IIRC First Report - Forensic findings


Posted at Sep 20 2010 06:00 PM | Updated as of Sep 21 2010 05:56 AM


Forensic Pathology

On August 24, 2010 the remains of the hostage-taker and five of the eight dead foreigners were autopsied by the Philippine National Police medico-legal officers. The remaining three were only externally examined “per relatives’ request.” The PNP autopsy reports (mostly 1-page long) do not indicate where these examinations took place. All eight bodies of the foreign nationals were then repatriated to Hongkong the same day.

In Hongkong, autopsies with postmortem x-rays were conducted on all the bodies on August 27, 2010 at the Kwai Chung Public Mortuary. The autopsy reports were prepared by pathologists who are officers of the Forensic Pathology Service, Department of Health. Two of these examiners are identified as Specialists in Forensic Pathology (Drs. CHIAO Wing-fu, YING Ho-wan, POON Wai-ming, NG Chung-ki and LAM Wai-kwok). The reports are 4-5 pages long printed on legal size paper containing such details as external and internal examination findings, a cause of death statement and remarks. The bodies were noted to be previously embalmed with signs of fingerprinting and early decomposition. Nasal and tracheal swabs were reportedly obtained and tested to assess exposure to tear gas components and the results were inconclusive.

Reviewed were copies of documents pertinent to the case such as scene sketches, witness accounts, medical findings on the injured survivors (Philippines), autopsy reports (Philippines and Hong Kong), 13 color images of the remains taken during the PNP examination, toxicology and (preliminary) ballistics results.

A reconstruction of the events of the shooting based on the documents reviewed including witness accounts, scene and autopsy findings and preliminary forensic test results, show that the shooting inside the vehicle started after Mendoza fired one shot in the direction of people walking away from the bus who were negotiating with him (apparently a “warning” shot). Thereafter, a second shot was fired this time aimed at Mr. TSE Ting-chunn (Masa), the tour guide, who was then standing while handcuffed to a railing of the right front main door. Among the autopsy findings were “two closely grouped linear abrasions, 0.2 and 0.8 cm long, on the back of the right hand.” These could be patterned cuff marks. TSE sustained a single perforating (through and through) gunshot wound of the neck, with a left to right and downward trajectory (with reference to the anatomic position). Major blood vessels in the neck were lacerated including the left common carotid artery, left internal jugular vein and right external jugular vein leading to massive hemorrhage and death. Tattooing or stippling (small lesions from flecks of unburnt gunpowder impacting the skin) was noted superolateral to the entry wound. This indicates an intermediate range of fire with a gun-to-muzzle distance of only a few inches.

Several shots then followed with Mendoza firing from the front of the bus facing the seated hostages. Mr. FU Cheuk-yan with Mr. LEUNG Kam-wing behind him reportedly rushed towards the gunman in an attempt to overpower him. Both were killed and fell on the aisle. Mr. Fu sustained three penetrating gunshot wounds of the trunk. Considering their anatomic trajectories correlated with the circumstances of death, he was probably hit first at the left lower abdomen with the bullet eventually lodging in the right buttock. The small intestines were lacerated and extensive pelvic fractures resulted, effectively disabling him. Another gunshot wound entering the lower chest also on the left side was the most fatal of the three because the heart, aorta and left lung were damaged. It could be that the gunshot wound of the left upper back was the last to be inflicted.

Mr. LEUNG, on the other hand, also had three gunshot wounds like Mr. FU. The perforating gunshot wound of the right upper arm was least fatal injuring only soft tissues. The two penetrating chest injuries however damaged the heart and lungs aside from causing fractures of the ribs and left shoulder region. It cannot be determined with certainty how Mr. LEUNG was shot but the backward trajectories of both the right arm and left upper chest wounds indicate that he could have sustained these while facing the gunman. The shot in the back therefore could have been fired when he was already down.

According to witness accounts, Mendoza proceeded to fire at the seated hostages while walking back and forth on the aisle of the bus. This scenario is consistent with the injuries sustained by four of the fatalities: Mr. WONG Tze-lam (seat 5A), Ms. LEUNG Chung-see Doris (seat 7A), Ms. YEUNG Yee-kam (seat 4D) and Ms. YEUNG Yee-wa (seat 6D). Mr. WONG and Ms. LEUNG Doris were seated on the left side of the bus and both sustained single gunshot wounds behind the right ear and on the right upper back respectively. This is consistent with the shooter’s position on the aisle on their right back side with them seated facing forward and defensively crouchedbehind the seat in front. Notably, the entrance wound of Ms. LEUNG also showed tattooing or stippling indicating an intermediate range of fire. Also probably related to this fatal head injury is a gunshot wound of the right thumb which was likely sustained when she had her hands over her ears, again an instinctive gesture.

The YEUNG sisters, on the other hand, were seated on the right side of the bus and they also sustained single gunshot wounds on their left side. Again this places the shooter on the aisle on their left side. Ms. YEUNG Yee-kam had a perforating gunshot wound entering the left temple and exiting below the right ear. This caused extensive brain lacerations and skull fractures. Ms. YEUNG Yee-wa died from a penetrating gunshot wound with the bullet entering above the left collar bone, moving to the right and downward. The bullet hit the first three thoracic vertebrae, completely transected the spinal cord and also lacerated the right lung.

The single, head or upper body shots that killed these four seated passengers on both sides of the bus are consistent with the gunman methodically firing while moving along the aisle as claimed by the witnesses.

The eighth fatality, Ms. LEUNG Song-yi Jessie (14 years old and incidentally the youngest in the group) reportedly attempted to crawl from her seat on the 8th row on the right side of the bus toward her injured brother on the other side, and she was shot in the process by the gunman. She sustained two perforating gunshot wounds of the chest. One grazed the inner right upper arm first before entering the chest wall at the front of the armpit while the other entered the left upper chest proceeding straight backward. Both caused lung injuries and rib and spine fractures. While it cannot be determined definitively how Ms. Leung was shot, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, she could have been killed by the gunman methodically firing from the aisle at the hostages just like the rest.

Based on case materials reviewed so far, the deaths of the eight hostages are attributable to gunfire coming from Mr. Mendoza using the rifle he was armed with. The complexity of the skin wounds, the extensive internal lacerations and severe fractures are consistent with high velocity gunfire, though subject of course to correlation with ballistic examination findings. The internal injuries of the eight dead victims were clearly severe and non-survivable: two had head shots with brain lacerations, one’s spinal cord was severed, and in the others the lungs, heart, aorta and other major blood vessels were lacerated.

More information is needed, however, regarding the injuries of the survivors, the scene and the results of the ballistics examinations, to determine with absolute certainty that the external assault by the police did not injure or cause death. Preliminary results indicate that the bus was fired at on all sides with at least 32 bullet entry marks identified.

Reconstruction of the shooting incident is therefore still ongoing. It is particularly recommended that the autopsy results be correlated with the scene findings in order to determine shooting trajectories and to further recover bullets and other evidence. Indiscriminate removal of the bodies from the scene prior to documentation made it difficult to analyze how they were shot. It is also not clear if adequate scene investigation was done at all. It is likewise recommended that further examination of the body of Rolando Mendoza be done because of incomplete and questionable findings in the autopsy report.

This evaluation is subject to further review and revision as necessary, if significant additional information becomes available.

Gunshot wounds sustained by all victims share the common characteristic of the bullets having a downward trajectory except for the gunshot wound of LEUNG Chung-see (Doris) which is slightly upward. From that it can be deduced that the position of the shooter is higher than the position of the victims.

Ballistics and Firearms Examination

An examination of shell casings from 5.56 mm (.223) cal. ammunition used for M16A1 assault rifles reveals that of the 65 fired cartridges of said type of ammunition found in the crime scene, 58 were fired from the rifle of Mendoza, an Elisco M16A1 (standard M16) with serial number (SN) RP127030, while 7 5.56 mm shells found in the same crime scene were fired from two (2) different 5.56 mm firearms and not Mendoza’s M16A1. Six (6) were fired from one single firearm and one (1) from another, but all not from Mendoza’s M16A1. A supplemental report to the same firearm examination shows that an additional four (4) 5.56 mm fired cartridges were fired from Mendoza’s M16A1, which brings to a total of sixty two (62) fired 5.56 mm cartridges positively identified as coming from Mendoza’s M16A1. At the same time, one .45 caliber fired cartridge was found to have come from Mendoza’s .45 Colt Government pistol (standard) with SN
123034 while 2 (two) other .45 caliber fired cartridges were fired from another .45 caliber firearm, unknown.

The evidence log book shows that one (1) .45 caliber fired cartridge was collected from inside the bus while two (2) were found outside the bus. However, sixty five (65) 5.56 mm fired cartridges were collected from inside the bus, when only sixty two (62) were positively identified as having been fired from Mendoza’s M16A1. This means that three (3) 5.56 mm fired cartridges collected from the bus were not positively matched with Mendoza’s M16A1.

Another firearms examination report shows that nine (9) 5.56 mm fired cartridges were positively matched with a 5.56 mm Ferfrans SOAR rifle belonging to PO2 Leo Sabete of the MPD-SWAT sniper team, while one (1) came from an M16A1 rifle belonging to PO3 Cesario Martino of the same unit. The same report showed another batch of four (4) .45 cal. fired cartridges from one and the same .45 caliber firearm but not from Mendoza’s .45 Colt Government Pistol. A 9 mm fired cartridge came from PO2 Marlon Santos’s 9mm Beretta 92DS, another from the 9 mm Glock 17 of SPO4 Reynaldo Antonio. A bullet fragment was traced to the M16A1 Elisco rifle of PO3 Martin.

After the PNP-SOCO, the NBI conducted its own search of the crime scene and collected a number of additional specimens. Another firearm report shows that a deformed 5.56 mm copper jacket recovered at the wall of the bus toilet came from Mendoza’s M16A1. Another two (2) 9mm fired cartridges found at the front left side of the bus came from one and the same 9 mm. firearm. Two (2) 9 mm fired cartridges were fired from the Beretta 9 mm. pistol of PO3 Randy Eizaguirre. Several other specimens of metallic fragments and fired cartridges, including a round of .45 caliber ammunition, yielded negative results or were still undergoing examination.

Ocular ballistics examination of the bus show the following results:

Inside the Bus

  1. 19 entry bullet holes fired from the inside the bus;
  2. 2 exit bullet holes fired from the inside the bus;
  3. 6 entry bullet holes fired from the outside the bus; and
  4. 2 exit bullet holes fired from outside the bus

Outside the Bus

  1. 31 were entry bullet holes; and
  2. 12 were exit bullet holes.

The report deduced that for the shots fired from inside the bus that hit the windows, windshield, overhead compartment, and air vents have an upward trajectory. The shots that hit the seats and the wall have a downward trajectory with the exception of the bullet entry at Seat 10B which is upward.

A report dated September 13, 2010 submitted to the Hon Kong Police HQ – Organized Crime and Triad Bureau shows that a total of 62 impact bullet marks were found on the exterior of the bus. Among the 62 bullet impact marks, 32 were caused by bullets externally discharged and directed at the bus. Ten bullet impact marks on the exterior of the bus were identified to have been caused by bullets discharged from inside the bus. However, bullet impact marks could be higher because some glass panels of the bus were taken down and were not located and therefore could not be examined.

A total of fourteen (14) bullet fragments were still recovered by the Hong Kong Forensics Team that made an examination of the bus after the PNP SOCO examination. The report’s initial findings likewise state that the bullet fragments recovered from various origins were examined and that fragmentation was found on most items, especially those discharged by M16 rifles. Many contained no identifiable signatures and therefore unsuitable for ballistic examination. The examination of the fragments and casings continue to the present. However, as of the report, it was found that there is a consistency on rifling signatures between two bullet fragments in .45 caliber (Exhibits RM-9 and RM-8) to show that they may have been discharged from the same pistol. Cross matching on other fragments is continuing.

Return to main page of IIRC First report


Basis of authority and mandate of the IIRC

Summary of proceedings

Limitations of the report

Facts and sequence of events

Forensic findings

Critical incidents

Evaluation of CMC and police actions

Evaluation of media coverage


Conclusions on accountability



These parts of the report have not yet been made public by Malacañang, pending further review by the President's legal team (see statement above).


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