Convicted murderer fails to escape gallows a second time

SINGAPORE - A convicted murderer who was sentenced to death in 2010, then given a reprieve with a life sentence in 2013, has failed to escape the gallows a second time.

A five-man Court of Appeal gave a split 3-2 decision on Wednesday in favour of sentencing 30-year-old rag and bone man Jabing Kho, from Sarawak, to death.

Prosecutors had argued for Kho to be given the death penalty, in the first appeal against a High Court judge's decision to re-sentence a murderer to life in jail.

In 2008, Kho beat a Chinese construction worker to death with a tree branch. Mr Cao Ruyin, 40, was robbed of his mobile phone and died from brain injuries six days later.

In 2010 Kho and his accomplice Galing Kujat, 32, were convicted of murder and sentenced to the then-mandatory death penalty. Kho's appeal against conviction was rejected the following year while Kujat's was allowed.

Instead of murder, Kujat - also from Malaysia - was convicted of robbery with hurt and he was later sentenced to 18 and a half years and 19 strokes of the cane.

But after revised laws came into effect in 2013, making the death penalty mandatory only for the most serious form of murder, Kho's lawyer Anand Nalachandran applied for him to be re-sentenced.

In August 2013, the High Court gave Kho a life term instead.

The prosecution challenged this decision and its appeal was heard by a rare five-man Court of Appeal last year.

The court gave its decision on Wednesday, revealing the 3-2 split.

The majority said that, in light of the "sheer savagery and brutality" of the attack, they were "completely satisfied" that Kho "exhibited a blatant disregard for human life in the way he attacked the deceased".

The minority, however, said that even though Kho's blows would have been of considerable force, it was unsafe to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that he acted in a way which showed a blatant disregard for human life.

selinal@sph.com.sg