Prasong Bunsom and Others v Public Prosecutor

JudgeKarthigesu JA
Judgment Date21 August 1995
Neutral Citation[1995] SGCA 65
Date21 August 1995
Subject MatterWhether mere driver of getaway car could be made liable for murder,Relevance of each member's intention,Property,Robbery and gang robbery,Offences,Evidence,Whether sufficient to sustain conviction of accused,Proof of evidence,Confession of co-accused,s 30 Evidence Act (Cap 97, 1990 Ed),Criminal Law,Gang robbery with murder,Elements,Confessions,s 396 Penal Code (Cap 224)
Docket NumberCriminal Appeal No 12 of 1995
Published date19 September 2003
Defendant CounselMuhd Hidhir and Wong Choon Ning (Deputy Public Prosecutors),Wee Pan Lee and Christine Lim (Wee Tay & Lim),Aqbal Singh (Aqbal Singh & Pnrs) and Sukdave Singh (Sukdave Sharma & Pnrs)
CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
Plaintiff CounselPeter Low (Peter Low Seong Tang & Pnrs) and Amolat Singh (Niru & Co)

The appellants were jointly charged with the following offence:

You, Prasong Bunsom, Manit Wangjaisuk and Panya Amphawa, between 9pm on 18 November 1992 and 1.50am on 19 November 1992 at CDC construction site at Lorong Ayam Katek off Ama Keng Road, Singapore, did together with two or more unknown persons, conjointly commit gang-robbery of worksite equipment and that in the commission of such gang-robbery, the murder of one Thaung Shwe was committed by one or more of your number, and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under s 396 of the Penal Code (Cap 224).

At the conclusion of the case, the trial judge found all three appellants guilty and sentenced them to death.
Being dissatisfied, the appellants appealed. At the end of the hearing, we unanimously dismissed the appeal and now give our reasons for so doing.

The facts

On the night of 18 November 1992, the CDC construction site at Lorong Ayam Katek, off Ama Keng Road (the site) was broken into by a group of men. In the course of the robbery which followed, a Burmese construction worker, Thaung Shwe (the deceased), was attacked and killed.

The deceased suffered numerous bruises and lacerations on the back of the head and the upper back.
The forensic pathologist, Dr Paul Chui, certified that the cause of death was a fractured skull, and that the fatal wound was an 11cm laceration over the lower occipital scalp, at the back of the deceased`s head. This had caused a fracture to the skull which resulted in an underlying injury to the brain. In Dr Chui`s opinion the fatal wound was caused by a blunt instrument, either a wooden spade or a wooden plank and a severe degree of force was used to inflict the injury. This injury was sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death. When Dr Chui was shown photographs of the blood patterns at the scene of the crime, he stated that it was likely that the deceased would have been lying down, probably with his face downwards at a very low level, when he was struck.

The deceased was last seen at about 9pm that night by a fellow Burmese worker, Khin Maung Oo (Khin), who resided with him at the quarters next to the site.
As Khin was on his way out of the site he saw the deceased closing and padlocking the main gate to the site. Khin also noticed at the time that a green van was parked about 200-300m away from outside the main gate of the site, with its lights and engine off.

When Khin returned at about 11.30pm, the green van was still in the same position.
The gate was locked and Khin, in an attempt to wake the deceased up to open the main gate, threw a few small stones over the fence into the workers` quarters. As there was no response, Khin climbed over the fence into the compound. He spotted the deceased lying motionless in a pool of blood between the container quarters and the perimeter fence and found that the site office had been broken into. Khin then got onto his bicycle and rode out of the site to seek help. As he left the gate, he noticed the green van had its headlights on. Whilst he was riding his bicycle along the track, the green van suddenly moved towards his direction. Khin flung his bicycle aside and ran back into the site. At the site, about 200m from the main gate, he came across some Indian workers doing some construction work and told them what he had found. One of them, Sethu Murukesan, immediately telephoned the site foreman, Lee Hwai Kwai (Lee) who rushed to the site. Lee arrived there at approximately 1.10am and, together with Khin, sent the deceased to Alexandra Hospital. At about 1.50am, the deceased was pronounced dead by Dr Richard Hui Jor Yeong.

The office building at the site was divided into two sections.
One section was the CDC site office (the site office) and the other section, separated by a conference room, was the Land and Estate Office. The following items were stolen from the site office which had been broken into:

i a Nikon auto-level instrument valued at $750;

ii a Nikon theodolite valued at $3,000;

iii a white cordless telephone valued at $150.

The next morning, Lee, the site foreman, discovered that the fence at the rear of the site canteen had been cut open and a crowbar and screwdriver were found near the hole.
The undergrowth beside the quarters was cleared and a pair of Japanese slippers and a black telephone were found. Lee testified that the slippers did not belong to any of the workers at the site. The black telephone was identified as the one that was kept in the quarters.

The Land and Estate Office had also been broken into.
A steel cupboard and a cabinet were found prised open, but nothing had been stolen from them. The two interior rooms had not been ransacked. However, the alarm box, part of the alarm system for the Land and Estate office, had been removed and was lying on the ground beside the office.

Inspector Akbal Ahmad, the investigating officer, gave evidence that a hammer, a wooden plank, a bloodstained changkol, a bloodstained spade and a black cloth hood were recovered by the side of the quarters occupied by the deceased.
Later that morning, at about 8.10am, the police recovered the white cordless telephone and the auto-level instrument, in the undergrowth beside the opening in the fence. Ms Chua Lee Khoon, an administrative assistant in the site office, confirmed that the white cordless telephone came from the site office and was linked to a fax machine there.

Subsequently, a latent fingerprint mark was found on a padlock to one of the three metal cabinets in the site office.
ASP Lau Yeow Khoon (ASP Lau) of the fingerprint section of the CID, opined that the latent mark was that of the first accused`s left fore fingerprint. A second latent mark was lifted from the white cordless telephone. In a second report, ASP Lau confirmed that this mark was that of the second accused`s left middle fingerprint. ASP Lau also testified that he had compared the fingerprint records of the second accused with that of one `Manit Khangjaisuk` and was of the view that they were one and the same person.

One Kaliappan Kuppen testified that a green Toyota van bearing registration No GF 5556 R, belonged to his company, Kris Auto Enterprises.
This van had been stolen from the parking lot in front of the company`s workshop at Blk 1060 Eunos Ave 3 #01-200, sometime between 10pm on 17 November 1992 and 9am on 18 November 1992 and was later found abandoned at the car park of Bukit Batok East Ave 2 at about 9.15pm on 19 November 1992.

The first appellant was arrested on 13 February 1994.
A number of statements by him were recorded which the prosecution sought to tender in evidence, namely, a cautioned statement under s 122(6) of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68) recorded by Inspector T Maniam on 31 March 1994, and three statements made to Sergeant Goh Kok Beng (Sgt Goh), namely, a s 121 long statement made on 6 April 1994, an oral statement made on 8 April 1994 and a further s 121 statement made at the Queenstown Remand Prison on 17 August 1994. The second appellant was arrested on 23 May 1994 and the third appellant was arrested on 22 July 1994. Again, the prosecution sought to admit in evidence the third appellant`s s 122(6) statement recorded by Inspector Ng Chin Soon on 22 July 1994, a long statement made to Sgt Goh on 25 July 1994 and an oral statement made to Sgt Goh on 27 July 1994. The admissibility of these statements was objected to and voir dires were subsequently held.

Voir dires

The relevant officers testified that the statements had been given voluntarily without any inducement, threat or promise offered before or during the recording of the statement.

The evidence of the first appellant in the trial within a trial was as follows.
He was 30 years of age and was a rice farmer in Thailand. He had come to Singapore to work as a construction labourer. He was arrested on 13 February 1994 and the CID officers subsequently took custody of him on 31 March 1994 when they became aware of his arrest. Prior to his arrest, the appellant had suffered an injury to his left leg for which he had undergone an operation. According to him, his leg had healed and was no longer painful.

As he was being driven to the CID by Sgt Han Koe Juan (Sgt Han) on 31 March 1994, the appellant said that Sgt Han had threatened him.
The first appellant was sitting behind in the car when he caught a serious look on Sgt Han`s face through the rear mirror. When they reached the CID, Sgt Tham Tat Chong (Sgt Tham) told him to take off his shirt and to stand at the wall with his back facing an air-conditioner. According to the first appellant, both his hands were handcuffed to the window rails in such a way that his toes barely touched the floor. He was also shivering as the air-conditioner was turned up. He was then asked to put his right foot on the table whereupon Sgt Han used a water hose to hit the first appellant`s sole for half an hour with severe force. Meanwhile, his left leg was hurting as all his weight was resting on it. Sgt Tham then proceeded to fist him many times in his back whilst Sgt Han stepped on his left leg. He was subsequently brought for medical examination at the hospital but was warned by Sgt Han and Sgt Tham not to complain to the doctor about any pain. The first appellant denied having participated in the robbery or the killing of the deceased and stated that the statements recorded were pure fabrications. Later at the Queenstown Remand Prison, the first appellant was asked to identify any other accomplices involved in the offence. According to him, he was asked to identify `Norng` whereupon he pointed to a photograph of the third appellant.

The third appellant, also claimed to have been threatened and assaulted by the CID officers.
When he was arrested on 22 July 1994, the third appellant said that Sgt Han`s loud voice had made him afraid. When he was being questioned at the CID, his wrists were handcuffed to the window in the room,...

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4 cases
  • Public Prosecutor v Muhammad Ridzuan Bin Mohammad Yusof
    • Singapore
    • District Court (Singapore)
    • 8 August 2022
    ...they were threatened. He thought they were Shanker’s workers and that it had to do with a construction project. In Prasong Bunsom v PP [1995] 3 SLR (R) 15 the Court of Appeal held at [49]: The essential element of gang-robbery is that there must be five or more persons acting “conjointly” i......
  • Sivahnanthan RagavaMUAMAR BIN MOHD SHAM vs PENDAKWA RAYACH Law bersama Syairah binti Mohamad Razali
    • Malaysia
    • High Court (Malaysia)
    • 26 July 2021
    ...diterima pakai Prasong Bunsom Mahkamah oleh di dalam Mahkamah kedua-dua rayuan kes di atas di Singapura telah dalam kes & Ors v PP (1995) 3 SLR 433 yang diikuti Persekutuan di dalam kes PP v Teong Lung Shong & Ors (2010) 4 CLJ 1. [50] Ini bermakna bagi kesalahan keperluan untuk menggunakan ......
  • Public Prosecutor v Magesan S/O Ramasamy, Mohamed Faizal Ajmalhan and Arunachalam Lakshmanan
    • Singapore
    • District Court (Singapore)
    • 13 July 2015
    ...attempting, or aiding, is said to commit “gang-robbery”. The case law on “conjointly” In Prasong Bunsom & Ors v Public Prosecutor [1995] 3 SLR 433 at 447E, the Court of Appeal, considered the convictions under s 396 of the PC (committing murder in the commission of a gang-robbery). The Cour......
  • Pendakwa Raya v Teong Lung Chiong, 08-02-2010
    • Malaysia
    • Federal Court (Malaysia)
    • 8 February 2010
    ...of the learned Deputy on the applicability of section 30 of the Act. He rightly referred to the cases of Prasong Bunsom & Ors v PP [1995] 3 SLR 433 and Chin Seow Noi v PP [1994] 1 135. The latter case has some similarities with the present case. Speaking for the Court of Criminal Appeal Sin......
3 books & journal articles
  • Criminal Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2010, December 2010
    • 1 December 2010
    ...been committed so long as it was committed by one of them in the commission of the gang robbery: Prasong Bunsom v Public Prosecutor [1995] 3 SLR(R) 15; Lee Chez Kee at [252]. With respect to the secondary offenders, the approaches under ss 34 and 396, therefore, still differ according to wh......
  • Criminal Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2011, December 2011
    • 1 December 2011
    ...punishments, does not require all the gang robbers to have a common intention to commit murder (Prasong Bunsom v Public Prosecutor[1995] 3 SLR(R) 15). It may be timely for the legislature to either delete s 397 (such situations will be handled by s 34 of the Penal Code in future), or amend ......
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Journal No. 1996, December 1996
    • 1 December 1996
    ...statements are admissible on the same basis, as evidence which the court is entitled to rely on (or to reject, as the case may be). 53 [1995] 3 SLR 433, 450. 54 S 24, Evidence Act, supra, note 9. 55 I hope this is sufficiently acceptable as a generalisation of human behaviour. 56 [1994] 2 S......

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