Penang locals unperturbed despite murders of foreigners

Penang locals unperturbed despite murders of foreigners
GRISLY: Plainclothes police officers with the remains believed to be that of a Myanmar national in the mainland Penang town of Tasik Gelugor.

On idyllic Penang island, Mrs Penny Yap goes about her daily routine without worrying too much about crime.

But 20km away on the mainland, a series of grisly murders have shocked locals. Police have recovered dozens of corpses, limbs and even a severed head squeezed into a bag.

A turf war there has resulted in Penang recording 52 murder cases last year, of which 18 victims were Malaysians. Eighteen of them were from Myanmar and the rest were from other countries.

Police have arrested 20 Myanmar nationals said to be linked to the killings.

Nine of them were charged last month in a magistrate's court in Penang for murdering their countrymen.

Mrs Yap, 37, an administrative assistant, said: "Usually, the locals keep to ourselves and we don't mingle much with the foreign workers.

"Each gang (for example, Indonesians and Bangladeshis) have their own hang-out place when they're not working."

But the murders have moved closer to her home.

On Dec 8, a foreigner's body was found with his throat slit in front of a Buddhist temple in Relau on Penang island.

Two days later, police recovered a highly decomposed body of a man from a rubber plantation in Ara Kuda.

State police chief Datuk Abdul Rahim Hanafi told reporters that a new gang of serial killers is now based on the island.

He said: "Their style of execution is the same as the previous group's - they kill the victim, chop off the body and head, and maim the limbs before dumping the body."

In November, police launched an operation to arrest the gang members.

They then made a gruesome discovery in a house in Bukit Mertajam on the mainland.

State police chief Datuk Abdul Rahim told reporters: "One of the houses was used as a slaughterhouse. They butchered the bodies before discarding them at different locations. The suspects stayed in another rented unit several doors away."

SEVERED HEAD

In two separate cases in November, the gang left a severed head in a bag in the middle of the town and a pair of arms and a head near a police station.

Mr Abdul Rahim said: "Throwing body parts near the police station is an attempt to challenge our credibility."

Even as suspects were being arrested, the killings continued into December.

Another body of a man was found. His throat was slit.

After interrogation, police said they learnt that the murders were linked to ethnic clashes in Myanmar between Muslims and Buddhists.

One of the suspects allegedly said the murders were revenge killings.


This article was first published on January 1, 2015.
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