Prosecution not seeking death penalty for man guilty of murdering housemate

COVID-19 precautionary measures being taken at the Supreme Court building on 26 March 2020. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)
COVID-19 precautionary measures being taken at the Supreme Court building on 26 March 2020. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — A man who stabbed his housemate fatally with a kitchen knife after a dispute in their Teck Whye flat in 2017 was found guilty of murder at the High Court on Tuesday (9 November).

Mohammad Rosli Abdul Rahim, 51, had been arguing with the victim, 35-year-old Mohammad Roslan Zaini, over rent and utilities in the wee hours of 16 August 2017.

In finding Rosli guilty, Justice Dedar Singh Gill said that he was satisfied "beyond a reasonable doubt that the elements of section 300(c) of the Penal Code have been established". Section 300(c) is for murder by intentionally causing bodily injury sufficient to cause death.

"I reject the defence's case that the fatal stab wound was accidentally inflicted by the accused," Justice Gill said. "I also find that the accused (has not succeeded) in establishing on a balance of probabilities the defence of grave and sudden provocation."

Rosli is represented by lawyers Anand Nalachandran, Low Chun Yee and Adeline Goh, who asked for time to make submissions on sentencing.

The prosecution, represented by Deputy Public Prosecutors Yang Ziliang and Zhou Yang, said that the prosecution will not be seeking the death penalty and will not be objecting to life imprisonment for Rosli.

Suspicion of over-charging of monthly rent

Rosli had claimed trial to the charge of murder earlier this year. During the opening of his trial, the court heard that around November 2016, Roslan approached Rosli, who was homeless then, and suggested that they co-rent his flat.

They registered their names with the Housing and Development Board as co-tenants and agreed to split the monthly rent.

In August 2017, Rosli began to suspect that Roslan was over-charging him for his share of the monthly rent. Around the same time, Roslan also ended his romantic relationship with a married woman, whom Rosli had known for over 10 years and regarded as a sister. She complained to Rosli about her unhappiness with the victim.

On 16 August that year, three friends went to Rosli's and Roslan's home to watch a movie together with them at about 1am. One friend left at about 2am.

Stabbed victim in chest, right forearm, right thigh

At about 4am, according to the prosecution, Roslan began arguing with Rosli over money, in particular, the payments towards the rent and utilities of their unit.

According to the defence, Rosli lost self-control when the victim uttered vulgarities insulting Rosli's mother.

At around 4.30am, Rosli took a knife with a 17cm-long blade from the kitchen and confronted Roslan in the living room. He stabbed Roslan on the chest, delivering the blow with such force that the blade penetrated the victim's sternum.

Addressing the argument that Roslan's insults constituted grave provocation, Justice Gill said, "I do not think that the deceased’s insults to the accused’s mother were sufficiently 'grave'.

"The insults to the accused’s mother were far too common to cause a reasonable man to lose self-control, and the foregoing circumstances did not indicate that the deceased’s insults relating to the accused’s mother constituted the 'proverbial last straw for the accused.'"

Rosli then stabbed the victim twice more, in the right forearm and right thigh. The two friends witnessed the attack and fled, with one asking his sister to call the police.

Due to the how the fatal stab wound was inflicted - by an inward thrust and with significant speed and force - the judge also found that the wound was intentionally inflicted.

Roslan struggled down four storeys of stairs and reached a grass patch in front of Block 165A Teck Whye Crescent before collapsing. A bus driver who was on her way to work saw the victim covered in blood, coughing once and then remaining motionless. She called the police.

Policemen followed the trail of blood back to the unit. Rosli had fled. Officers arrested him later that morning at about 10.15am at the void deck of Block 6 Teck Whye Avenue.

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