Intelligence Gathering

Was he murdered? Mystery death of American engineer working in Singapore on cutting-edge military technology ‘who had deep misgivings about his work’

  • Shane Todd, an American working on an  18-month assignment in Singapore, was found hanged in his apartment in June  2012
  • Family claims he was murdered and Singapore  police refuse to accept help from FBI
  • Todds also recovered hard drive with backup  data from son’s project
  • Dr Todd was doing research on high-tech  chemical and was collaborating with Chinese company, according to  report

By  Beth Stebner

PUBLISHED: 13:10 EST, 18  February 2013 |  UPDATED: 14:38 EST, 18 February 2013

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Suspicious: Shane Todd was found dead in his Singapore  apartment last summer; he apparently hanged himself, but his family claims he  was murdered

The hanging death of an American electronics  engineer in Singapore last summer has ignited an international mystery, after  his family and girlfriend developed suspicions that he may have been murdered  the week before he was scheduled to return home to the U.S.

The family of Shane Todd visited his  apartment in the Chinatown district of Singapore days after they received news  of his June 2012 death, saying that their son had misgivings about some of the  work he was doing for the company.

Dr Todd, 31, was slated to return to the U.S.  after completing an 18-month stint at the Institute of Microelectronics, and his  family is now desperately searching for how – and why – their son is  dead.

A February 15 piece published in the Financial Times magazine tells of how Mr Todd’s parents, Mary and Rick Todd, traveled from Montana to  Singapore days after their son’s death on June 23, 2012.

Mrs Todd told the magazine in no uncertain  terms: ‘We think our son was murdered.’

The Todds did not immediately respond to a  request sent by MailOnline.

According to the magazine, the Todds, joined  by their sons, John and Dylan, went to see where Shane had spent his last hours.

His parents have said he was murdered because  of his involvement in the project, which they say involved exporting sensitive  military technology to China.

IME did not immediately respond to  MailOnline’s request for comment.

The family told the FT that they discovered  several things awry at Dr Todd’s Colonial-era apartment.

Piles of laundry were neatly folded and ready  to be packed in suitcases, packed moving boxes littered the apartment, and his  plane ticket back to the States was sitting on his dining room table.

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Family matters: Mary and Rick Todd, center, went to  Singapore with sons John, back left, and Dylan, far right, to look into the  death of Shane, back right; Chet Todd and his wife

The Singapore police report from last summer  states that Mr Todd – who stood more than 6ft and 200 pounds – constructed a  sort of noose by bolting a pulley to the bathroom wall and wrapping a strap  through the contraption.

However, when the Todd family arrived days  later, they were appalled to find that their late son’s front door was unlocked,  there was no crime tap indicating an active investigation, and more importantly  – no bolts drilled into the bathroom.

The Singapore Police released a statement  today in response to the FT article, reading in part: ‘The police investigate  all unnatural death cases thoroughly, working closely with the pathologist and  other relevant experts, and no prior assumptions are made on the cause of  death,’ according to Yahoo! Singapore.

The FT article also states that the FBI  bureau in Singapore has volunteered their forensic help on two separate  occasions, but said that the local police had declined their help.

An FBI source in Washington told the paper  that they could do nothing to help the investigation until the Singapore Police  formally accepted their assistance.

In the statement, Singapore police added: ‘Since the death of Mr Shane Todd, the Police have engaged and assisted the family without impending the objectivity of our investigation process. We will continue to do so. Police have also kept the American Embassy and FBI informed of this case.’

The family also recovered a hard drive with  backup data from his time at IME. The FT gave information on the hard drive to  Professor Sir Colin Humphreys to analyze. The professor works as the director of  research at Cambridge University’s Centre for Gallium Nitride.

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Trimming the tree: The Todd brothers at Christmas,  decorating the family tree from their parents’ home in Montana

According to the centre’s website, the  chemical, known as GaN, is ‘probably the most important semiconductor material  since silicon.’

The chemical is used in many of today’s  high-tech products, from Blu-ray players to hybrid electric cars, and can  withstand heat to much higher capacity than silicone. It is the building blocks  for blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

Sir Colin told the FT that the data on Dr  Todd’s hard drive was fore a high-electron mobility transistor made from GaN,  adding that the project had applications for both the military and commercial  use.

Singapore police said they were still  investigating the death of Dr Todd and would submit their evidence to a coroner.  Singaporean pathologists concluded in an autopsy last June that he died by  hanging in his Singapore flat.

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Chemicals: Dr Todd was working with Gallium Nitrate  (GaN), a synthetic material used in many high-tech objects like Blu-ray players  and hybrid electric cars

‘IME approached Huawei on one occasion to  cooperate with them in the GaN field, but we decided not to accept, and  consequently do not have any cooperation with IME related to GaN,’ Huawei said  in a statement.

Huawei said that the development of GaN  technology was commonplace across the telecommunications industry.

Interviews with the family, colleagues and  friends revealed conflicting views on Dr Todd’s state of mind before his death,  the nature of his work and how he died.

Colleagues said that he was increasingly  depressed in his last few months, but said that his concerns appeared to centre  on a sense of failure about his work, and an ambivalence about returning to the  United States.

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On assignment: Dr Todd lived in the Chinatown district  of Singapore; here the skyline is pictured

Researchers in unrelated fields have also  questioned how, if his work was so sensitive, he was able to take home computer  files from his office.

IME is part of a network of research  institutes managed by government-run Agency for Science, Technology and  Research, or A*Star.

A former A*Star researcher now working in the  United States pointed out that IME and other A*Star institutes were not military  research organizations.

Huawei is one of the world’s largest  telecommunication equipment companies, but has been blocked from some projects  in Australia and deemed a security risk by the U.S. congress on the grounds that  its equipment could be used for spying, according to Reuters.

Huawei has routinely denied such accusations  and has said it is not linked to the Chinese government.

Dr Todd’s parents said in interviews in July  that Singapore police and IME had failed to properly investigate his death after  his body was found hanging from a door in his Singapore apartment on the evening  of June 24, two days after he quit IME.

Singapore police say they have handled the  case as they have handled other cases, and their procedures follow high  international standards. They said in such cases of unnatural death, ‘no prior  assumptions’ were made about the cause.

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Big business: Huawei is one of the world’s largest  telecommunication equipment companies, but has been deemed a security risk by  the U.S. congress on the grounds that its equipment could be used for  spying

Mrs Todd said in a telephone interview with  Reuters last July that he had been scared.

‘I had been talking to him for months for at  least an hour every week and he told us he was afraid of being murdered because  of his contacts with the Chinese government,’ she said.

‘He quit his job because of it.’

Huawei declined to say whether they had been  working on other projects with IME. Colleagues said shortly after Todd’s death  that he had told them at one point he had been working on a project with Huawei  but that it was not sensitive or high-level in nature.

One described it as carrying out ‘measurement  test reports’ of semiconductors.

The FT said that Dr Todd had been involved in  proposing a joint project with Huawei.

While it did not say whether the project was  approved, it quoted his parents as saying that subsequently he complained to  them of being asked to do things with a Chinese company he did not identify that  made him uncomfortable.

Dr Todd was described in his obituary as an  avid baseball player and a brilliant scientific mind. He earned his PhD in  Electrical Engineering from the University of Santa Barbara.

Reuters  contributed to this report.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2280635/Shane-Todd-Death-American-engineer-Singapore-working-Gallium-Nitrate-project.html#ixzz2LJW5dskl Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

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