Tuesday • November 22, 2005
THE Court of Appeal yesterday reserved judgment on Took Leng How's appeal against his death sentence.
Instead, the decision will be made "at a later date either this year or early next year", said Chief Justice Yong Pung How at the end of a hearing that lasted no more than an hour. The appeal was also heard by Justice Chao Hick Tin and Justice Kan Ting Chiu.
Took, 23, was sentenced to death in August after he was found guilty for the murder of eight-year-old Chinese national Huang Na on Oct 10 last year in an office at the Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre.
Her decomposing body was found in a box on a slope at Telok Blangah Hill.
A packed courtroom yesterday heard disputes over two points — Huang Na's autopsy report and Took's state of mind.
Took's lawyer Subhas Anandan said pathologist Paul Chui testified during the two-week trial that Huang Na had died of acute airway occlusion, or closure of the airway, but could not say if she was strangled.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Jaswant Singh disagreed, saying that five injuries found on Huang Na's face and mouth were consistent with "manual smothering of the assailant using his hand to cover both the deceased's mouth and nose simultaneously for a sustained period of at least two to three minutes using mild to moderate force".
At this point, Justice Kan pointed out the possibility of Huang Na having suffocated while being sealed in the box, which would mean the cause of death could be suffocation and not occlusion, only suffocation.
DPP Singh then clarified: "Took said in his statement she was already dead ... her body was rigid and cold."
When Mr Subhas moved on to highlight his client's diminished responsibility, arguing that instead of rejecting the two conflicting psychiatry reports presented during the trial to study the circumstances of the case, trial judge Justice Lai Kew Chai chose to go with the prosecution's psychiatry report, Justice Kan commented that Took's refusal to testify in court worked against him.
"We had no direct evidence of what happened at the critical time," he said. "We don't know enough and there was not enough information … he did not take the stand."
Rebutting the defence's stand on Took's mental state, DPP Singh reiterated that Took could not have been mentally ill as he could still instruct his lawyers and give statements, albeit "lies", to the police.
He also pointed out that defence psychiatrist R Nagulendran's assessment focused only on Took's mother, who claimed her son frequently smiled to himself and visited mediums.
To which CJ Yong quipped: "In other words, what you are trying to say is he was not mad, he was bad?"
He then adjourned the hearing for a few minutes, after which he returned to announce the court's decision to reserve its judgement.
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Mr Subhas said the decision would most probably be made next year because of the court vacation, which starts next week, unless there was a "special sitting" next month.
"It is not rare, but I also wouldn't say it is very common," he said of the reserved judgment.
Took's parents were in court yesterday but his Indonesian Chinese wife and two-year-old son did not come to Singapore. Accompanied by Took's grandaunt, his parents arrived in Singapore early yesterday morning after an overnight bus ride from Penang.