On again, off again statements from former policeman who killed Mongolian model

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Former Malaysian police commando Sirul Azhar Umar, convicted of the murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu, returned call to PAS information chief Mahfuz Omar two hours after a scheduled teleconference on Monday.

Mahfuz had arranged for Sirul to speak to the Malaysian media via teleconferencing from Sydney at 1130am on Monday but calls to him were directed to a voice mail. The session had to be cancelled.

In a three-minute conversation with Mahfuz, a Pokok Sena Member of Parliament, the man believed to be Sirul at the end of the line sounded composed, while describing his situation at the Australian Immigration detention centre in Sydney as "comfortable and safe".

"I'm not planning to say much but I would like to thank the Malaysian press for the coverage and the Australian government for protecting me by providing a place which I deem comfortable and safe," he said.

He added that he was still considering the right time to issue a statement regarding his conviction and his side of story.

"However, I will try to keep you updated from time to time. Thank you," he said before abruptly ending the phone call.

Mahfuz said that Sirul had waited for his phone call since 11.30am despite his numerous attempts to reach him.

"Sirul decided to call me as he had waited for my phone call. He said that I never reached him like I said I would," Mahfuz explained, adding that he also had to apologise to Sirul for ending the press conference.

The highly-anticipated 15-minute teleconference between the Malaysian media and Sirul had failed after 15 attempts were made to contact the latter.

However, several members of the media decided to stay back and managed to listen to the phone call.

Sirul, 43, was detained in Brisbane last month and is now being held at the immigration detention centre in Sydney. He is believed to have entered Australia last year.

He had failed to appear at the Federal Court hearing last month at which he and former chief inspector Azilah Hadri, 38, were sentenced to death for the October 2006 murder of Altantuya.