Death of ferry owner to remain a mystery

August 19, 2014
Seo Joong-seok, director of the National Forensic Service, announces the results of a toxicology test and autopsy conducted Yoo Byung-eun, a fugitive billionaire allegedly responsible for April's ferry disaster.  (Yonhap)

Seo Joong-seok, director of the National Forensic Service, announces the results of a toxicology test and autopsy conducted Yoo Byung-eun, a fugitive billionaire allegedly responsible for April’s ferry disaster. But they could not pinpoint the exact cause of his death.(Yonhap)

By Lee Hyo-sik

Police said Tuesday that investigators found no evidence indicating Yoo Byung-eun, the late owner of the sunken ferry Sewol, was murdered.

However, they could not pinpoint the exact cause of his death.

A special investigation team set up at Suncheon Police Station, South Jeolla Province, announced the results of its month-long investigation into the death of the man who was once the nation’s most-wanted fugitive.

”We couldn’t find any clues nor evidence suggesting Yoo was killed by someone else,” said Baek Seung-ho, commissioner of the South Jeolla Provincial Police Agency. ”After an autopsy and gathering opinions from private-sector experts, we concluded that the former Semo Group chairman died before June 2.”

The investigation team had been working on the case since July 23, Baek said, adding that investigators worked together with forensic scientists, entomologists and other experts to find the exact cause of Yoo’s death. ”Officers also questioned residents where Yoo’s body was found, as well as bus drivers and hundreds of others. However, we cannot say exactly how he died.”

According to the commissioner, forensic experts concluded that he likely died of hyperthermia, but cannot say why. ”The experts also found no evidence indicating that Yoo’s body was moved after death.”

Yoo’s badly decomposed body was found in a plum orchard in Suncheon on June 12. But police initially failed to identify the corpse, thinking it was that of a homeless man. Officers were only able to identify his body on July 21 after DNA confirmation.

Police came under criticism for wasting time and resources in searching for Yoo while his dead body was in a morgue.

Yoo was wanted on charges of embezzlement, breach of trust, tax evasion and other irregularities possibly related to the sinking of the Sewol on April 16.

The National Forensic Service announced the results of a toxicology test and an autopsy conducted on Yoo, saying it was impossible to determine the cause of the death. It said it could not determine how he died because there was too little evidence left of the body.

But the state-run forensic agency said Yoo did not die from drug ingestion.

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