March 25, 2017

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by Lee Chin Wee

The North Korean saga in Malaysia is still playing out 33 days after the murder of a Kim family member. This is part two of our murder mystery novel.

 

MALAYSIA’S top cop wrung his hands. How many times did he have to say that the body lying in the morgue is Kim Jong Nam?

Heck, even if he isn’t to be trusted, just read the news. When every single media outlet from the New York Times to the Yonhap News Agency is saying the same damn thing… Yet those North Koreans have the gall to say otherwise. How would they know? They’re in Pyongyang. Did they think he didn’t know how to verify the identity of a corpse??

Back in the office from yet another media conference, the Inspector-General settled down to yet another cup of kopi. What was he to do about the two pesky North Koreans from the embassy? The jokers had tried to force their way into the KL morgue, much to the consternation of the security guards. How in the world was he going to interview them about the murder if they refuse to leave the compound? Or the 1,000 North Koreans still working in Malaysia – what if they’re sleeper agents who will now come out of the woodwork? Hopefully not, because the foreign ministry just issued a directive barring 315 of them from leaving Malaysia…

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The situation was deteriorating, and fast. For heavens’ sake, Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein even spoke to the media the week before about the possibility of war with North Korea. War! With a rogue nation armed to the teeth with nuclear and conventional weapons? Not the wisest of ideas.

The Inspector-General shook his head. He knew that the visa arrangement should never have been agreed to. North Korean elites are always trouble, let alone the first-born son of Kim Jong-il. He groaned. And what of the 11 Malaysians held hostage in Pyongyang? The foreign ministry had better act soon, or else a complete diplomatic crisis would be on the cards. These North Koreans are barbarians!

He burped as he briefly entertained the idea of sending in a SWAT team. The foreign affairs minister would throw a fit, but how dare the suspects hide in their embassy? The sheer gall of planning a murder on Malaysian soil, using chemical weapons in an airport waiting area, and then fleeing back to the embassy where police couldn’t reach them. His blood boiled. To hell with diplomatic immunity.

What a bloody mess. It was barely a month since the murder happened, but it sure didn’t feel that way.

The Inspector-General recalled how he’d been interrupted from his lunch break on Feb 13, with the call that someone had collapsed in the KL International Airport. He was incredulous at first, irritated that someone would bother him over a routine case of heart attack. But as the investigations proceeded apace, it soon became clear that this was much more than an open-and-shut case.

It seemed as if answers only begot more questions. How did the North Koreans manage to smuggle VX toxin into Malaysia? Why in the world was Kim murdered? Was the North Korean government involved? If they were, what was their degree of involvement? Were his murderers really tricked into killing him, as they claimed?

He sank back into his chair. Even the days managing security for the Bersih protests and the 2014 General Elections didn’t compare to this. Strange, wasn’t it. It was easier to make sure 100,000 protesters didn’t come to blows with the opposition, compared to investigating the murder of a single man.

His secretary rapped on his door, derailing his train of thought. “Uh Sir? Media here again. For the three o’clock update, they’ll need you in the press briefing room soon.”

I’m really not paid enough for this. Sighing, he made his way to the briefing room. The media is just going to ask the usual questions, I’ll give the usual answers, they’ll demand more answers as usual, and I’ll tell them that the case is still ongoing – as usual. Why do we even bother with this charade?

The press update, as expected, was more of the same. Yes, the body is Kim Jong Nam’s. Yes, he died of acute respiratory and heart failure. No, cause of death cannot yet be confirmed. Yes, we suspect it’s some sort of nerve agent. Yes, a group of individuals tried to break into the KL morgue last week; no, we can’t tell you who they are, but we know who is responsible.

“Inspector-General, Sir, how do you respond to the North Korean ambassador’s remarks that the ‘Malaysian police investigation cannot be trusted’?”

“The ambassador is entitled to his opinion. But my men are professional and competent, and it is disappointing to see their work being criticised when the North Koreans have given us nothing but trouble so far.” He rolled his eyes. He’d be glad to see the back of the ambassador – the man was mouthing off about the investigations almost every day.

Worst of all, he still had no idea what to do with the body. It’s got to end up somewhere, maybe buried six feet under or put in a deep freezer where the North Koreans can’t steal it. Why doesn’t his son just come and take the damn thing with him back to Macau? Or… maybe he shouldn’t.

One dead body is more than enough, thank you very much.

 

This article is part of a series on the murder of Mr Kim Jong Nam. Read the other piece here:

  1. Fact Fiction: A North Korean murder mystery

 

Featured image from TMG file.

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THIS week it’s all about ordinary people – and one President – getting into trouble.  Here’s what happened around the world:

1. Sandra Weir

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Image a screenshot from Google maps.

Sandra Weir, 41, has been a drug addict since her 20s and is willing to do just anything for it. She became close to her elderly neighbour, Mrs Marie Logie, and acted as an unofficial carer. That wasn’t her actual intention. To fund her drug habits, Weir had been stealing significant amounts of cash from the 82-year-old. On Jan 5, 2016, Mrs Logie was found dead in the living room of her first floor flat in Leven. The victim had been attacked with a rolling pin, leaving multiple fractures on her skull and 31 other injuries on the head and neck. Judge Michael O’Grady described the way Mrs Logie was killed as “breathtakingly wicked” and “nothing can diminish the callous and cruel and utterly heartless nature of this crime”. Weir was sentenced to jail for a minimum of 21 years.

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2. President Yahya Jammeh

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Image a screenshot from Google maps.

After 22 long years of ruling the country, President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia is finally defeated. The results of the election poll last month showed that Mr Adama Barrow won the election with 43.3 per cent votes compared to Mr Jammeh who only had 39.6 per cent votes in total. Mr Barrow insists that he will become president on Jan 19 once Mr Jammeh’s term expires but the latter refuses to accept the fact that he lost. Mr Jammeh said he wants to remain in the office until the Supreme Court annuls the poll. He added that the poll was marred by irregularities and demanded a new one. Nigerian MPs have voted to give Mr Jammeh asylum if he accepts the defeat and gives up his power. Nigeria’s House of Representatives agreed that Mr Buhari should offer Mr Jammeh a “safe haven” in Nigeria instead of sending troops to remove him from power, which could lead to Gambians fleeing to neighbouring states. Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari will be visiting Mr Jammeh on Friday (Jan 13) to make this deal.

 

3. Robert Xie

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Image a screenshot from Google maps.

Robert Xie, 53, has been found guilty of killing five family members back in 2009 in Sydney. The five were his brother-in-law Min Lin, Mr Lin’s wife Lily, their sons Henry, 12, and Terry, 9, and Mrs Lin’s sister Irene. The New South Wales Supreme court heard that Xie killed the five using a hammer-like weapon at around 2 am in the family’s home. The reason he did it? It was out of jealousy. Xie resented Mr Lin for he was constantly perceived as the better businessman within the extended family. Two years later,  Xie was charged with murder after the police forensics found blood stains in his garage, with four out five DNAs that matched the victims.

in the second trial, the judge took into consideration of going with the majority verdict of 11 to one when the jury failed to reach a unanimous decision. A jury in a separate trial last year failed to reach a verdict while two other trials were aborted due to legal reasons. Xie did not give any evidence at all of his trials and was supported by his wife.

 

4. Yang

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Image a screenshot from Google maps.

A 92-year-old woman known as Yang was kept in a 10-sq-metre cell which resembles a pigsty for the longest time. It was first reported by papers in the southern Guangxi region and later went viral as Chinese social media users brought it online. Local social media user “Pretty Nan Gualan” posted a video of Yang sitting by a cage door on Miaopai. Ever since the video was uploaded on Jan 6, it has a total of 1.8 million views. Angry netizens brought this video to popular microblog Sina Weibo to voice their outrage. People used the hashtag #92YearOldKeptInPigsty to create attention and even called the people who kept Yang in there, her son and daughter-in-law, “beasts” and “scum”. On Jan 10, Southern Morning Post uploaded a picture of Yang’s condition who looked malnourished. She’s currently treated at a local hospital.

 

5. Petra Laszlo

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Image a screenshot from Google maps.

Camerawoman Petra Laszlo was filming refugees in Sept 2015 as they fled through a police cordon near the Hungary-Serbia border. She was caught on film kicking two people including a young girl as they were trying to flee as well as tripping a man who was carrying his child. Laszlo has been sentenced to three years probation for disorderly conduct. Judge Illes Nanasi rejected her defence lawyer’s argument who said that she was just trying to protect herself. But Laszlo has said that she would appeal. She made an appearance at the Szeged District Court hearing via video link and occasionally broke down. Since the day that the incident happened, she has been receiving death threats and subjected to the “hate campaign”. Right-wing TV channel N1TV also fired her after the footage of her conducting the acts went viral.

 

 

Compiled by Iffah Nadhirah Osman

Featured image Earth by Flickr user Kevin GillCC BY-SA 2.0

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HE COULDN’T keep this promise to swear off swear words – but honestly, did anyone believe he would? Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte’s profanities against the United States have become his trademark now – and his latest remarks show he just can’t help himself. Here’s what he said, and other quote-worthy nuggets from this morning’s headlines:

 

“Son of a bitch, we have many home-made guns here. These American fools.”

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte is shooting his mouth off again – this time, over the United States’ decision not to sell 26,000 rifles to the country because it was concerned over human rights violations. Less than a week ago, he said he had promised God he would spew expletives again.

Read more about what he said here.

 

“We wanted a partnership that could build on the legacy which we have built sachet by sachet.”

That’s Mr Darren Teo, executive director of Super Group, who has received a $1.45 billion buyout offer from Jacobs Douwe Egberts, a Dutch beverage giant. This is the biggest buyout offer this year, higher than the $1.8 billion bid from Temasek Holdings to take over SMRT. Super Group is one of Singapore’s best-known three-in-one coffee-mix makers.

Read more about deal here.

 

“The country voted to leave the European Union. And the government is determined to respect the result of the referendum.”

The British government under Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday pledged to uphold the Brexit result, after a shock ruling that said Article 50 could only be triggered by Parliament. Although the decision is not likely to overturn the referendum, it’s expected to delay Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Read more about the court ruling here.

 

“If we go through this, we’ll live together. If we die, we die together.”

In court, prosecutors are still trying their case against former BSI banker Yeo Jiawei for his role in the 1MDB saga. Mr Samuel Goh Sze-Wei said yesterday that Yeo had urged him to lie to the authorities to explain certain fund flows between various shell companies that were linked to 1MDB.

Read more about the case here.

 

“As a man, who would allow his wife to have an affair with another man? Who would not be angry?”

But was he angry enough to commit murder? That was 56-year-old businessman Chia Kee Chen, who is on trial for murdering his wife’s former lover in 2013. Chia, who has a second wife in Indonesia, had confessed to attacking the victim but now claims he gave the statement under duress while in police custody.

Read more about the love-triangle murder here.

 

Featured image from TMG file.

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by Wan Ting Koh

IT HAPPENED late on a Saturday night all the way into the early hours of the next morning in May six years ago. Four men began a robbery spree in Kallang which ended up with one man dead and three others grievously injured.

Of the four, the duo most recently sentenced after being convicted of murder had their cases escalated to the Court of Appeal yesterday (Sep 5).

These two men are Micheal Garing, 28, and Tony Imba, 37, both from Sarawak, who were found guilty of murder in January 2014 and then sentenced on April 20 last year. Micheal was sentenced to death while Tony was sentenced to life imprisonment with caning.

Their accomplice, Hairee Landak, 26, who was originally charged with murder, has been convicted of armed robbery with grievous hurt and was jailed for 33 years and given 24 strokes of the cane in 2013. He later turned against his accomplices to take the stand as a prosecution witness.

The last member of the gang, Donny Meluda, 24, remains at large.

The four victims included construction workers Sandeep Singh, 27, and Egan Karrupaiah, 46. Mr Ang Jun Heng, 22, then a national serviceman was also hurt. The deceased is 41-year-old Indian construction worker Shanmuganathan Dillidurai, whose body was found in an open field next to a Kallang condominium.

We pieced together the different media reports to see what happened during the robbery and in the Apex court:

The robbery

At about 11pm the fateful night on May 29, 2010, the gang of four went on a robbery spree, acting as if they were on a safari, Justice Choo Han Teck said in his written judgement delivered in 2014.

“The attacks took place as if the gang were on a safari, hunting down one prey at a time, using the same method to trap and harm their victims,” he said.

Tony would begin the attack, then the others followed, including Micheal, armed with a parang. The victim would then be robbed.

As for the weapon, Micheal claimed on the stand that he had found a parang, measuring 58cm long with a 46.5cm blade, at a friend’s place at Geylang. It belonged to someone named “Boy” at one of the beds there, he said. However, it was Tony who came up with the idea of committing robbery, and it was also Tony who initiated attacks on all four victims, Micheal claimed.

Micheal admitted that he was the only one who used his parang on three victims, Mr Ang, Mr Sandeep and Mr Egan, when they retaliated. Mr Sandeep was hit on the head with a brick and slashed, Mr Ang had half of his left palm chopped off and Mr Egan had parts of his fingers sliced off.

However, Micheal said he was not alone in slashing their last victim, Mr Shanmuganathan, who later died with 20 external injuries, including a skull fracture, a slash on the neck that severed his jugular vein, a wound in his back so deep that his shoulder blade was cracked and a severed hand.

Micheal testified that after they left the scene of the crime, Tony snatched the parang from him and returned to the field where Mr Shanmuganathan was lying. He did not see what Tony did, nor did he ask further questions.

Tony, on the other hand, pushed the blame to Micheal. He claimed he had never laid his hands on the parang. He had not even want weapons to be used, and had said so before the gang left their friend’s house at Geylang.

He admitted he was the one who had kicked Mr Shanmuganathan off his bicycle, causing him to be pinned under it. Afterwards, Micheal came forward to step on his bicycle and swing the parang at the victim several times.

Mr Shanmuganathan managed to kick off his bicycle and tried to run away and Tony chased after him to rob him, but Micheal reached him first and started attacking him, said Tony.

However, the prosecution contended after Tony kicked the deceased victim off his bicycle, he held him in an arm lock as Micheal delivered the fatal blow to his neck.

Accomplice Hairee Landak, a former cleaner, also took the stand during the October trial to testify that Tony had elbowed Mr Shanmuganathan while he was cycling. When the victim tried to escape, Tony dragged him to a grassy area before Micheal came forward and slashed him with a parang.

Hairee said he had punched Mr Shanmuganathan, but only looked on when Micheal later attacked him with the weapon. Tony and Micheal then took the victim’s wallet and mobile phone and the group later walked to a friend’s home at Syed Alwi Road in Little India to clean up, he said.

 

The sentence

Micheal was sentenced to the gallows while Tony was sentenced to life imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane in April 2015.

In his written judgement delivered then, Justice Choo said that “Tony Imba’s culpability in this case is still significantly less than Micheal Garing’s which in his view is “sufficiently different to be sentenced to life imprisonment rather than to suffer death”.

He pointed out that the fact that Tony did not use a weapon was important and that fatal wounds were inflicted by Tony, neither was there evidence to show that he “ever wielded the weapon to cause deadly injuries”.

While Micheal is appealing his death sentence, the prosecution on the other hand is appealing for Tony to be given the noose.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Anandan Bala argued that Justice Choo’s judgement had placed “undue emphasis” on the fact that Tony was not using the parang. He argued that Tony was “in sync with Micheal” in his motivations to employ considerable violence on their victims, according to TODAY.

“When Tony decided to embark on the final attack [on Mr Shanmuganathan], he had seen what Micheal had done earlier. [Tony] was one mind with Micheal,” said Mr Anandan.

He said that Justice Choo had failed to give weight to the fact that Tony had “actively participated” in a series of “extremely brutal attacks”, which ended with the death of Mr Shanmuganathan. Tony was the one who ambushed the victims, and had restrained Mr Shanmuganathan, making him vulnerable to Micheal’s attacks.

The Court of Appeal has yet to deliver its judgement.

 

Featured image by Natassya Diana.

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by Andrea Wang

WHEN the words “maid”, “kills”, and “employer” make the news, most people assume it’s the maid who’s done the killing.

Not in this most recent case, where employers of 24-year-old maid, Piang Ngaih Don, were charged for her murder last Thursday (July 28), after the Myanmar maid was found dead in a Bishan flat.

The suspects are mother and daughter, Prema S Naraynasamy and Gaiyathiri Murugayan. Court documents available to the media don’t reveal how she was killed, or the extent of her injuries.

If Ms Piang’s employers are found guilty of murder, they face life imprisonment or the death penalty.

We tried to find out if there had been similar cases in the past five years, but our search turned up nothing. Instead, we found that since 2014, there were at least five high-profile incidents of a maid charged with killing her employer, or a family member of her employer.

Just two months ago, in June, an Indonesian maid was charged with murder, after killing her employer Madam Seow Kim Choo and slashing her husband’s neck with a knife.

A month before that, a maid was charged with culpable homicide after a one-year-old child in her care was found unconscious with bruises.

In 2014, there was also the case of the brutal murder of socialite Nancy Gan, whose maid swung her head against a wall before pushing her unconscious body into a swimming pool. She was sentenced to 18 years in jail.

Then there was this maid. And, this maid. Both involved the killing of mothers-in-law.

Stories of maid deaths that we found usually were related to deaths by falling. They fell while cleaning windows, committed suicide, or merely slipped. In 2012, 10 maids fell to their deaths while cleaning windows.

 

Featured image from TMG file.

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Black clock showing 8.30

IT’S Monday and it will be a tough day for those who stayed up to watch the finals of the Euro 2016 earlier this morning. For those who stayed in bed, well, Portugal beat France, with a goal in extra-time. They confounded all expectations, especially since Cristiano Ronaldo was stretchered off in the first half and the French were playing on home ground.The victory ended Portugal’s run of 10 straight defeats against France, who had eliminated them in the semi-finals at Euro 1984, Euro 2000 and the 2006 World Cup.

By the way, there was a strange pitch invasion during the game. Not by fans, but moths! (You can see the moth invasion here.)

The big local story is about a climate change plan for Singapore with MSM leading with how the G is coming up with a “heat stress information system” by the end of the year to help people plan outdoor activities, much like health advisories during the haze. There isn’t much more information on this, although TODAY says that measures on preventing heat exhaustion such as sponging with cold water and wearing loose-fitting, heat-permeable and light-coloured clothing will be listed.

Let’s hope there’s more than just common sense information in the system, including how to keep the aircon bill down in the heat.

The audacious Caucasian bank robber is still at large, it seems, but police had better luck apprehending a suspect for the death of a 26-year-old in Yishun. It’s a 20-year-old unemployed man who seemed to have been stalked by the victim. Another death, of a 52-year-old man in Geylang, has been classified as murder.

On the issue of dying, the Samaritans of Singapore wants to study recent suicide data because the last big research based on 2000 to 2004 statistics might not be relevant anymore.

Said its executive director Christine Wong yesterday: “The information gathered from the population then may no longer describe more recent suicide deaths or be applicable in accounting for the issues faced by distressed individuals struggling with suicidal thoughts presently.”

Between 2010 and 2014, there was an average of 400 suicides and 1,000 attempted suicides each year.

Here’s some more data to chew on: More than 62,000 police cameras have been installed in all 10,000 Housing and Development Board (HDB) blocks and multi-storey car parks. The next stage involves setting them up in town centres, hawker centres and linkways to bus and train stations. Electronic eyes have already been installed in Ang Mo Kio and Bedok town centres, as well as Jurong Gateway, and another 11,000 more will go up in 2,500 locations.

Are they any good at all? According to TODAY, police said that as of May, 2,300 video clips from the cameras provided useful leads to help the police solve more than 1,100 cases, including unlicensed moneylending, theft, and outrage of modesty.

By the way, you can expect to hear about misbehaving lifts today because Parliament will be discussing them.

 

Featured image by Najeer Yusof.

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Watch, 08:30

FOUR people, part of a larger group of Bangladeshi workers arrested earlier this year, pleaded guilty to financing terrorism yesterday (May 31). They were charged under the Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) Act – invoked for the first time since the statute was enacted in 2002.

Back between March and April, a total of eight were arrested; two said that they would contest the charges and the remaining two were apparently not implicated under the same charges. The group’s leader, Rahman Mizanur, 31, had wanted to travel to Syria but failed three times to get a visa. So, he decided to put together a cell group here.

So how much money were they collecting? $1,000 – which apparently they thought would buy them firearms and food to stage a religious coup in their home country. Well, now they’ll pay. Each of the four will go to jail for up to 10 years and possibly fined $500,000 or more. Sentencing is on June 21.

A thousand dollars is nothing, if you compare it to the $1.1 million pocketed by Yang Yin, the former tour guide who was convicted of 120 charges yesterday. These were charges not related to the $1.1 million but for falsifying company receipts to help him get permanent residency status here.

For cheating an elderly widow out of her fortune, the 42-year-old will return to court on June 23 in a separate trial. Read more about the case in court yesterday in our story here.

What else? An Indonesian maid was sentenced to 18 years in jail yesterday for murdering her socialite boss, who apparently provoked her by threatening to dock her pay. She also called the maid stupid and hit her head with a back of a plastic tray.

Because she was supposed to use the silver tray. Not the plastic tray, stupid.

Well, the maid didn’t take that too well. She bashed her employer’s head against the wall and dumped her in her own swimming pool while she was still alive.

 

Featured image from TMG file. 

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Numbers related to crime stats.

by Lionel Ong 

THERE has been a spate of bizarre crime reports over the past week – in one such report, a staring incident escalated into a murder. We round up the interesting numbers (and sordid details) of these crimes for you:


$350,000

That’s how much, in Singapore dollars, the kidnappers of a 28-year-old man and his brother demanded in exchange for the captives’ survival. The man’s fiancé was contacted by an unknown Malaysian number on Monday demanding a ransom of US$250,000 (S$350,000) for the release of her fiancé. Thankfully, no lives were lost and no money was delivered as the police managed to nab the culprits two days later. On Wednesday, eight men were arrested in relation to this case. Of the eight, four Malaysians were arrested in Penang. The other four were Singaporeans. [Channel NewsAsia]


73 Years Old

That was the age of the oldest man arrested as part of the police’s anti-loan sharking operations conducted between Monday and Wednesday this week. Apparently, ah gong was not content with lolling on his bed or playing Chinese chess in the void deck. The police did not give any information regarding the 73-year-old man’s role, but he was one out of over a 100 others that were arrested as part of the sweep. The youngest suspect was 17 years old.  [TODAY]


125

The total number of suspects that were arrested during the police’s anti-loan shark sweep. Out of the 125, about a quarter of them were women. Among those arrested were harassers and runners – and it appears that most of the transactions were typically done through the use of the Automated Teller Machine (ATM). [TODAY]


50 and 37 

An old man stares at a younger man in a coffee shop. Cut to: one man gruesomely killing the other – but it’s the older, 50-year-old man who’s the murderer. The incident took place at Hougang Avenue 3 Blk 23, where the 37-year-old man had wanted to buy a drink. However, he seemed unhappy that the drink stall had a self-service policy. After confronting the shop assistant, he caught the older man staring at him. The older man, who was an off-duty employee of the drink stall, was obviously displeased with what he saw, because he ended up killing the 37-year-old by stabbing him in the neck. The 50-year-old man was arrested on Thursday morning. [The Straits Times]


6 Hours

How long does it take to catch a snatch thief? In a recent incident that happened on Wednesday, it apparently takes no more than seven hours. At 10am, a 68-year-old woman reported that her handbag had been snatched at Toa Payoh by an unknown man. Upon the receipt of the report, the police conducted a follow-up investigation, established the identity of the suspect, and nabbed the 42-year-old man at about 4pm. The police seems to think six hours is pretty fast, how about you?


If you want to see more articles summarising the week’s events in numbers, be sure to tell us via email.

Featured image by Najeer Yusof.

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Grey and red clock showing 8.30

NEXT Sunday, on Feb 28, head downtown but leave your cars at home. You won’t need them. It will be the G’s first Car-Free Sunday initiative where several roads in the CBD will be closed off to traffic. Most, like St Andrew’s Road and part of Stamford Road, will be closed only in the morning until noon; Connaught Drive will remain closed until 7pm.

Expect lots of activities, including yoga and workout sessions, walking tours, and street performances out in the open. What not to expect: A seat on the MRT when you’re heading home.

Car-Free Sunday is part of the G’s push to encourage more Singaporeans to use public transport. It will take place on the last Sunday of each month, until July.

Fewer cars, but more engineers and lawyers please.

The G said yesterday that it will hire an extra 1,000 engineers this year, about 13 per cent more than it did last year. As for lawyers, it is hoping for more people to practise as family and criminal lawyers, as we don’t have as many compared to other types of lawyers. The practice of family and criminal law has a reputation for being far more stressful but not paying as well.

The new lawyers will come from the UNISim Law School, which has reserved 80 per cent of its 60 first-intake students for mature students with legal, police or social work experience. Applications open next month and classes are scheduled to start in January next year. This is Singapore’s third law school.

Speaking of the law, a few interesting cases in court yesterday.

First, the Norwegian man involved in a fight with a cabby who was jailed 10 weeks had his sentence reduced to a $2,000 fine after it came out that the cabby had started the fight first. Sucks for him because he’s actually already served more than half the original sentence before his case was sent back to the courts for the initial sentence to be quashed.

Then, there’s this case in which a 71-year-old man was cleared of murder yesterday. Instead of facing possible death or life imprisonment, Govindasamy Nallaiah’s maximum sentence is now 10 years and a fine. The man had hit his former lawyer’s wife on the head with a bicycle chain and padlock and set fire to the lawyer’s office in 2011. Although the woman died, the judge said that the prosecution did not prove that Govindasamy had the intention to cause death or injury. Instead he was found guilty of a lesser charge – a rarely invoked provision that does not require the prosecution to prove such an intent.

 

Featured image by Najeer Yusof.

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Courtroom One Gavel from Flickr

by Wan Ting Koh

SO, IN a rare case before the courts, someone was actually dealt the mandatory death penalty. What’s worse, that someone was a policeman, Iskandar Rahmat, who abused his official status and his investigation know-how to dupe a 67-year-old to part with the belongings in a safe deposit box before killing the old man – and his 42-year-old son.

Justice Tay Yong Kwang went over what is known as the Kovan murders, listing all of its horrifying details as well as where the prosecution and the defence differed on the facts, before he handed down the sentence. He did not believe Iskandar’s assertions of self-defence nor that he had merely wanted to do a grab-and-run. In fact, he rubbished Iskandar’s supposed getaway plan as “inane”.

It was the great acting and meticulous planning on Iskandar’s part on July 10,2013, that, among other things, made the judge doubt the 36-year-old divorcee’s version of what later happened at Mr Tan Boon Sin’s Hillside Drive house, where the killings took place. The judge said that the grab-and-run plan “involved so many contingencies that only a very foolish prospective thief would adopt it”. Iskandar had said he had planned to grab the bag of valuables, get out of the house, sprint past several buildings and hail a cab. In broad daylight.

“The accused did not appear to me to be such a foolish person. He would not have come up with such an inane plan. He claimed in court that he was going to take things as they happened, improvising along the way…His attitude about his escape plan after the intended theft stood in stark contrast to the meticulous planning that he made for the charade with Mr Tan Boon Sin earlier that day.”

The charade involved paraphernalia such as a dummy CCTV camera for Mr Tan to put into his safe deposit box in anticipation of a supposed burglary Iskandar had warned him about, an anti-snoring wristlet and the cut-off part of a ear piece to make it seem like he had a walkie-talkie. He even lifted his wrist to utter phrases such as “Roger, explaining to him.” His plan included renting a car, giving Mr Tan an incomplete licence plate of the car, identifying himself as “Rahman” and flashing his warrant card.

Iskandar admitted to the attempted burglary and killing the two men. But the judge noted consistencies in his story about what happened when he and Mr Tan got to the house after taking the valuables out of Certis Cisco. You can read our reports on the trial here.

If his intention was merely to grab the valuables and run, he had many opportunities to do so but didn’t. He even went out of the house to smoke for five minutes instead of dashing off with the bag, especially since the outer gates were opened for him. The judge described this as “unbelievable”.

Then there was the picture Iskandar painted of the elder Mr Tan attacking him first with a knife purportedly taken from the kitchen when he discovered he had been duped. The judge did not think the elder Mr Tan even suspected he was being conned at all. “I do not believe that Mr Tan flew into a rage or that he was armed with the knife. In the first place, he could not have found out that the camera was a fake. I also cannot accept that he would want to hurt the accused with a dangerous weapon in his own house just because he found out that he had been tricked. After all, his money was still with him and the police was only a telephone call away,” Justice Tay said.

The judge also did not think that the younger Mr Tan Chee Heong, who had been contacted by his father, was the aggressor. He wasn’t agitated and was behaving normally when he told colleagues he had to go home. Possibly, he thought he had to go over English documents for his father. It was natural for Mr Tan to be “shocked and alarmed to see his father covered in blood and being lowered onto the floor”. Even if Mr Tan did charge at Iskandar with clenched fists, he was “doing no more than trying to protect his father or apprehend the apparent assailant”. If there was any right of private defence to be exercised, it belonged to Mr Tan, not to Iskandar, the judge added.

Iskandar’s version of his escape in the elder Mr Tan’s Toyota Camry was also questionable, especially his account of adjusting the side mirror on the passenger side which Iskandar said had been knocked askew. More likely, he was following the younger Mr Tan who had staggered out of the house and left a blood stain on the mirror when he knew he had to account for. It was, said the judge, “highly unlikely that an allegedly frantic person who just realised that he had killed two men and who was trying to make his escape would be so concerned about road safety that he would first adjust the side mirror of the car”.

But the judge accepted that Iskandar did not run over Mr Tan, who had collapsed in the driveway, “nonchalantly” as the prosecution put it, when he sped off in the Camry. “Clearly, he would be anxious to drive away from [the] house and there was no other way to do that except to run over Mr Tan’s body as it was in the path of the car,” he said. The car was merely a “means of escape” and not a “mean murder machine”, Justice Tay concluded.

As for the knife, which was never found, Iskandar appeared to be clear – or rather too clear – about its appearance and detailing. Yet this was a knife he said he had never seen before and which was coated with blood. Then Iskandar tried to modify his description when witnesses testified that there were no such serrated knives in the house, the judge noted.

The elder Mr Tan had 12 stab wounds and 15 incised wounds. These included five wounds to the neck, seven to the chest and nine to the face and scalp. His son had seven stab wounds and 13 incised wounds. A stab wound about 7cm to 8cm deep on the right side of his neck likely caused his death. He also had extensive grazes on the face, trunk and limbs, which were consistent with wounds caused by being dragged along the road by the car.

The judge put in a word for the police when he sentenced Iskandar who remained expressionless throughout. “They were totally unbiased and professional in their investigations despite the fact that the accused was also a police officer.”

Family members on both sides were present in court. There was a brother-and-sister pair from the Tans and three relatives of Iskandar, who were allowed 20 minutes to speak to him. Iskandar’s lawyer, Mr Shashi Nathan, told reporters that Iskandar intends to appeal against the sentence.

 

Featured image Courtroom One Gavel by Flickr user Beth Cortez-Neavel. CCO 1.0.

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