SINGAPORE - He admitted to hitting his former lawyer's wife with a chain and padlock before starting a fire in the law firm on Aug 10, 2011.
Taxi driver Govindasamy Nallaiah told the court yesterday that after setting his case file alight, he was frightened when the fire got bigger and triggered the fire alarm.
On the sixth day of his murder trial, the cabby, now 70, said he then fled from the office of B Rengarajoo & Associates on the sixth storey of Afro-Asia Building in Robinson Road.
He testified that he had not intended to kill Madam Low Foong Meng, 56, who was married to lawyer Rengarajoo Rengasamy Balasamy.
He thought the sprinklers would turn on when the alarm went off and assumed that security officers would then rescue the mother of three. Instead, the fire spread and Madam Low's body was later found in the office on the same day.
Govindasamy also told the court that Madam Low fell on the floor after he hit her twice with the steering wheel chain and padlock.
He said that if he had wanted to kill her, "I could have taken the file, put it on her and burnt it".
He told Judicial Commissioner Hoo Sheau Peng that he did not do this.
Instead, he just set fire to his case file at a table more than 5m away from where Madam Low was lying, he said.
Making his defence yesterday, Govindasamy, who used to be a senior Customs officer, said he had known Mr Rengarajoo since they were 15 years old and they played badminton together.
In 2002, Govindasamy asked Mr Rengarajoo to represent him in a corruption case.
He agreed to pay the lawyer's quoted fee of $25,000 and roped in his two civil-servant children as guarantors.
He was convicted and jailed for five months.
The fee went unpaid and by July 2011, it had risen to $38,000 with interest.
Govindasamy, who said he had financial trouble, negotiated unsuccessfully with Mr Rengarajoo over the repayment twice in 2011.
On Aug 10, he went to the law firm and met Madam Low.
He said: "Short of falling at her feet, I pleaded. She didn't give me any respect. (She said) if you don't pay, your kids will be made bankrupt the next day."
Govindasamy said he became angry when he heard the word "bankrupt" as his children could have lost their jobs.
He took out the chain and padlock and hit her before taking his case file from a nearby table.
He said: "When I looked at the file, I became very angry. It was all because of this file."
He picked up a lighter from a table, took out a towel from his bag, set it on fire and placed it on the file.
Pieces of paper on the table also started burning and the fire soon spread.
"I thought that by burning the file, the case won't be made against my children."
After leaving the building, Govindasamy said, he drove his taxi to Bendemeer, where he changed his clothes and placed them in a bag.
He then drove his taxi until he reached a canal and got rid of the bag.
The police arrested him at his home that evening.
The trial resumes today.
This article was first published on Nov 4, 2015.
Get The New Paper for more stories.