Public Prosecutor v Tharema Vejayan s/o Govindasamy

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeTay Yong Kwang J
Judgment Date19 June 2009
Neutral Citation[2009] SGHC 144
Citation[2009] SGHC 144
Published date23 June 2009
Plaintiff CounselDavid Khoo, Stella Tan & Adrian Ooi
Defendant CounselS Radakrishnan, Aziz Tayabali, Glenn Knight and Rajan Supramaniam
Subject MatterCriminal Law,Offences,Murder,General Exceptions,Special Exceptions

19 June 2009

Tay Yong Kwang J:


1 The accused is Tharema Vejayan s/o Govindasamy, now 40 years old. He was tried and convicted on the following capital charge:

[O]n the 1st day of July 2007, at or about 4.41 am, at Block 181 Stirling Road, Singapore, did commit murder by causing the death of one Smaelmeeral Binte Abdul Aziz, female 32 years, and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 302 of the Penal Code, Chapter 224.

Due to scheduling difficulties, the trial took place over several blocks of dates.

2 At around 4.39 am on 1 July 2007, a SBS Transit bus driver, Goh Chin Hock, who was waiting at a bus-stop in front of Block 181 Stirling Road (“Block 181”) called the police when he heard a loud ‘thud’ and discovered the deceased’s body lying on the ground of that block. Another witness, Hamzah Bin Rasip, also called the police to report that “someone had jumped down”. The deceased was dead by the time paramedics arrived at the scene. She was pronounced dead at about 5.03 am.

The Case for the Prosecution

3 The accused and the deceased married in June 2002. They had two children, a son born in March 2003 and a daughter born in Nov 2005. The deceased filed for divorce in March 2007 and obtained an interim judgment for divorce on 13 June 2007.

4 On 30 June 2007, the night before the deceased met her death, the deceased went drinking with her close friends, Mathinah Baham d/o Samsudeen (“Mathinah”) and Selvaranee d/o Kanakasabai (“Selvaranee”). The three met in the evening and visited a pub called Chakrawathy. The deceased stayed there with her friends until about 4am on 1 July 2007 when she left the pub alone to return to her uncle’s home in Strathmore Avenue in Queenstown (where she was residing at that point of time).

5 At about 4.06am, the deceased called a mutual friend of hers and of the accused, Abdul Razak s/o P Maudu (“Razak”), telling him that she was drunk and that she was near Queenstown MRT station, which is along Commonwealth Avenue and next to Block 181. Block 181 is situated between Stirling Road and Commonwealth Avenue. At that point of time, Razak was at a (now defunct) pub called Raagawoods, which was then in the vicinity of Tanglin Road. Razak was celebrating his birthday at the pub with the accused and several others.

6 After ending the call with the deceased, Razak conveyed her message to the accused. At the accused’s request, Razak drove him to Commonwealth Avenue where the accused alighted at the bus-stop in front of Block 27A, which is directly across the road from Block 181 and next to Queenstown MRT station. Razak then returned to the pub.

7 When the accused alighted, he did not see the deceased. He then walked across an overhead bridge to the other side of the road where he saw the deceased sitting at the bus stop in front of Block 181, drunk and wearing a black bare-back sleeveless blouse. There was also an empty bottle of beer next to her.

8 Upon seeing the deceased in that state, the accused became angry and assaulted her repeatedly. He then dragged her to the lift lobby of Block 181 which had two lifts, A and B. When the door of lift A opened, he pulled her inside and pressed the button for the 13th floor, which was the highest floor in that block. The accused continued to hit her in the lift, at the same time scolding her for getting so drunk. He also blamed her for not taking time to care for their children and choosing to spend her time drinking with her friends instead.

9 When the lift reached the 13th floor, the accused pulled the deceased to the corridor outside the first unit from the lift. He continued to assault and scold her. The accused was so “fed up” with the deceased, especially with her drinking problem, that he carried her body and somehow pushed or threw her over the parapet wall.

Prosecution’s Witnesses

10 The Prosecution called many witnesses at the trial to provide critical evidence as to what really took place on 1 July 2007. The evidence adduced can be summarised in the following manner.

The autopsy findings

11 The autopsy on the deceased was performed by Senior Consultant Forensic Pathologist Associate Professor Gilbert Lau (“Professor Lau”) of the Centre for Forensic Medicine of the Health Sciences Authority (“HSA”). In Professor Lau’s report, the cause of death was recorded as “multiple injuries”. Professor Lau found the following injuries (amongst others):


A fracture of the left ala nasi; no cranial, zygomatic or maxillary or mandibular fractures were found.


multiple, deep, haemorrhagic lacerations of the gingival mucosa (inner aspect) of the upper lip and, to a lesser extent, of the lower lip, associated with complete disruption of the frenulum and dislodgement of the right upper central incisor; the anterior part of the tongue was also deeply lacerated.



an oblique fracture of the sternum; multiple rib fractures; an oblique, fracture-dislocation of the thoracic spine; a fracture of the left sacral wing; a fracture of the body of the left pubis; a fracture of the right superior pubic ramus; fractures of the medial thirds of both clavicles; a spiral, mid-shaft fracture of the right humerus; an open fracture of the right olecranon process; an open fracture of the medial epicondyle of the left humerus; fractures of the right tibia and fibula; an open spiral, mid-shaft fracture of the left femur.

12 Based on the injuries found on the deceased, Professor Lau concluded that death was “predominantly due to multiple injuries consistent with a fall from a height”. In addition, Professor Lau noted that there were marked bruising and swelling on the face, which was evidence of significant blunt force trauma. At the trial, Professor Lau reiterated his view that the facial injuries were most likely inflicted before the deceased fell.[note: 1] Professor Lau was of the view that in line with blunt force trauma, “considerable force” was also applied to the facial injuries since the left nasal bone was fractured as a result.[note: 2] On cross examination, Professor Lau also testified that considering the amount of blood loss, it was unlikely that the deceased would have had the strength to pull herself over the parapet railing to commit suicide:


Now, we knew she had tried to commit suicide from the 13th floor before.




So could she have done that?


The possibility exists, mere possibility.


Why do you say “mere possibility”? Assuming if she wanted to commit suicide ---


Yes, but, er ---


---and she decided to commit suicide there---


After being bashed up, as you put it, and bashed to such an extent that she bled so profusely that she would have been very considerably weakened, one would wonder whether she would have been in a state to commit suicide.

Toxicology Report

13 The deceased also underwent a toxicology examination performed by Dr Danny Lo Siaw Teck of the Centre for Forensic Sciences of HSA. There was nothing remarkable as the tests showed negative results for chemical and drug consumption. However, there were 177mg/100ml of ethanol in the sample of blood (oxalated) and 236 mg/100 ml of ethanol in the sample of vitreous humour (i.e. liquid in the pupils). The reading from the vitreous humour was higher than that found in the blood because the latter is subject to alcohol elimination through metabolism whereas the former is not[note: 3]. Since the degree of alcohol intoxication of a person is gauged by the degree of ethanol found in the blood, the findings were consistent with the fact that the deceased had been drinking alcohol prior to her death.

Relationship between the accused and the deceased

14 As mentioned above, the accused and the deceased married in 2002 and thereafter, the deceased suffered years of abuse[note: 4] culminating in her obtaining a personal protection order (“PPO) against him on 4 April 2006. After the PPO was obtained, the accused was often arrested for breach of the PPO and the deceased called the police whenever their quarrels escalated. On no less than four occasions, the deceased called for police assistance, alleging abuse and threats by the accused.[note: 5]

15 As several witnesses testified, the couple had a lot of marital problems. From the start, there were tensions because the deceased was Muslim and the accused was Hindu. There was therefore some pressure on the accused to convert to Islam.[note: 6] Thereafter, throughout the marriage, the deceased’s night shift at work[note: 7] and her drinking habit were a constant source of quarrels. They also had disagreements over how their children should be taken care of. Their relationship further deteriorated when, in early 2006, the deceased caught the accused sleeping in bed with a girl named Rita in their matrimonial flat when she returned home early after her night shift.[note: 8] In turn, the accused was also unhappy with the deceased for leaving home to stay with another man, one Manimaran s/o Arugulavan (“Manimaran”). The deceased would also often taunt the accused with SMS messages stating that she was with someone else who was, unlike the accused, a gentleman.[note: 9] At one point of time, to avoid confrontation, the accused also moved out of the matrimonial flat to stay in a rented room.[note: 10] This series of events created a lot of distrust and suspicion between the deceased and the accused.

16 As a result, the accused also had a falling out with the deceased’s sister, believing that the latter had visited a bomoh who cast a spell on the deceased, resulting in the deceased’s behaviour. The accused also believed that the sister had caused a spell to be cast on him causing him to “hear voices” and to get angry easily.[note: 11] Thereafter, to counter the situation, the accused also consulted several bomohs both in Singapore and abroad in an attempt to remove the alleged spells cast on him and his family.[note: 12]

17 Due...

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3 cases
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    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 29 April 2010
    ...the Accused’s loss of self-control when a Defence of provocation is raised to a murder charge. In PP v Tharema Vejayan s/o Govindasamy [2009] SGHC 144, the two expert witnesses engaged by the prosecution and defence respectively were in agreement that the accused was intoxicated. Their disa......
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    • Singapore
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    • 3 December 2020
    ...between 3.25pm and 3.48pm. The entire process thus took some 32 minutes. The subsequent case of PP v Tharema Vejayan s/o Govindasamy [2009] SGHC 144 (“Tharema”), reinforces the position that minor discomfort is, in itself, insufficient to constitute oppression. There, the accused, who had c......
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    • Singapore
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    • 2 September 2009
    ...of the offences. 38. The defence of intoxication is set out in SS 85 and 86 of the Penal Code. In PP v Tharema Vejayan s/o Govindasamy [2009] SGHC 144 at ¶ 106 Tay Yong Kwang J As noted in the Criminal Law in Malaysia and Singapore at [25.3], there are essentially three forms of the defence......

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