The facts and circumstances of the case points to the conclusion that cosmetics millionaire Sosilawati Lawiya is dead and the four appellants were the perpetrators that led to her death and the death of her aides, the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya held.
Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat said direct evidence of the deceased’s family members, friends, a prosecution witness, Siti Hamidah Karnaz, circumstantial evidence on telecommunication records, forensic and DNA evidence established the presence of Sosilawati and her aides at the farm belonging to one of the appellants, N Pathmanabhan.
“It could be safely inferred that Sosilawati and company had met their deaths at the farm,” she said in the 59-page judgment.
Justice Tengku Maimun said the knowledge that the other three appellants - T Thilaiyalagan, R Matan and R Kathavarayan had of the places where incriminating items were found and their conduct in showing those places to the police was a definite pointer towards the guilt of the appellants.
“We are of the view that the inferences to be drawn from the facts and circumstances of this case unerringly lead to the conclusion that within all human probability, Sosilawati is dead and that the appellants were the perpetrators leading to her death as well as the death of Kamal, Hisham and Kamil (Sosilawati’s aides),” she said.
The three-member-bench led by Justice Aziah Ali had unanimously dismissed the appeals brought by Pathmanabhan, 45, a former lawyer and farmhands Thilaiyalagan, 23, Matan, 24, and Kathavarayan, 35.
The panel which also comprised Justice Tengku Maimun and Zakaria Sam had upheld the Shah Alam High Court's decision to convict and sentence them to death for the murder of Sosilawati, 47, bank officer Noorhisham Mohamad, 38, lawyer Ahmad Kamil Abdul Karim, 32, and Sosilawati’s driver Kamaruddin Shamsuddin, 44.
The former lawyer and farmhands were found guilty of committing the offence at Lot 2001, Jalan Tanjong Layang in Tanjung Sepat, Banting between 8.30pm and 9.45pm on Aug 30, 2010.
The four, wearing red and white prison attire, did not show any emotion when the verdict was handed down by Justice Tengku Maimun.
In the judgment, the Court of Appeal judge (Justice Tengku Maimun) said the defence of Pathmanabhan, Thilaiyalagan and Matan were one of complete denial while Kathavarayan’s defence had implicated the other three appellants.
She said it was apparent that there was a “dog fight” between the three appellants (Pathmanabhan, Thilaiyalagan, Matan) and Kathavarayan and the court found that the result of Kathavarayan’s attack was disastrous to all of them.
Kathavarayan had testified that Pathmanabhan, Thilaiyalagan and Matan were present on the farm on Aug 30, 2010 and so was Sosilawati and her aides and that he heard screams and sounds like there was a fight in a karaoke room.
‘Instruction to kill was given by Pathmanabhan’
He also gave evidence that Sosilawati and her aides were murdered at the farm on that day and the instruction to kill was given by Pathmanabhan.
Kathavarayan had also testified that preparation to kill and burn the bodies were done on the same day and that Thilaiyalagan and Matan had laid logs and burnt Sosilawati’s aides.
Justice Tengku Maimun said phone calls from Ahmad Kamil and Noorhisham to their respective wives that Sosilawati had a problem with her driver Kamal and that they would be going to Genting Highlands for three days, was a version that was difficult to believe.
“It was the holy month of Ramadan and it was highly unlikely that they would at the spur of the moment, decide to go to Genting Highlands. In our view, it is more probable that they were forced to make the calls to deviate the attention from the first appellant (Pathmanabhan) and Banting,” she said.
Justice Tengku Maimun said the court did not find any merits in the appellants’ submission on the High Court judge’s failure to consider certain factors when evaluating the evidence of Siti Hamidah, an Indonesian maid who worked at the farm, whose evidence they contended was doctored to meet the needs of the police guardians.
Siti Hamidah, who was a protected witness had testified that she saw three men and a woman who were unfamiliar to her on the farm on that day.
Justice Tengku Maimun said nothwithstanding the lack of positive findings of bones recovered from the farm and the river and the lack of proof on accelerants, the court was satisfied that the bodies of Noorhisham, Kamal and Kamil had been burnt on the farm.
She said this was based on Siti Hamidah’s evidence and from the presence of the DNA of NoorHisham found on the cricket bat and the blood stain on the wall and the DNA of Kamal and Kamil on the zinc sheets.
Counsel Amer Hamzah Arshad, representing Matan, told reporters that all the appellants would appeal against today’s decision.