A former wiring consultant and his wife who were initially sentenced to death for murdering their Indonesian maid escaped the gallows after the Federal Court today amended the charge from murder to culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
- Wife suffering from breast cancer
- Victim died of starvation
- From 49kg, maid weighed 26kg at time of death
A five-man bench led by Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin then sentenced Fong Kong Meng, 62, and housewife Teoh Ching Yen, 60, to 20 years’ jail.
In a unanimous decision, Justice Zulkefli who heard the appeal with Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Richard Malanjum and Federal Court judges Tan Sri Hasan Lah, Datuk Seri Balia Yusof Wahi and Tan Sri Aziah Ali, ordered the sentence to run from the date they were remanded on June 5, 2011.
The panel made the ruling after allowing the appeal by both appellants against the Court of Appeal’s decision which affirmed the Shah Alam High Court verdict in sentencing the couple to death.
They were found guilty of murdering Isti Komariah, 26, at a house No. 90, Jalan SS 2/6, Sea Park in Petaling Jaya near here, between May 14, 2010, and June 5, 2011.
Justice Zulkefli said after considering arguments from both lawyers and deputy public prosecutor, the court found that the prosecution had failed to prove its case on murder.
“We find that the evidence in this case falls under Section 304(a) (of the Penal Code),” said Justice Zulkefli.
In mitigation, lawyer Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram said both appellants were remanded for almost seven years since June 5, 2011, and the wife was suffering from breast cancer.
Deputy public prosecutor Mohd Hamzah Ismail asked for a deterrent sentence as the victim had suffered starvation as a result of the couple’s failure to provide her food before she died.
“In this case, the maximum (jail) sentence is 30 years, I ask for 25 years for both appellants,” he said.
When asked by Justice Zulkefli, whether he asked for the same sentence even though the wife was suffering from cancer, Mohd Hamzah replied: “The prison can take her to the hospital.”
“The court finds the appropriate sentence in this case is 20 years for each of the appellants,” said Justice Zulkefli.
Earlier, Sri Ram submitted that his clients did not cause the death of the victim as they had provided food for the maid.
Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, who also acted for the duo, said the maid had written in her notebook that “majikan saya baik, tetapi saya yang kurang, kalau saya buat jengkel, tapi masih sabar” (my employers are good, I was not so good, when I was being annoying, they were patient).
To this, Mohd Hamzah replied that the victim was deprived of food and was accused by the couple of stealing biscuit and soup from the house.
He also said that the victim’s weight had dropped to only 26kg at the time of her death from 49kg when she first started working for the couple.
On March 6, 2014, the High Court found that the victim died of starvation as a result of the couple’s failure to provide her food and medical treatment.
The trial commenced on July 30, 2012, during which 16 prosecution witnesses and six defence witnesses were called to testify.