Loganatha Venkatesan and Others v Public Prosecutor
|Chao Hick Tin JA
|15 August 2000
| SGCA 42
|Criminal Appeal No 6 of 2000
|15 August 2000
|19 September 2003
|Luke Lee (Luke Lee & Co and N Kanagavijayan (K Krishna & Partners) (assigned)
| SGCA 42
|Bala Reddy, Anandan Bala and Peter Koy (Deputy Public Prosecutor),Palakrishnan and R Thrumurgan (Palakrishnan & Partners) (assigned),NK Rajah (Rajah Velu & Co and Nicholas Cheong (Lim Soo Peng & Co) (assigned)
|Court of Appeal (Singapore)
|Whether court must rule on whether credit of witness impeached,Whether trial judge's findings supportable,Criminal Procedure and Sentencing,Evidence,Whether such evidence should be accepted,Witnesses,s 122(5) Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68, 1985 Rev Ed),Findings of existence of conspiracy to commit murder,Impeaching witnesses’ credibility,Whether witness or accomplice's evidence to be treated with caution,Appeal,Use of accused's police statements,Admissibility of evidence,Whether court permission required for use of accused's police statements,Discrepancies in evidence of eye witness
(delivering the grounds of judgment of the court): Loganatha Venkatesan (`Venkatesan`) and Chandran s/o Rajagopal (`Chandran`) were charged for the murder of one Madavamani s/o Thuraisamy Thangavelu @ T Maniam (`Maniam`), a retired police inspector from the Criminal Investigation Department. Maniam was battered to death near his residence on 21 April 1999 at about 7am. Maniam`s widow, Julaiha Begum (`Julaiha`), was charged for abetting Venkatesan and Chandran in the commission of the offence by conspiring with them to murder her husband. All three of them were tried together and were convicted and sentenced to death. They appealed against their respective convictions. We dismissed their appeals and now give our reasons.
Julaiha`s first husband was one Abdul Kareem s/o Mohamed Shariff, and they have four children from that marriage: two sons and two daughters. They were divorced in 1981, and Julaiha had custody of the daughters, Sairah and Fairos, and the second son, while Abdul Kareem had custody of the elder son. At that time, Julaiha was living in a flat at Dover Crescent. Maniam came to know Julaiha at about this time and became very close to her. He subsequently moved in to live with her. Sairah and Fairos were then about five and eleven years old respectively. Maniam was himself married at that time. He later divorced his wife and married Julaiha in 1991. In the meantime, Julaiha sold her flat at Dover Crescent and moved into a terrace house at Jurong Kechil, which Maniam had purchased in his sole name. In 1993, Maniam sold that house and purchased 86 Phoenix Garden with Julaiha as the joint owner. In the same year, he retired from the police force and started his own security business. While Sairah and Fairos got along very well with Maniam, the relationship between the three of them and Julaiha was very strained. Their relationship began to deteriorate sometime in the mid-1990s and there were frequent domestic fights and quarrels in the household.
It was in those unsettled times in 1996 that Julaiha first came to know Venkatesan. Venkatesan lived a few houses away from 86 Phoenix Garden together with other Indian workers and he befriended Julaiha sometime in 1996. There was grave suspicion entertained by Maniam and his step-daughters that the two of them had an affair. Fairos claimed that she saw them behaving rather intimately towards each other. This was vehemently denied by both Venkatesan and Julaiha. On 28 October 1996, Maniam and the two sisters saw Julaiha and Venkatesan walking hand-in-hand in Teck Whye. This encounter ended with a scuffle between the two men. Venkatesan and Julaiha denied that they were holding hands and said that she met him at Teck Whye to collect some food which he had brought for her. The very next morning, Julaiha went to 86 Phoenix Garden to gather her belongings to move out of the house permanently. She was accompanied by her friend Sellamal, Sellamal`s daughter, and son-in-law, Moghan Perisamy (`Moghan`). Maniam refused to let Moghan into the house and a quarrel ensued between them. The police arrived and Moghan and Sellamal were advised to stay outside, while Julaiha was escorted into the house to collect her belongings. According to Sairah and Fairos, Julaiha threatened Maniam that she would `take care` of him before she left the house. After leaving the matrimonial home, Julaiha first stayed with Sellamal; so did Venkatesan. But eventually they rented two separate rooms in a flat at Block 325, Tah Ching Road. Their landlady was one Juliyah bte Ramlee (`Juliyah`).
Venkatesan took up a private summons against Maniam and the two sisters for the assault at Teck Whye and the case was heard in April 1998. Sairah and Fairos were acquitted, but Maniam was convicted and fined $500. Following that, Venkatesan commenced civil proceedings against Maniam claiming damages for the personal injuries he suffered from the incident. The matter remained pending at the time of Maniam`s death. Another outstanding matter was a private summons taken out by Venkatesan against Maniam arising from a later incident in which Venkatesan alleged that Maniam sent two men to beat him up. The summons was scheduled to be heard on 24 April 1999.
There was also a long-standing dispute between Maniam and Julaiha regarding the ownership of 86 Phoenix Garden. In March 1996, a negotiation for a settlement was conducted at the office of the lawyer, John Abraham, a friend of Maniam. Julaiha asked for 50% of the property but Maniam was only prepared to give her 40%. Julaiha rejected the offer. The matter was eventually taken to the High Court. On 18 November 1998, Tay Yong Kwang JC ordered the property to be sold no later than June 1999 and the proceeds of sale were to be apportioned between Maniam and Julaiha in the proportions of 80% to Maniam and 20% to Julaiha.
At about 7 am on 21 April 1999, Maniam left his house for work. As he walked towards his car which was parked outside the gates of a military compound diagonally opposite his house, he was viciously attacked by two men. At the end of the assault, Maniam collapsed outside the gates of his neighbour`s house at 71 Phoenix Garden, a short distance away from his car. He was pronounced dead at 7.25am.
Dr Teo Eng Swee, a pathologist with the Department of Scientific Services, testified that Maniam died from severe head injuries. In his opinion, there were at least four blows to the left side of the head, one to the right side, and one to the neck. The base of the skull was cracked from ear to ear. Part of Maniam`s right middle finger was amputated and this was described by Dr Teo as one of the various defensive injuries found on Maniam`s hands and arms. No other similar injuries were found on other parts of the body, thus suggesting that the assailants concentrated their attack mainly on the head. No murder weapon was recovered by the police.
The prosecution`s case
The prosecution`s case was that Venkatesan and Chandran attacked and killed Maniam while an accomplice waited in a get-away truck, and that Julaiha had abetted them in the commission of that offence by conspiring with them. The evidence which implicated Julaiha, Venkatesan and Chandran in the conspiracy was given by one Govindasamy Ravichandran (`Ravichandran`).
In so far as material, Ravichandran`s evidence was as follows. He knew Venkatesan and Chandran from his childhood days in an Indian village known as Pudukuppam. Ravichandran first came to know about their plan on 14 April 1999. Venkatesan and Chandran approached him and brought him to a quiet spot at a block of flats in Geylang Avenue East. Venkatesan said that he had a court case with Maniam and that he was unlikely to win, so they would have to `finish off that man [Maniam]`. This was understood by Ravichandran to mean that they were to kill Maniam. Chandran provided details of a previous attempt to kill Maniam. He told Ravichandran that Julaiha had earlier paid some men to kill Maniam, but the men ran away with the money without completing the task.
After that, Venkatesan and Chandran brought Ravichandran to meet Julaiha at the void deck near her rented premises at Block 325 Tah Ching Road. During this meeting, Julaiha told him to `finish that man [Maniam]`. Ravichandran expressed his reservations about carrying out the plan, since he was married with a one year old daughter. Julaiha assured him that she would pay him any amount he wanted and that once he `had finished off` the man, she would get the house and could sell it. She also said that since Venkatesan would be recognised in that area, as he used to live there, Ravichandran and Chandran were to attack Maniam instead. Ravichandran eventually acceded to her request after her repeated pleadings. The meeting ended at about 2.30am on 15 April.
In the evening of the same day, Venkatesan, Chandran, Ravichandran and another man referred to by Venkatesan as `Mani` met for drinks and thereafter they proceeded to 86 Phoenix Garden. There, Venkatesan pointed out to them the car which belonged to Maniam. He told them that Maniam would leave for work at about 6.30am and they could surprise him when he opened the boot of his car. He added that if Maniam did not die from a heart attack, they were to `beat him and finish him off`. According to Ravichandran, Venkatesan went to a field in Geylang East to pick up a broad bladed knife known in Tamil language as `aruval` and left it in the pick-up truck. Venkatesan told them that they were to carry out the plan the next morning on 16 April. After that, all of them rested in Chandran`s room at Changi Road.
The first attempt on Maniam`s life took place in the early hours of the morning on 16 April 1999. Four persons were involved: Venkatesan, Chandran, Ravichandran and Mani. After collecting a blue pick-up truck, all four of them arrived at Phoenix Garden and they stopped at some distance away from the house. There, Venkatesan told them to try and `finish off the man` and then left in a taxi. The other three remained in the truck and Mani drove to see if Maniam`s car was there and having done that he drove back to the original spot, and they waited. A short while later, Mani drove the truck nearer to Maniam`s house. Chandran told Ravichandran that he would go out and wait for Maniam, and that upon Chandran giving a signal indicating that Maniam was leaving the house, Ravichandran was to bring him an iron pipe. However, when Chandran eventually gave the signal, Ravichandran was too frightened to hand over the iron pipe. Instead he took the iron pipe and walked away from Maniam. In consequence, that attempt was aborted. After the first abortive attempt, Ravichandran began to have second thoughts about executing the plan and he decided to cheat them of their money instead, should they call upon him again.
On the following day, 18 April (which was a Sunday), Ravichandran met...
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