Samlee Prathumtree and Another v Public Prosecutor

CourtCourt of Three Judges (Singapore)
JudgeGoh Joon Seng J
Judgment Date21 August 1996
Neutral Citation[1996] SGCA 46
Citation[1996] SGCA 46
Subject MatterWhether there was requisite intention or knowledge,Common intention to cause grievous hurt,Whether exceptions of grave and sudden provocation, private defence and sudden fight applied,Common intention,Each appellant liable for the act of the other,Criminal Law,Complicity,ss 34, 300(c) exceptions 1, 2 & 4 Penal Code (Cap 224),Fatal injuries caused in furtherance of common intention
Published date19 September 2003
Defendant CounselJames Masih (James Masih & Co) and Christopher The (Tey Yip Wong & Tan),Bala Reddy (Deputy Public Prosecutor)
Plaintiff CounselNK Rajah (MPD Nair & Co) and Low Tiang Hock (Chor Pee & Co)
Date21 August 1996
Docket NumberCriminal Appeal No 60 of 1995

Cur Adv Vult

The two appellants, Samlee Prathumtree (Samlee) and KhampunSriyotha (Khampun) were jointly charged thaton 16 February 1995 at about 1.30am at Block 30, Defu Lane 10, #02-112, infurtherance of their common intention committed murder by causing the death ofone Somwang Yapapha (the deceased), an offence under the Penal Code (Cap 224)read with s 34 and punishable under s 302 thereof. They were dulyconvicted and sentenced to death. They now appeal against theirconvictions.

Apart from the evidence of Dr Gilbert Lau, the forensicpathologist, andthe evidence of some inconsequential witnesses, the prosecution`sentirecase rested on the cautioned and investigation statements of both appellants.These were admitted in evidence without any objections from either ofthem.

The background evidence is uncontroversial. Both appellants andthedeceased are Thai construction workers. Samlee and the deceased worked forUrbantech Electrical Engineering and lived at the company`s factory atBlock 30, Defu Lane 10, #02-112. Samlee was aged 44 years and it is said thatthe deceased was a much younger and stronger person than Samlee. They kneweach other in Thailand. Samlee came to Singapore before the deceased andstarted working for Urbantech. The deceased came later. When the deceasedstarted working for Urbantech and was also billeted at the company`sfactory together with Samlee, Samlee felt uncomfortable about it andcomplained to the company`s management but nothing came of it. He sai dthatthe deceased intimidated him and was always borrowing money from him which henever repaid. At the material time, both were working on the company`sproject at Bugis Junction.

Khampun worked for another company as a gondola shifter and livedatDefu Lane 9, about five minutes walking distance from where Samlee and thedeceased lived. Khampun was aged 31 years. He befriended Samlee and theybecame good friends visiting each other and eating and drinking togetheroften.

On 15 February 1995 at about 7pm, Samlee, Khampun and thedeceased weretogether at Samlee`s and the deceased`s quarters at the factoryat DefuLane 10. They were seen by another Thai worker, Nopporn Sonnoi, who had goneto their quarters to borrow a mortar and pestle from Samlee. They were seatedat a round wooden table drinking.

Seng Chiow Liang (Seng), the sole proprietor of Urbantech,returned tohis office at the factory at Defu Lane 10 at about 6pm to do some paper work.He was in his office. He knew that Samlee was at the factory as he came intoSeng`s office to help himself to a can or cans of beer or stout fromthefridge he has in his office. He did not know whether the deceased or Khampunwere also in the factory. He locked up and left for home at about 9pm.

At about 1.30am the next morning, 16 February, Seng received atelephonecall from Samlee. He sounded agitated and was incoherent. He was crying. Sengcaught a few words spoken by Samlee in a mixture of Hokkien and English. Itsounded as though Samlee was saying, Ooffice is damaged, office is dead.AhPow is dead`. Ah Pow was a reference to himself. Fearful that somethingdreadful had happened to the factory, Seng left for Defu Lane 10 immediately.Whilst in the car he called Samlee on his handphone at the telephone which islocated in the toilet area of the factory. Samlee answered and when Seng askedhim what had happene d, all Samlee would say was, Olai, lai`meaningOcome, come`.

Seng arrived at the factory at Defu Lane 10 about fifteen minuteslater.He found Samlee standing at the main door behind the iron gate, which wasclosed but not locked. The left leaf of the main door was closed but the rightwas open. Samlee was bare-bodied and wearing a pair of shorts. The lightsinside the factory were switched on. Seng entered the factory and found thedeceased lying face downwards on the floor with his head in a pool of blood atthe storage area of the factory. He was motionless and Seng assumed he wasdead. There was a broken bottle on the floor near his body and the glass panelof his office door was smashed. He telephoned for the police who arrived atthe scene shortly after 2am, followed by the investigating officer, Insp LowHock Peng, at about 3.45am.

The investigating officer, in his evidence, described the scenehe sawon arrival at the factory in Defu Lane 10. Near the deceased`s body wasanempty Tiger beer can, an empty liquor bottle, fragments of a stout bottle, andglass fragments from the shattered glass panel of the office door. In thestorage area where the deceased`s body was found, there was a smallroundcollapsible table and stools and more empty drinks` cans, bothalcoholicand non-alcoholic. At the landing area where Samlee and the deceased had theirsleeping quarters, there were two large empty Tiger beer bottles and emptysoft drinks` cans. In the toilet area there were a pair of wet jeansandtwo wet T-shirts.

Samlee was taken into custody soon after the investigatingofficerarrived at the scene. At about 5.40am that morning he was sent to the Tan TockSeng Hospital for a medical examination. The doctor found him to be conscious,coherent and steady in his gait. Examination of his blood showed it to contain55 mg of ethanol per 100 ml of blood. Later that morni ng at about 8.40am,he led the police to where Khampun lived and he was arrested. Khampun too wasexamined by a doctor at about 3pm. The examining doctor observed a swellingnear his left eye and when asked through the Thai interpreter, who accompaniedKhampun, he replied that he had sustained it when he fell while fighting andhit his left eye. The doctor in her evidence said that this injury could nothave been caused by being hit with a bottle as in that case she would expectthat there would be cuts around the injury.

In the course of investigation at about 9.15am that day, Samleeled thepolice to the recovery of a sledge-hammer from the toilet area of the factory.It was found that the sledge-hammer is usually kept on the floor in thestorage area, near to a stand drill. Samlee also identified two knives andpointed to one of them as having been used by Khampun to stab the deceased. On22 February Khampun led the police to the recovery of a claw-hammer, which waskept by the drill or in a wall mounted tool-box.

The forensic pathologist, Dr Gilbert Lau, arrived at the scene atabout4.40am on 16 February. In his opinion the deceased had died three to six hoursearlier placing the time of death somewhere between 10.40pm on15 February 1995 to 1.40am on 16 February 1995. Later that day heconducted a post mortem examination on the deceased`s body and gaveevidence at the trial.

There were no less than 20 injuries on the deceased all of whichwere onthe head, neck, shoulders and upper back, with the focus around the head andneck regions. These included four skull fractures, two of which proved fatal.The fatal skull fractures were: (a) at the forehead of the deceased. This wasOa slightly depressed fracture` extending backwards and upwards;and (b)Oa depressed, comminuted` fracture at the back of the headmeasuringapproximately 5 x 4 cms externally and 7 x 6 cms internally Oext endingwellinto the floor of the posterior cranial fossa`. Dr Lau found bruises onthefront and back of the brain with extensive bleeding around the brain.

Dr Lau had certified the cause of death as severe head injuriesassociated with extensive and severe maxillofacial and basal fractures due toblunt force trauma. In his evidence he explained that the injuries associatedwith the two fatal skull injuries were consistent with those caused by a heavyobject as from a direct impact with the head of the sledge-hammer, as the oneproduced at the trial, which has a diameter of 6.5 cms. This was especially soas the skull fracture at the back of the head was roundish and well delineatedto correspond to the flat end of the sledge-hammer head. Dr Lau further statedthat very considerable force would have to be used to cause both theseinjuries.

In Dr Lau`s opinion the two fatal skull fractures referredto inpara 13 above could not have been caused by a fall given the severe andextensive fractures at the two locations. Further, the severe trauma to thebrain associated with each of these two fatal skull fractures was eachsufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death. Dr Lau stated thattaken together, death would have occurred within minutes. Dr Lau was of thefurther opinion that the deceased was still alive when both these blows wereinflicted because there was severe and extensive deep bruising to the scalpand brain and bleeding to the brain at both places.

Referring to some of the other injuries, Dr Lau noted thefollowing:

(i) )the fracture to the front of the lower jaw which in his opinion was caused bya blow to the face on the left anteroleteral aspect of thechin;

(ii) )the fracture of the right cheek bone. He thought that this could be caused bya punch.

(iii) )the rugged and gaping vertical lacerations, one meas uring 3 x 1 cm along theupper part of the posterior...

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