Rare murder acquittal on grounds of insanity

 Rare murder acquittal on grounds of insanity

HIGH on cough pills one morning two years ago, Mohamed Redha Abdul Mutalib heard voices in his head telling him that his mother was a "spirit" which should be killed.

He went to the kitchen of the Eunos flat they shared with his family, took two knives, and attacked Madam Asnah Aziz, stabbing her repeatedly.

The 56-year-old housewife bled to death. In a rare case here, Redha, 32, was yesterday acquitted of murdering his mother on Jan 26, 2012, on grounds of temporary insanity. His wife Alma Pendon Sorongan, 37, a nurse, cried in the courtroom's public gallery and later told reporters: "I get to visit (Redha) in prison every day, so these two years have not felt too long for me."

Redha, who was a health-care assistant at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) before the incident, has a 10-year-old step- daughter. He will be held at Changi Prison pending an order from the Ministry of Home Affairs.

He is later likely to be confined in IMH at the President's pleasure until his release is ordered, his lawyers told reporters. Handing down his decision in the High Court yesterday, Justice Tay Yong Kwang found that Redha, who had fought the charge, had committed the alleged act.

But he had been incapable of knowing that it was wrong or contrary to law, said the judge, because he was of unsound mind at the time. Redha, who had a history of substance abuse, had taken 80 tablets of cough drug Romilar in the two days before he attacked his mother, said court documents.

That morning, he was heavily intoxicated but was awakened by noise from a lion dance performance at an adjacent block. He tried to leave the flat but was stopped by Madam Asnah. He returned to his bed and heard voices in his head saying the woman in the living room was not his mother.

The voices told him to slap her three times to verify this. When he did that, she reacted fearfully and another voice in his head concluded she was not his mother and told him to kill her. Redha then took the knives from the kitchen and stabbed Madam Asnah repeatedly until she collapsed on the floor.

Calling the case "very tragic", his lawyers R.S. Bajwa, Rajan Supramaniam and Alina Sim cited a psychiatric report that said the man loved his mother very much and would not have intended to harm her.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Tan Wen Hsien and Teo Lu Jia said the case was an "appropriate" one to be considered for acquittal, based on grounds of unsound mind. Under the Criminal Procedure Code, any person acquitted of an offence due to unsoundness of mind - but found to have committed the relevant act - must be kept in a place of safe custody.

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