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Cause of Yoo Byung-eun’s death unclear: forensic agency

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Published : 2014-07-25 10:47
Updated : 2014-07-25 14:27

The National Forensic Service said Friday that a three-day autopsy has not determined the cause of death of fugitive Yoo Byung-eun, the owner of the sunken ferry Sewol.

The state forensic agency said the autopsy failed due to the body’s state of heavy decay. The NFS only confirmed that the corpse, which was found on June 12 by a farmer, was that of the 73-year-old Yoo.

National Forensic Service chief Seo Joong-seok announces the result of its autopsy on the dead body of Yoo Byung-eun in Seoul on Friday. Yonhap

Concerning the liquor bottles found near the corpse, no poisonous contents were discovered, NFS officials said.

While the agency said Yoo’s DNA was found on the empty bottles of soju and squalene (shark liver oil), it downplayed the possibility that he had been poisoned.

“(Generally,) there are several methods for uncovering the cause of death for decomposed corpses. But for Yoo’s case, there was no clue to finding the cause as too many bodily tissues had been lost,” said forensic medicine researcher Lee Han-young, who participated in the autopsy on the Sewol owner.

He also said it does not seem that Yoo was killed through a physical assault. Lee, however, said it is hard to determine whether his death was due to suffocation or throttling, reiterating that few soft tissues remained.

The NFS estimated the height of the dead body at about 1.59 meters.

On Tuesday, when the forensic agency initially received the body from a provincial hospital, the NFS said its officials clarified that they have found “no trace of murder.”

Some criminal profilers dismissed the possibility that the runaway committed suicide, while others raised the scenario that Yoo died from hypothermia.

Other critics have not ruled out the possibility that Yoo’s aides offered him poisoned water or other drinks.

Though the corpse was delivered to a hospital in Suncheon, Jeolla Province, right after a farmer reported it to police on June 12, a lock of hair and some bone fragments from the remains were found to have been left in the field for more than a month, during which time police allegedly failed to identify the body due to the advanced state of decay.

The police confirmed on July 22 -- about 40 days after the farmer's notification -- that the body is that of Yoo Byung-eun.

By Kim Yon-se

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