No foul play in death of Sangihe Deputy Regent Helmud Hontong: police

Sangihe Islands Deputy Regent Helmud Hontong
Sangihe Islands Deputy Regent Helmud Hontong

Sangihe Islands Deputy Regent Helmud Hontong died due to an illness, police said, after an autopsy ruled out foul play despite the suspicious circumstances in which he died.

The North Sulawesi Provincial Police, which carried out an autopsy on Helmud, ruled out suspicions that the official died from being poisoned before he boarded a flight from Denpasar to Makassar.

“Based on the autopsy results, there was no poison, be it cyanide, pesticides, or arsenic,” North Sulawesi Police spokesman Jules Abraham said today.

Jules added that Helmud died from his underlying medical conditions, which he had suffered for years.

“We hope that people don’t make a big fuss out of this issue anymore, because the fact of the autopsy [ruled out death by foul play],” he said.

On June 9, Helmud, 58, boarded a flight from Denpasar to Makassar when, according to his aide, he lost consciousness and blood flowed out of his nose and mouth. He was pronounced dead upon arrival in Makassar, with police initially ruling his death to be the result of a heart attack.

Suspicions were immediately raised as Helmud was reportedly in perfectly good health when he boarded the plane, and the fact that his death came in the midst of his opposition toward the massive expansion of a gold mine in his regency.

Unlike his superiors, Helmud vehemently opposed the gold mine, which is backed by a Canadian investor, on the basis that it would violate laws on environmental preservation. The residents of Sangihe also opposed the mine, as they were only offered IDR5,000 (US$0.35) per square meter as compensation for their land.

Police had always been reluctant to link Helmud’s death to the gold mine issue, especially as his family said that the deputy regent had a long history of health conditions, including asthma and heart problems. 

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