Convinced that he didn’t kill himself, the family of David Hartanto Widjaja has hired veteran criminal lawyer Shashi Nathan to look after their interests.
Mr Nathan, who heads Harry Elias Partnership’s crime practice department, will hold a watching brief at the coroner’s inquiry into the Indonesian student’s death.
Widjaja, 21, a final-year student in Nanyang Technological University (NTU), died after falling four storeys on campus on 2 Mar, after allegedly stabbing Associate Professor Chan Kap Luk.
Prof Chan, 45, was supervising his final-year project at the time.
Mr Nathan told The New Paper yesterday that the family hired him on Monday and he met officials from the Indonesian Embassy the same day.
The inquiry date has not been set, but there will be a preliminary conference in the Subordinate Courts on Friday.
Mr Nathan said: ‘On Friday, I intend to ask for the inquiry to be adjourned as I need time to do my own enquiries and speak to witnesses.
‘I have David’s autopsy report and I’m also waiting for other forensic test results on the fingerprints and blood at the scene, as well as the knife allegedly used to stab Prof Chan.
‘I’ll be liaising with the investigators when the test results are out.’
Mr Nathan said his clients are adamant that David did not commit suicide.
He said: ‘Since the incident happened, the story is that David jumped to his death after stabbing Prof Chan.
‘But we still have to go through the coroner’s inquiry so it’s still premature to come to any conclusions.
‘The forensic reports may shed more light on what actually happened.’
If certain issues arise during the coroner’s inquiry, the courts can direct the police to investigate further, said Mr Nathan.
Widjaja’s father, Mr Hartono Widjaja, said in Mandarin over the phone from Jakarta yesterday: ‘My family doesn’t believe David committed suicide after stabbing his professor. ‘
Mr Widjaja, 56, who works in the electronics sector, said his friends would pay his legal fees.
He said his son’s autopsy report showed there were 36 wounds to his body, of which 14 were knife-inflicted.
‘I don’t believe my son would hurt himself as there was no sign he was troubled. And it’s just out of character for him to do that,’ he said.
Out of character
‘He was a mild-mannered person. It’s just too much for us to accept that he whipped out a knife and attacked someone before committing suicide.’
The family is also asking why the autopsy report was given to NTU before it was e-mailed to them.
An NTU spokesman said Widjaja’s parents authorised the university to collect the autopsy report on 2 Apr.
When The New Paper told Mr Widjaja of NTU’s position, he insisted: ‘I never gave NTU permission to collect the autopsy report.
‘My understanding is that the Indonesian Embassy would collect the autopsy report, not NTU.’
Attempts to reach the Indonesian Embassy for comment were unsuccessful.
The Widjajas returned to Jakarta on Sunday after a four-day trip to Singapore to find out more about the incident.
Mr Widjaja said: ‘We wanted to see where our son died and to see Prof Chan.’
Besides laying flowers at the site where David fell, the Widjajas, including elder son William, 24, a technician, tried to visit Prof Chan at his Jurong East condominium.
What made them think that Prof Chan would welcome them?
Mr Widjaja claimed that a local newspaper quoted Prof Chan as saying he was willing to meet the family.
But he claimed that they rang the doorbell at Prof Chan’s unit on the 15th floor for 15 minutes, before a security guard showed up and told them to go to the guardhouse.
The guard then phoned Prof Chan, who said he did not want to see the family.
The Widjajas told a different version to The Straits Times. They said the condo’s guard recognised them from their pictures in the newspapers and asked them to wait while he got in touch with Prof Chan.
He returned a while later to say the professor did not want to see them.
Prof Chan declined to comment when The New Paper called him.
Mr Widjaja is puzzled at the professor’s reticence.
He said: ‘We just want to know what happened that day and Prof Chan is the only witness. We don’t understand why Prof Chan won’t see us.’
While in Singapore, the Widjajas also tried to meet NTU president Su Guaning.
But NTU could not arrange a meeting as Dr Su was busy and offered to let the family see the senior associate provost in charge of undergraduate education instead.
The family declined NTU’s offer.