SEREMBAN - The two elderly nuns who were mercilessly attacked with a helmet and robbed in the Church of Visitation compound had only a few ringgit each on them.
Sister Julianna Lim, 69, who is fighting for her life after slipping into a coma following the incident just before dawn on Wednesday, had less than RM10 (S$3.80) while Sister Marie Rose alias Theresa Teng, 79, had just several ringgit in their small handbags.
Police have ruled out hate crime as the motive of the attack and are now investigating the case under "voluntarily causing injury during a robbery".
Both Roman Catholic nuns were not wearing their habits at the time.
The sisters were also carrying some articles of faith including rosaries, prayer books and a pocket Bible when they were confronted by a lone suspect wearing a full-faced helmet.
State police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Osman Salleh said other items on them were keys to their home in Kampung Pasir and to the car they arrived in as well as a handphone.
"We managed to record a statement from Marie Rose and she said that a man wearing a full-faced helmet had struck her first with a helmet.
"This prompted Lim to scream, causing the attacker to lunge at her and pound her repeatedly with the helmet," he said.
A church caretaker found Lim and Marie Rose both bleeding and sprawled at the entrance to the church.
Only minutes earlier, they had arrived at the church in a car driven by Lim with another nun for the morning mass.
As the mass had not started yet, the other nun walked towards a statue of Virgin Mary to offer prayers while the victims headed to the front entrance to say their prayers and exercise at the same time.
DCP Osman expressed hope that Lim would recover soon and shed some light on the attack as she was the one who saw the suspect hitting Marie Rose first.
"Marie Rose can't remember much of the incident as she was hit from the side. All she could tell us was that the lone attacker wore a full-faced helmet, and was slim and about five feet, seven inches tall," he said.
DCP Osman said based on preliminary investigations, police ruled out hate crime as the motive of the attack.
He said the victims were not in their habits but were wearing ordinary clothing.
"We are now looking at the CCTV recordings obtained from the church. In all, there are 13 CCTVs and we need time and assistance from the experts to review them thoroughly," he added.
Unfortunately, the very CCTV at the entrance to the church was out of order, said DCP Osman.
"We will look at the other CCTVs and hope to get some leads from there," he said and appealed to eyewitnesses to come forward to help in the probe.
At a separate press conference in the church grounds, Rahang assemblyman and church member P. Josephine Mary said the nuns would usually carry a small amount of cash for breakfast after mass.
She also said several snatch thefts and car break-ins had been reported in the area in the past two years.
"Many parishioners had been robbed of their gold chains and other valuables but some did not lodge reports," she said, expressing hope that police patrols would be stepped up in the area, especially in the mornings and during weekends.
Mary said many victims had also reported being robbed by two men wearing full-faced helmets on a motorcycle in recent times.