The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) stated its reasons on Monday (18 December) for not charging the couple who tortured their roommate to death with murder amid intense public debate over the case.
The death of Annie Ee Yu Lian, a 26-year-old waitress, as a result of sustained attacks by Tan Hui Zhen, 33, and her husband Pua Hak Chuan, 38, was due to an “unusual occurrence” of a medical condition, the AGC said in a statement.
Tan and Pua admitted in the High Court last month to causing Ee’s death in the couple’s flat in Woodlands on 13 April 2015 and charges of voluntarily causing grievous hurt with a dangerous weapon and causing grievous hurt. Tan was jailed 16 years and six months while Pua was jailed 14 years and given 14 strokes of the cane on 1 December.
Referring to medical evidence that showed Ee’s death was caused by acute fat embolism, the AGC said, “This was an unusual occurrence that would not have ordinarily resulted from the injuries inflicted by Pua and Tan. As Pua and Tan did not intend to cause Annie’s death, and the injuries they inflicted would not ordinarily cause death, the offences of murder and culpable homicide cannot be proved against them.”
Fat embolism is a condition in which fat tissue passes into the bloodstream and stays within a blood vessel. Often caused by physical trauma, fat embolism could lead to death in a minority of cases.
An autopsy revealed that Ee suffered 12 fractured ribs, seven fractured vertebrae, a ruptured stomach, several large blisters and bruises all over her body and face.
The prosecution proceeded against the couple with charges of voluntarily causing grievous hurt with a dangerous weapon as they “reflect the most serious offences committed by the two accused, as supported by the evidence,” said the AGC, adding that it released the statement because the time for appealing against the Court’s decision had expired and no appeal had been filed.
The case sparked outrage among many in Singapore when details of the unrelenting abuse suffered by Ee at the hands of the couple over eight months were revealed in court. Tan and Pua would assault Ee almost daily using objects such as a wooden pole, a dustbin, and a heavy roll of shrink wrap.
During the period of the case hearing, an online petition that called for harsher punishment for Tan and Pua garnered almost 20,000 signatures.
The AGC said it understands why the public was “shocked and moved” by Ee’s suffering and the circumstances of her “tragic death”.
“However, the integrity of the legal system requires that all parties, including the accused, are treated fairly and that cases are prosecuted and decided strictly in accordance with the law and the evidence. It is therefore critical that the public refrains from commenting on, or interfering with, pending proceedings or otherwise seek to influence their outcome,” the AGC added.