It is Yoo’s body, police reconfirmAuthorities investigating Yoo Byung-eun, the late patriarch of the family behind the doomed Sewol ferry, reconfirmed yesterday that the body found on June 12 near his secret villa in Suncheon, South Jeolla, was his.
The identification was made using DNA samples and dental records.
The police added that Yoo’s DNA was also found on the liquor bottles, food and seeds strewn around the crime scene, which supported the confirmation.
“No evidence was found to prove that Yoo was murdered,” Baek Seung-ho, the chief of the South Jeolla Provincial Police Agency, said at a briefing yesterday. “His clothes did not have any traces of impact or damage by weapons.”
He added that there is some speculation that Yoo may have died from hypothermia, though the exact cause of his death has not been determined yet. Investigators have concluded that Yoo died at least 10 days before his body was found, given the condition of the grass where it lay.
After Yoo’s residence was ransacked by the prosecution on May 25, he is believed to have fled on his own without any assistance from the adherents of his Evangelical Baptist Church, the religious sect the maritime tycoon had founded in the 1960s with his father-in-law.
All those who assisted him on his run belonged to the church, better known as Guwonpa, or the Salvation Sect.
One of Yoo’s secretaries, identified only as Shin, 33, who was arrested during the seizure in May, told authorities that he had already left the villa days ago, when he was, in fact, hiding in a secret refuge inside the residence.
The investigation lasted nearly a month after the body was found in the orchard before it was first identified as Yoo on July 22.
Police combed the vicinity around the orchard, employing 3,800 man-days, where they found a liquor bottle, a fertilizer bag and a water bottle that were suspected to have belonged to the elderly businessman.
Those findings, however, did not reveal any clues about his last moments.
The police also acquired CCTV footage of a man suspected to be Yoo, though the National Forensic Service failed to determine whether it was him because the resolution was too poor.
Yesterday, the Incheon District Court set bail conditions for two suspects alleged to have helped in Yoo’s escape, the 61-year-old owner of the villa in Suncheon, surnamed Byun, and his 56-year-old wife, surnamed Jeong, who were arrested and detained on charges of aiding a fugitive.
The court set bail for the two at 10 million won ($9,823) each.
Bail for four other suspects - including Shin and a 58-year-old woman, surnamed Kim, thought to have orchestrated Yoo’s escape - was rejected by the court, which judged that they might destroy evidence and posed a flight risk.
Bail requests were submitted when the body found in Suncheon was identified last month as the elder Yoo.
Other key aides, including Yoo’s chauffeur Yang Hoe-jeong, 55, who turned themselves in at the end of July, are still being investigated but not detained.
BY KIM BONG-MOON [email@example.com]
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