North Korea prisoner Otto Warmbier showed no signs of torture - US coroner

Parents of Otto Warmbier, 22, claimed that their son was tortured in Pyongyang, when he was arrested for attempting to steal a propaganda poster. According to US coroner, his body was in 'excellent conidition'

28 September 2017, 8:32am
Otto Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years hard labour in Pyongyang (Photo: the Telegraph)
Otto Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years hard labour in Pyongyang (Photo: the Telegraph)
A US coroner has said that the body of Otto Warmbier, the American student who died just days after being released from North Korea in a coma, displayed no obvious signs of torture, despite claims by his parents, that he was mistreated in captivity.

President Donald Trump has also repeated that claim, insisting in tweets that the "brutal regime" in Pyongyang had tortured Mr Warmbier "beyond belief". 

Lakshmi Sammarco, coroner in Ohio, maintained that the 22-year-old, who was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labour whilst visiting North Korea, had died from a lack of oxygen and blood to the brain but could not explain what caused the neurological condition.

“We don’t know what happened to him, and this is the bottom line”, said Sammarco, adding that the cause of death may never be discovered.

Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginia, was convicted of trying to steal a propaganda poster from a Pyongyang hotel in March 2016, was sentenced to 15 years hard labour, but was freed on 15 June.

He returned to the US in a coma, and died just four days later.

According to parents Fred and Cindy Warmbier, their son showed signs of torture, including teeth that appeared to have “rearranged” and disfigured hands and feet.

“They kidnapped Otto, they tortured him, they intentionally injured him. They are not victims, they are terrorists”, Fred Warmbier said on Fox and Friends.

He went on to say that his son’s mouth “looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth”.

However, in a report dated 11 September, Sammarco's office concluded that the victim had been starved of oxygen as a result of "an unknown insult more than a year prior to death", the Associated Press reported.

She also dismissed suggestions of torture. "We believe that for somebody who had been bedridden for more than a year, that his body was in excellent condition, that his skin was in excellent condition", she said.

North Korea has denied that the 22-year-old student was tortured and claims that he became comatose two months after his arrest as a result of contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill.

Warmbier’s parents had refused to allow an autopsy to be carried out.

The US has banned its nationals from travelling to North Korea, claiming that they face serious risks to their personal safety.

However, three Americans accused of various crimes against the state, remain behind bars in North Korea, which is currently engaged in a tense stand-off with the Trump administration, over its nuclear and ballistic missiles programmes.