Covid-19 researcher who studied in Singapore shot dead in US
His former NUS professor slams claims on news and social media about his death as 'pure falsehoods'
A research assistant professor who studied in Singapore was found dead with multiple gunshot wounds at his home in the United States last Saturday.
The University of Pittsburgh said Dr Bing Liu, who was attached to its computational and systems biology department, was close to making "very significant findings" into the new coronavirus before his death.
This has sparked speculation his murder might have been an assassination, and conspiracy theories have popped up.
Police officials have dismissed such notions and classified the case as murder-suicide.
In a statement to The New Paper, the Ross Township Police Department said Dr Liu, 37, a Chinese national, was found with bullet wounds to the head, neck, torso and extremities.
An acquaintance, software engineer Hao Gu, 46, is believed to have shot Dr Liu before killing himself with a gunshot wound to the head in his car nearby.
Investigators believe that Mr Gu and Dr Liu had "a lengthy dispute regarding an intimate partner" before the shooting.
Since both men were not US citizens, the investigation has been handed to federal authorities to review.
The police said: "We have found zero evidence this tragic event has anything to do with... any work being conducted at the University of Pittsburgh and the current health crisis."
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said Dr Liu's wife was not home at the time of the shooting. They do not have children.
Reportedly an only child whose parents are still living in China, Dr Liu moved to Pittsburgh about six years ago.
He has a bachelor's and a doctorate in computer science from the National University of Singapore (NUS).
In a statement on its website, the University of Pittsburgh said: "Bing was on the verge of making very significant findings towards understanding the cellular mechanisms that underlie SARS-CoV-2 infection and the cellular basis of the following complications.
"We will make an effort to complete what he started in an effort to pay homage to his scientific excellence. His loss will be felt throughout the entire scientific community."
Dr Liu's murder comes amid the US government's accusations that the coronavirus had originated in a laboratory in China.
China had previously accused the US army of having brought the virus to Wuhan city, ground zero of the pandemic.
So conspiracy theories about Dr Liu's death are hardly surprising, with users on Chinese social media platform Weibo and US-based microblogging site Twitter insinuating that it was an assassination.
One Weibo user wrote: "This seems like it's coming straight out of Mission Impossible. Perhaps he found out that the virus originated from an American lab."
Others suggested he was assassinated by the Chinese because he was about to find out the virus was made in China.
Neither scenario holds much weight, as Dr Liu's research was not focused on the origin of the virus but on its cellular interactions and effects.
NUS computer science professor David Hsu, who supervised Dr Liu during his time here, slammed these claims.
"Much has been written in the news media, and even more is available on social media with salacious and sensational details. Most are pure falsehoods," he told TNP last night.
"Here is the truth that I can share with you: It's an unspeakable shock and tragedy to his family and to me."
Prof Hsu said NUS is proud to have Dr Liu as an alumnus, calling him a bright researcher who was self-effacing and always ready to help others. He had a loving and happy family and a great future ahead of him.
"Sadly, all these have been cut short by this senseless violence," Prof Hsu said.
"I find it hard to accept that such an exceptional human has departed this way."