Ex-boss' mum strangled: Trial opens for accused

P. Mageswaran being escorted back to the scene of the crime by the police on Dec 23, 2013.
P. Mageswaran being escorted back to the scene of the crime by the police on Dec 23, 2013.PHOTO: ST FILE

Desperate for money to pay for a flat his wife had bought in Johor, a 49-year-old Singaporean allegedly killed a grandmother he knew when she refused to let him take her jewellery worth about $10,000.

P. Mageswaran, a car washer, pressed a pillow over Madam Kanne Lactmy's face with one hand and choked her with the other, the High Court heard yesterday.

An autopsy found that the 62-year-old had died from manual strangulation.

These events on the morning of Dec 9, 2013, were set out by the prosecution yesterday, the first day of Mageswaran's trial for culpable homicide with intention to cause death.

Consultant forensic pathologist Marian Wang, who testified, said the death came to her initially as a normal coroner's case as no foul play was suspected.

But she found bruises on the dead woman's neck, prompting further investigation.

Mageswaran used to work for Madam Lactmy's son and had attended their family gatherings, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Wong Kok Weng.

On the morning of the attack, he asked his wife for the home purchase documents, lying that he wanted to use them to convince his employer to lend him money to pay the RM5,000 (S$1,600) deposit.

Mageswaran, who lived in a rented flat in Johor, then headed to Singapore and Madam Lactmy's flat in Yishun Street 81.

Surveillance footage from her block's void deck cameras shows him arriving at about 8.35am.

Mageswaran claimed he asked to borrow $2,000 to $3,000 from her but she said she did not have such large sums, the DPP said.

When she went to brush her teeth in the toilet adjoining the kitchen, Mageswaran searched the three bedrooms for valuables and found a box with jewellery and several pawnshop tickets in the master bedroom.

She spotted him holding the box when she entered the room and demanded that he return it. Mageswaran pleaded with her to let him have it and she told him she would call her son.

He pushed her to the floor, choked and smothered her until she lay still, the court heard.

He left with the box, raising the hood of his jacket to avoid being identified.

Surveillance footage shows him shielding his face with his hand as he took the stairs to the void deck at about 9.35am.

Hethrew away the jacket and went home. Later, he pawned the jewellery for RM26,300 and threw away the pawnshop tickets.

Shortly past noon on Dec 9, a neighbour's maid found Madam Lactmy and paramedics who attended to her detected no breathing and no pulse. She was pronounced dead in hospital at 1.30pm.

If convicted, Mageswaran faces life imprisonment and caning, or up to 20 years' jail, caning or a fine.

He is defended by Mr Derek Kang, assigned under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme.

The defence is expected to argue that Mageswaran should be convicted of the less serious charge of culpable homicide without intention to cause death. It carries a 10-year maximum jail term, caning and a fine.

The trial continues.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2016, with the headline 'Ex-boss' mum strangled: Trial opens for accused'. Print Edition | Subscribe