Policeman Iskandar Rahmat was yesterday sentenced to hang after being found guilty of the 2013 double murder of a car workshop owner and his son - in an attempt to get his hands on the older man's valuables to stave off bankruptcy.
Justice Tay Yong Kwang rejected Iskandar's claim that the older man had tried to attack him with a knife first and he only reacted in self-defence.
Highlighting the number and severity of the wounds inflicted on 67-year-old Tan Boon Sin and his 42-year-old son Chee Heong - mainly in the vital areas of the head, neck and chest, the judge ruled that Iskandar had attacked "them cruelly and relentlessly with the clear intention of causing death".
He agreed with the prosecution that Iskandar had brought with him the knife, which has not been recovered, and was intent on protecting his identity.
The elder Mr Tan, on the other hand, was a mild-mannered man with knee problems, and there was nothing to indicate that he had flown into a rage and tried to attack Iskandar.
The 36-year-old accused, a senior staff sergeant in the force, nodded slightly as the death sentence was pronounced. His lawyer Shashi Nathan later told reporters that they plan to appeal.
Mr Tan's younger son and daughter were in the gallery, as they have been almost every day through the eight-day trial. His wife, who gave evidence, was not present.
Mr Tan suffered 27 stab and slash wounds and died from a slit throat. His older son, who was found with 20 knife wounds, died from a stab to the neck that damaged three major blood vessels. Iskandar had relatively minor injuries on his hands.
It was not just the violence of the deaths nor the identity of the killer which shocked the nation. After killing them on the afternoon of July 10, 2013, at the older man's Hillside Drive house, Iskandar escaped in his victim's Toyota Camry.
Chee Heong's body was caught under his father's car and dragged for a kilometre, leaving a trail of blood as people watched in shock and motorists sounded their horns.
Iskandar, who joined the force in 1999, regularly won commendations and was even featured in a police magazine for his "exemplary service attitude". But in October 2012, OCBC Bank filed a bankruptcy petition against him - stemming from unpaid housing, renovation and car loans. Despite selling the car and flat, he still owed $62,000.
The next month, he found out that Mr Tan had gone to the police to report that $45,000 and gold coins had gone missing from his safe deposit box at the Certis Cisco Centre in Paya Lebar. Iskandar, initially assigned as the duty investigation officer for the case, learnt that $200,000 still remained in the safe deposit box.
His troubles escalated the next year. His debt issues forced the police to launch disciplinary proceedings against him. The bank also gave him a deadline of July 11 to pay $50,000 to settle his debts or face bankruptcy.
So he hatched an elaborate plot to steal the valuables Mr Tan still kept in the deposit box. On July 10, pretending to be an intelligence officer, he told Mr Tan his deposit box was about to be "hit" again. He persuaded him to plant a CCTV camera inside in place of the valuables.
He offered to escort Mr Tan to his three-storey terraced house as he was carrying a lot of money.
There, he killed the man.
Mr Tan's son had left his office apparently to help his father, who knew little English and conversed with his killer in Malay, to record his statement to Iskandar.
Though it was not part of the plan, Iskandar decided to kill him there and then when he came into the picture, said Justice Tay.
Iskandar fled to Johor, where he was arrested at the popular Singgah Selalu restaurant on July 14, with the help of Malaysian police.
The judge praised the police for the quick arrest and the unbiased and professional investigation. Justice Tay, at the request of Mr Nathan, gave Iskandar 20 minutes to spend with his family and friends, who were in court for the first time since the trial started in October.
The knife Iskandar's defence and what the judge said
Iskandar Rahmat claimed:
Iskandar said he was unarmed when he went to Mr Tan Boon Sin's house. While he was in the living room, Mr Tan emerged from the kitchen with a knife in his right hand.
He managed to wrest the knife away and stabbed Mr Tan, who was tugging at him. After killing both men, he threw the knife, with other items, into a canal at East Coast Park. It was never recovered.
Justice Tay Yong Kwang found:
Iskandar had taken along a knife, which he hid from view. It had always been his plan to kill Mr Tan as he could not risk being identified.
After his arrest, Iskandar was able to sketch a picture of the knife for investigators, even though the knife would have been covered in blood after the stabbings and slashings.
He was able to recall that the knife had grooves and many small circles along its cutting edge.
The clear inference is that Iskandar had time to observe the knife before it became bloody in the continuous stream of events that day.
That could only happen if the knife was with Iskandar some time before the attacks.
When the knife in his drawing was referred to repeatedly during the trial as having a serrated or jagged edge, he did not voice any objection.
But when he took the stand, he said that he was describing a knife with a smooth cutting edge to the police.
Iskandar testified that the circles he drew represented actual circles that stretched from the "end of the knife to almost the tip of the knife", and which were darker in colour.
He said the blade was two-toned, matte along the edge and shiny elsewhere.
The accused was trying to modify his testimony about the knife after having heard the testimonies of Mr Tan's wife that she did not have any serrated knives in her kitchen and Mr Tan's fishing buddy that they did not use such knives for fishing
This article was first published on Dec 5, 2015.
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