Inquest into Death of Student Accused of Stealing Teacher’s iPhone

2246

Teacher gets hate messages and death threats while fresh allegations emerge even as police slam “unethical press” for reporting “untruths” and announce an inquest will be held into student’s death.

Fresh allegations:

  • Teachers defamed by news reports
  • Ministry protecting teacher
  • Teacher took student to canteen for a drink hours before suicide bid
  • Vasanthapiriya passed iPhone to schoolmate
  • Media reporting “untruths”

An inquest will be held into Vasanthapiriya Muniandy’s death after the police wrap up investigations into the case.

Penang Criminal Investigation Department chief Datuk Zainol Samah said the police are still investigating the case from all angles and will need to record more statements from witnesses.

He revealed that police have opened three investigation papers and the state prosecution office has told them to get more evidence for the second investigation paper.

Police first opened an investigation paper under Section 309 for attempted suicide when Vasanthapiriya was brought to the hospital after hanging herself in her home in Nibong Tebal.

“We have to open an investigation paper on this as it is an offence to attempt suicide under the Penal Code,” Zainol was quoted saying.

Later, Vasanthapiriya’s uncle lodged a report alleging a teacher had abused and threatened his niece.

Then police received a third report from a man alleging that he and the teachers have been defamed by various news reports over the case.

“For this case, we looked into several sections and even the Child Act 2001 but the problem with this case is that a lot of it is hearsay,” Zainol was quoted saying.

Overall, he said the police has recorded a total 24 statements.

He said the proper procedure is for the police to complete its investigations first before they can submit the reports for an inquest to be held.

He appealed to those who have been issuing statements into the case, including Malaysian Tamilar Kural group president David Marshel, to step forward and assist in the investigations.

“Even the media that has been reporting on this must come forward to help us and give their statements to us,” he said.

Yesterday, Zainol had taken the media to task for reporting “untruths” that could jeopardise the ongoing investigation into the case.

He also criticised the “unethical press” for reporting on the issue based on hearsay, instead of facts. However, he did not specify these offending reports.

When a reporter explained the reports on Vasanthapiriya thus far were based on police reports and some queries by the press were not answered, Zainol said reporters ought to be patient.

“You cannot simply ask questions. You must wait for our investigations to be completed. You cannot have a trial by media.

“You are bound by a social responsibility to those involved in the case,” Zainol said.

He added that police will be fair to all parties in the investigation into Vasanthapiriya’s case.

Yesterday, it was also reported that the teacher involved in Vasanthapiriya’s case fears for her safety after receiving hate messages and death threats, with some netizens even sharing her picture online.

National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) secretary-general Harry Tan said the public should let justice run its course, adding that both the teacher and her husband are members of the union.

“We’ve met with them and they’ve given their side of the story.

“They have lodged a police report and given their full cooperation to investigators.

“Please stop hurling abuse at them and making threats. Some have even shared the teacher’s photo on social media, which is very traumatic for the family,” Tan said on Wednesday.

Appealing to the authorities to act swiftly, he said the NUTP was deeply saddened by the tragic death of 14-year-old Vasanthapriya in Penang last week and would provide “full assistance” to ensure justice for all parties.

On Jan 24, Vasantha attempted suicide after she was accused of stealing her teacher’s mobile phone.

She was left in critical condition after the attempt and died on Feb 1.

The teacher had reportedly reprimanded the girl in front of her classmates and later questioned her for hours with several other teachers before she and her husband sent the student home and confronted her parents.

The couple had also allegedly threatened to take the student to the police if she did not admit to the alleged theft.

Police have recorded statements the 46-year-old teacher and her 48-year-old husband, said South Seberang Prai OCPD Supt Shafee Abdul Samad.

He said the teacher also lodged two reports about the case.

“The teacher lodged a report denying her phone had been found, and another report was about her feeling embarrassed after the incident went viral on social media,” Shafee said.

He added that police are still trying to find the handphone.

Deputy Education Minister Datuk Chong Sin Woon also urged the public to stop speculating about the case.

“A life was lost. It’s very sad but please let the professionals do their work. Don’t interfere and make the situation worse.

“We’ll ensure that the truth prevails,” he said, adding that the ministry is still waiting for the detailed report on the case.

He also dismissed allegations that the ministry was protecting the teacher involved.

“No way. We’ve always acted fairly in dealing with teachers who have gone against SOP or the law,” Chong said.

Meanwhile, a canteen worker at SMK Methodist Nibong Tebal reportedly said a female teacher had taken Vasanthapiriya to the canteen between 4.30pm and 5pm on Jan 17, hours before the girl was found hanging in her room.

Facebook

“A female teacher brought Vasanthapiriya to the canteen. She ordered an iced Milo, and sat at the long table on the far end,” the worker who wished to remain anonymous was quoted as telling FMT.

The worker said Vasanthapiriya was not in her usual cheerful mood. She spent about 30 minutes at the canteen and left without finishing her drink.

“She looked down and appeared a bit fearful. I smiled at her, but she did not respond. So I just let her be.

“We are very used to seeing her at the canteen. She usually has a smile on her face. We are very shocked that this has happened to her,” the worker was quoted saying.

Dismissing the claims that his daughter had spent time with a female teacher at the school canteen hours before her death, Vasanthapiriya’s father R Muniandy, 54, said her daughter was not allowed to go anywhere after she was accused of stealing the handphone.

“No, it is not true, she was confined to a counselling room at the school,” Muniandy told The Sun yesterday.

Vasanthapiriya’s parents had previously claimed that she was confined for five hours without food or a bathroom break after a female teacher accused her of stealing her iPhone.

FMT also reported of another claim – that the teacher believed Vasanthapiriya had passed the iPhone to her schoolmate, who also lives nearby Vasanthapiriya’s house in Kampung Tong Hai, Nibong Tebal.

A neighbour of the schoolmate apparently said she saw the teacher and her husband allegedly arriving at about 6pm on the day of the incident.

She said the teacher then asked her if her neighbour was at home.

“I knew who the teacher was. She came to my house asking where was the girl from my neighbour’s house,” the woman, whose child also studies at the same school, was quoted as telling FMT.

“That girl is very close to Vasanthapiriya, I think they are good friends.”

According to FMT, they have contacted Penang police chief A Thaiveegan to verify the sequence of events claimed by those interviewed.

On Tuesday, police arrested a man who threw stones at the front gate of SMK Methodist Nibong Tebal on Monday.

The 58-year-old was detained by a team from the Seberang Prai Selatan (SPS) district headquarters at about 4pm on Feb 6 after receiving information from the school.


Related reports:

Feb 6, Emotions Still Raw Nearly a Week After Vasanthapiriya’s Death

Feb 2, Girl Accused of Phone Theft Laid to Rest

Feb 1, Accused of Stealing Teacher’s Handphone, Girl Who Attempted Suicide Dies

Jan 27, Form Two Girl in Suicide Bid After Teacher Accuses Her of Stealing Handphone