Ramachandran and Another v Public Prosecutor

CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
JudgeChua F A J
Judgment Date10 January 1991
Neutral Citation[1991] SGCA 1
Citation[1991] SGCA 1
Defendant CounselSeng Kwang Boon (Deputy Public Prosecutor),R Yogendran (Yogen & Partners)
Plaintiff CounselTV Sukumar (Sukumar & Teo)
Published date19 September 2003
Docket NumberCriminal Appeal No 7 of 1987
Date10 January 1991
Subject MatterWhether the appellants formed a common intention to murder deceased,Whether court could infer from circumstantial evidence that accused knew that accomplice was armed,Whether court entitled to refer to such evidence,No direct evidence,Common intention,Corroboration,Witnesses,Whether judge required to warn himself before accepting uncorroborated accomplice evidence,Complicity,Offences,Court entitled to infer from circumstantial evidence,Criminal Law,Evidence,Murder,Uncorroborated accomplice evidence

Cur Adv Vult

The two appellants, Ramachandran and Krishnan, aged 24 and 19 respectively, were convicted on a charge of murder. The victim, a 74-year-old man, Packiria Pillai Krishnasamy (the deceased), was killed in his flat at Tah Ching Road on the morning of 27 July 1984.

The relevant facts in this appeal are these.
Krishnan, the second appellant, was known to the family of the deceased. In 1981, he had worked as a stall assistant for ten months in a provision stall owned by the deceased`s wife. During that period, he also lodged in the flat of the deceased. He had to leave the employment because his performance was found to be unsatisfactory.

Sometime in the middle of 1984, when Krishnan made a casual visit to the stall, the deceased`s wife told him to look for a person to work at the stall.
Soon after, in the beginning of July 1984 Krishnan called at the flat with Ramachandran, the first appellant, to say that he would recommend Ramachandran`s brother to work at the stall.

Nothing happened till 26 July.
That evening Krishnan telephoned and made an appointment for Ramachandran to bring his brother for an interview with the deceased the next morning for the job. Krishnan also said in that conversation that he himself would not be there as his passport had expired and he had to leave Singapore by 12 noon, but that he would try to attend.

The next day, the daughter of the deceased returned home from work at about 7.30pm.
She found her father dead in the flat. The place had been ransacked. Some jewellery, two ladies` watches, 30 pieces of imitation precious stones and cash of $1,900 were missing from her cupboard. The police in the course of their investigations found shoe prints of Ramachandran in the flat.

At the trial, Dr Wee Keng Poh, the forensic pathologist, testified that there were five injuries on the deceased.
The fatal injury was a stab wound 5 to 8cm deep, which had penetrated the left thyroid gland and had cut the left jugular vein in the neck. The cause of death was haemorrhage due to this stab wound. Dr Wee said that death would have occurred within a matter of minutes after the fatal wound was inflicted. He estimated that the death had occurred at about 10am on 27 July.

As regards the four other injuries, one scratch mark was on the neck, two superficial stab wounds on the chest and one deep stab wound in the abdomen had cut into the intestines.
From these injuries, Dr Wee opined that the deceased was attacked from the front. He also gave as his opinion that all the five injuries could have been inflicted by the letter opener which the police had recovered from the scene. From his observation of the scene, he noted that the flat had been extensively ransacked, but he found no sign of any violent struggle having taken place. He did not find any defensive injuries on the deceased.

About a month after the killing, Ramachandran was arrested by the Malaysian police and brought back to Singapore.
Four of the imitation stones were recovered from him. In his voluntary statement made under s 121(6) (now s 122(6) of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68, 1970 Ed), he said:

It is true that on the day in question I was brought to Taman Jurong. I asked the male Indian why he was bringing me there. He said that we could go to his house to steal. The `his` refers to `Party`s` house. I told him that I did not have any experience in this. He told me that I should stand near the lift whilst he would go up. After a while he came running with blood stains on him. He told me that he had stabbed that man. He invited me to go to the house to look for the knife. I went into the house and searched for it, but I could not find it. He too went with me to the house. Krishnan was holding a plastic bag. He said that since we could not find the knife, we had better flee from the place. We left the said place. I went to my room at Jalan Boon Lay Lama. Krishnan went to his room there. Krishnan told me to flee to Johore Bahru. He said that he would meet me there later. Until today I have not seen him. I did not commit the murder. The man appeared to be dead when I saw him.

Some 18 months later, on 4 January 1986, Krishnan was arrested, also by the Malaysian police, and handed over to the investigating officer, Inspector T Maniam.
That evening Krishnan gave a statement to Inspector Maniam in which he confessed and incriminated Ramachandran.

At the trial, Krishnan challenged the admissibility of the statement.
After a hearing on this issue, in a trial-within-a-trial, the learned trial judges, on being satisfied that Krishnan had made the statement voluntarily, adthe statement. It reads as follows:

I admit that Ramachandran and I committed the murder. I am the one who knocked the door. Both of us went in, Ramachandran kicked the deceased and held both his hands. I then stabbed the deceased. After stabbing the deceased, both Ramachandran and I went into the rooms and looked for money and jewellery. We found some money and jewellery which we took away with us. I got a gold ring, a pair of gold earrings, and a lady`s watch from Ramachandran. I do not know what things Ramachandran took.

Both the accused gave evidence on their own behalf.
Ramachandran disclaimed what he had said in his voluntary statement. His evidence was that he and Krishnan had planned to rob the deceased that morning but that they both had no intention to cause any harm to the deceased. Both of them however intended to overpower the deceased and tie him up before ransacking the place for cash and jewellery. The plan was suggested by Krishnan. Ramachandran did not know that Krishnan was armed with a sharp pointed letter opener.

As to what happened in the flat, Ramachandran said that on entering it he grabbed the deceased from the front for Krishnan to tie him up.
The deceased strugand got out of his grip. So he grabbed the deceased from the back. Krishnan then stabbed the deceased in the stomach with the letter opener. On seeing this, Ramachandran said he got frightened. He released his hold of the deceased and ran into a room and searched for valuables and money. When he came out of the room, he saw the deceased lying on the floor near the bedroom door. He ran out of the flat.

Krishnan`s version of what had happened in the flat was slightly different.
According to him, when Ramachandran was holding the deceased he went into a room to look for something with which to tie up the deceased. Whilst in the room, he...

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