did not proceed with the project. But others have said the project was aimed at developing a device powered by gallium nitride, a semiconductor material that can improve cellphone and radar technology and has uses in civilian and military technology.
One of the documents located on Todd’s computer by the forensics specialist was a draft agreement for the Institute of Microelectronics to share with Huawei what Todd was working on.
A U.S. intelligence official who asked not to be identified said Huawei has been of recent concern to the U.S. over its sharing of telecommunications equipment with the Chinese government and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. In October 2010, The Wall Street Journal reported that Huawei had become Iran’s leading provider of telecommunications equipment, including monitoring technologies that could be used for surveillance.
In October, a House intelligence subcommittee released a report that listed Huawei as a “national security threat” because of its suspected ties to various Chinese governmental agencies. The report suggested that the firm be barred from doing business with the U.S. government.
Rick Todd said Sunday that he and his wife, Mary, were headed to Washington, where they planned to meet with Ashok Kumar Mirpuri, the Singaporean ambassador to the United States, and with Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, who has been helping the family gain access to information concerning their son’s death.
Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, also has met with the Todd family in the investigation.
Mr. Baucus was not available for comment Sunday, but he has told USA Today that the U.S. government had not done enough in the matter and he was not sure enough pressure had been brought to bear on officials in Singapore to allow the FBI better access to evidence in the case.
“I’m going to make sure they do,” Mr. Baucus said. “I’m going to find out what happened.”
Mr. Todd, an airline pilot who once flew for the U.S. military, said the couple also intended to check with the FBI and others on the status of the investigation into their son’s death.
“The FBI has told us they are involved in the investigation at the request of Singapore police, but that their role is limited,” he said. “We want the FBI to do a full investigation. We think it’s important that the FBI has full access to all of the evidence and information. There are many questions that need to be answered.”
FBI officials were not available Sunday to discuss the investigation, but the U.S. Embassy in Singapore has confirmed that the bureau was contacted by Singaporean police for assistance.
The embassy said the FBI “will comply” with the request but added that the “investigation into Shane’s death continues to be led by the Singaporean police.”
Mr. and Mrs. Todd think many of the details that have been reported on their son’s alleged suicide are contradictory. Mrs. Todd said her son did not write one of the suicide notes allegedly found in his home, since much of the information it contained was incorrect.
Other concerns were that the bathroom where Singaporean police said the death occurred did not contain the pulleys or holes in the wall that authorities claimed were used in his suicide. The parents examined the site shortly after their son’s death.
“Our son was a loyal American, an expert electrical engineer, and a very outgoing and friendly man,” Mr. Todd said. “We do not believe this was a suicide but a murder, but were are not hopeful it will ever be solved.
“We are pursuing this because we don’t want someone else’s son or daughter to be put in this position.”