Public Prosecutor v Sundarti Supriyanto

JudgeMPH Rubin J
Judgment Date24 September 2004
Neutral Citation[2004] SGHC 212
Citation[2004] SGHC 212
Defendant CounselMuhamed Muzammil bin Mohd (Muzammil Nizam and Partners) and Johan Ismail (Johan Ismail and Co)
Published date28 September 2004
Plaintiff CounselJaswant Singh, Eugene Lee, Aaron Lee and Adrian Yeo (Deputy Public Prosecutors)
Date24 September 2004
Docket NumberCriminal Case No 19 of 2003
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Subject MatterAccused claiming deceased attacked her with knife therefore entitling her to exercise right of private defence,Section 304(a) Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed),Special exceptions,Sudden fight,Statements,Whether Prosecution proved accused committed offence under s 300(c) Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed),Accused claiming deceased abused her,Whether provocation by deceased "grave and sudden",Whether charge of murder should be reduced to one of culpable homicide not amounting to murder,Murder,Exceeding private defence,Culpable homicide,Whether accused's initial version should be thrown out as false,Whether sudden fight had broken out between accused and deceased,Section 300 Exception 4 Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed),Section 300(c) Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed),Accused giving contradictory versions of event to police officers and in court,Whether accused had extending right of private defence,Section 300 Exception 2 Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed),Criminal Procedure and Sentencing,Section 300 Exception 1 Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed),Elements of offence under s 300(c) Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed),Offences,Accused found guilty of killing deceased but exception of provocation made out,Criminal Law,Interpretation of s 300(c) Penal Code,Whether accused's acts satisfying proportionality requirement of sudden fight exception,Whether accused should be convicted on reduced charge,Whether abuse suffered by accused resulting in loss of self-control,Whether accused's false statements out of court should be used at her trial to corroborate guilt,Provocation

24 September 2004

Judgment reserved.

MPH Rubin J:


1 The accused, Sundarti Supriyanto, is a 23-year-old female Indonesian working as a domestic maid in Singapore. She was tried before me on a charge of murder by causing the death of her female employer (“the deceased”), on 28 May 2002 between 8.00pm and 10.41pm at Block 165 Bukit Merah Central #06-3661/3663. At the end of the trial, I reserved my judgment. I have now come to the decision to convict the accused on a reduced charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. I give my reasons.


2 On 28 May 2002, at about 10.41pm, a fire was reported at Block 165 Bukit Merah Central. Officers from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (“SCDF”) and the police were immediately despatched to the scene.

Discovery of the bodies

3 SCDF Second Warrant Officer Jumahat bin Bakri (“WO2 Jumahat”), the officer-in-charge of Pump Ladder 012, arrived at the scene with his section at 10.49pm. He rushed up to the location of the fire with SCDF Lance Corporal Arif bin Amat (“LCP Arif”). WO2 Jumahat entered the unit to search for casualties. There, he observed that #06-3663 was connected internally to unit #06-3661. At the rear of unit #06-3661, WO2 Jumahat discovered the body of the deceased, lying motionless in a supine position on the floor in a corridor. With the assistance of LCP Arif, WO2 Jumahat carried the body of the deceased out to the common corridor. Two SCDF ambulance officers attended to the deceased, but failed to revive her; she was pronounced dead at 11.30pm.

4 At 11.33pm, SCDF first warrant officer Abdul Razak Senin (“WO1 Razak”), the officer-in-charge of Pump Ladder 011, arrived at the scene with his section. WO2 Jumahat briefed WO1 Razak on the situation, following which WO1 Razak entered the fire-affected units to assist in the search for other casualties. While searching the corridor towards the rear of unit #06-3661, he discovered a closed door leading to the toilet and kitchen. When he opened the door, he found the body of a girl, the deceased’s three-year-old daughter (“Crystal”), also lying motionless on the floor in a supine position. He immediately carried Crystal out of the unit, where a SCDF ambulance officer attended to her. Crystal was then conveyed to the Accident & Emergency Department of Alexandra Hospital. The medical staff at the hospital could not revive her, and she was pronounced dead on 29 May 2002 at about 12.20am.

Behaviour of the accused at the scene

5 Before the arrival of the officers, several members of public spotted the accused sitting along the common corridor outside units #06-3661/3663, with an infant boy (“the baby”) on her lap. The baby was later identified as the deceased’s 18-month-old son. According to eyewitnesses, both the accused and the baby appeared calm. The accused had also reportedly pointed to the direction of the said units uttering “Mum and daughter inside” and/or “Mama, Anak [child]”. One member of public then accompanied the accused and the baby down the block via the staircase.

6 At about 10.53pm Police Sergeant Suhaimi bin Md Kasim (“Sgt Suhaimi”) arrived at Block 165 Bukit Merah Central. He met the accused at the ground floor and proceeded to interview her. The accused identified herself to Sgt Suhaimi as “Sundarti”. Sgt Suhaimi observed that the accused appeared calm, but seemed to be in pain. Subsequently, the accused was conveyed to the A&E Department of Singapore General Hospital (“SGH”), where she was admitted for treatment on 29 May 2002 at about 12.23am.

The fire

7 A SCDF Fire Investigation Team conducted investigations into the cause of the fire, and drew up a report[1] of its findings. According to this report, the fire was most probably caused intentionally, through the introduction of a naked light to combustible materials around an office area within the units, with petrol being introduced to accelerate the fire. Annex G of the report showed that petrol was detected from the fire debris collected from the three points at the scene (points A1, C and D).

Injuries on the deceased’s body and the cause of her death

8 Senior Forensic Pathologist, Dr Gilbert Lau (“Dr Lau”), performed the autopsy on the deceased. In his autopsy report,[2] Dr Lau recorded that he found two stab wounds on the deceased’s neck. The first stab wound measured between 1.2cm and 1.4cm in length and the track proceeded downwards, towards the right and slightly backwards, ending at a depth of about 2cm. The second stab wound measured between 2cm and 2.2cm in length and the track proceeded downwards, towards the right and backwards. Dr Lau found that the second stab wound was the fatal injury, as it incised the right carotid sheath, the middle third of the right common carotid artery and terminated at an estimated depth of 6cm. This wound resulted in extensive, severe and acute haemorrhage.

9 Apart from the neck wounds, there was also a series of deep and gaping incised wounds across the deceased’s left forearm, as well as the wrist and hand. The deceased’s muscles, tendons, nerves and blood vessels were cut. There was a fracture of the left wrist joint and near dismemberment of the left hand at the wrist. There were also several incised wounds on the deceased’s right arm and right hand. Dr Lau found that the multiple incised wounds on the deceased’s arms were consistent with defensive injuries. Dr Lau also found that most of the defensive injuries on the deceased’s upper limbs were inflicted using a cutting instrument with a relatively heavy and sharp blade such as Exhibit P298 (a chopper) or a similar knife. In particular, Dr Lau testified that the injuries to the deceased’s forearms were caused by deliberate, downward blows directed at her head or neck with tremendous force.

10 Dr Lau testified that the deceased was already dead when the fire started, and he certified the cause of her death as acute haemorrhage due to the incised right common carotid artery caused by the second stab wound to the neck. Dr Lau opined that the track of this stab wound indicated that it was very unlikely that the fatal injury was self-inflicted. He also stated that a smaller knife (such as Exhibit P292) or a similar knife was likely to have been used to inflict the fatal injury.

Injuries on the accused

11 Dr Ong Lin Yin (“Dr Ong”) was the first doctor to examine the accused when the latter was admitted to the A&E Department at SGH. According to Dr Ong’s report,[3] the accused suffered four per cent burns over her right leg and right forearm and there were bite marks on her left back, left shoulder and left breast. No other injuries were observed on her. Dr Ong confirmed that the accused’s vital signs were stable and she was not in a state of shock. Dr Ong also testified that the accused was not very communicative.

12 Dr Goh Bee Tin (“Dr Goh”), a Senior Registrar of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, National Dental Centre, attended to the accused on 29 May 2002 at about 1.15pm at Ward 43, SGH. She noted three bite marks on the accused’s body. The marks were at the lateral aspect of the accused’s left breast (“S1”), on her left shoulder (“S2”) and on the mid-portion of her back (“S3”). Dr Goh examined the dentition of the deceased, Crystal and the baby. She took dental impressions from them and compared them with S2 and S3. S1 was too indistinct to be identified.

13 Dr Goh concluded that there was a good match between Crystal’s dentition and S2 and S3. The deceased’s and the baby’s dentitions did not match the said bite marks. From the orientation of the bite marks, S2 was inflicted with the biter facing the accused with his/her face over the shoulder of the latter. S3 was inflicted on the left of the accused, with the biter’s face over the back of the accused. Dr Goh also noted that since the bite marks were at the phase of acute inflammation at the time when they were first examined on 29 May 2002 at 1.15pm, it was likely that they were inflicted within the last 72 hours. Although she could not rule out that the deceased might have inflicted S1, she testified that the dimensions of S1 were 30mm by 30mm, and these were quite small for an adult, whose dimensions generally ranged from 34mm to 37mm. Further, the dimensions of S1, S2 and S3 were fairly close to each other.

14 Dr Jasmine Heng (“Dr Heng”) testified that the Deoxyribonucleic Acid (“DNA”) evidence showed that the accused’s clothes comprising one pair of shorts, one T-shirt, one pair of panties and one brassiere were stained with blood that matched the DNA profile of the deceased. Additionally her T-shirt and shorts were also stained with the accused’s own blood. However, Dr Heng also gave evidence that DNA testing on the knives and chopper found at the scene was inconclusive.

Testimony of some prosecution witnesses

15 Hong Ngah San Esther (“Esther Hong”), the deceased’s staff member, testified that before lunchtime on 28 May 2002, the deceased called her through the intercom and told her to make sure that the accused did not leave the office. The deceased also told her that on a previous night, the accused had brought Crystal out of the bedroom without any reason. Further, Esther Hong, together with Low Siew Kuan Margaret (“Margaret Low”) and Ee Kim Lian Nancy (“Nancy Ee”), two other employees of the deceased, testified that at lunchtime, when they were having food at the reception area in the office, the deceased came to them and complained that the accused had eaten her son’s food. They added that the deceased had also scolded the accused in front of them.

16 Esther Hong and Margaret Low also testified that they met the deceased, the accused, the baby and Crystal at a handphone shop at Block 166 Bukit Merah Central. While she was there, Margaret Low offered some fruits (longan) to the baby. The deceased stopped her and said that her son was having a cough. Margaret Low then offered the fruit to the accused. However, the deceased stopped...

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