Syndicate could have been operating years before bodies’ discovery, with the oldest corpse three to four years old.
The Wang Kelian human trafficking syndicate could have been operating for several years before it was discovered by police in January 2015, based on post-mortems conducted on the victims.
Several victims were also found to have died between February and May 2015, indicating that the syndicate may have still been in operation despite the discovery of the trafficking camps months earlier.
According to the 39th witness, lead forensic consultant Dr Mohd Suhani Mohd Noor, tests conducted on the remains showed that some of the victims could have been dead for up to four years.
“The oldest corpse could be several years old, but this is subjective. My best guess is that three or four years can be a logical and reasonable number,” he told a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into the Wang Kelian case today.
The Kedah Sultanah Bahiyah Hospital senior forensic consultant said: “We did tests on over 100 bodies, some had only died a few weeks ago, some a few years. We are talking about a wide range of time. This means there were activities going on (during these times),” he said.
Suhani told the RCI that the forensics team received 108 body bags from the police between May 25 and June 8, 2015. However, following the autopsies, it was determined that there were 114 corpses, 16 of which were of individuals aged between 10 and 20.
As to whether the victims might have been buried alive, Suhani said it was impossible to determine based on the state of decomposition of the bodies but it’s most likely the victims were not buried alive.
Asked if the victims could have been abused prior to their deaths, Suhani said there were no visible injury marks as they had only received bones and severely decomposed bodies.
“Hence, it was difficult to determine,” he said.
He added that the forensics team was only able to determine the cause of death for two of the victims as the remaining bodies were highly decomposed.
One had succumbed to pneumonia and the other died of coronary artery disease, with both showing no signs of being tortured or physically abused.
The 40th witness, Dr Mohamad Azaini Ibrahim, a forensic expert from Serdang Hospital, said it would have been easier to determine the cause and time of death if the post-mortem examinations were conducted earlier.
“I believe that if the post-mortem examinations were conducted in January (2015), we would have been able to retrieve and provide more information,” he said.
The 41st witness, Penang General Hospital senior forensics consultant Datuk Dr Zahari Noor, told the RCI that one of the bodies he examined was believed to have been buried just a week before the police exhumed it in late May.
“At most, I would say it was only a month (since he died). The body still had soft tissue. He possibly died in May,” he said.
The revelation that some of the victims were killed and buried in makeshift graves up until May 2015 comes as a surprise considering the police had discovered the existence of the human trafficking camps and mass graves in January that year, when over 30 illegal immigrants were arrested.
(L-R) Azaini, Zahari and Suhani.
What the three forensics experts who testified today were able to pinpoint was the ethnicity of almost all the victims based on the remains.
Azaini said the majority of the victims were of the Caucasoid race which are predominantly people from South Asia like Bangladesh, India or ethnic Rohingya.
The RCI continues tomorrow.
May 27, Wang Kelian RCI: Day 12
May 16, Wang Kelian RCI: Day 11
May 15, Wang Kelian RCI: Day 10
May 14, Wang Kelian RCI: Day Nine
May 10, Wang Kelian RCI: Day Eight
May 8, Wang Kelian RCI: Day Seven
Apr 26, Wang Kelian RCI: Day Six
Apr 24, Wang Kelian RCI: Day Five
Apr 23, Wang Kelian RCI: Day Four
Apr 22, Wang Kelian RCI: Day Three
Apr 17, Wang Kelian RCI: Day One