Man stabbed to death in Little India restaurant over mistaken identity: Coroner

State Coroner Marvin Bay said there can be no doubt that Mr Karthigesan Tiaga Raj's death was the result of foul play.
State Coroner Marvin Bay said there can be no doubt that Mr Karthigesan Tiaga Raj's death was the result of foul play.PHOTO: ST GRAPHICS

SINGAPORE - A 25-year-old material inspection officer died after he was stabbed in the chest at a Little India restaurant by the owner's son 12 years ago. The latter had mistaken the man and his friends for those involved in an earlier brawl at the eatery.

The assailant and his accomplice fled Singapore shortly after, leaving a cold trail for over a decade. Police classified the case as murder.

On Tuesday (March 1), State Coroner Marvin Bay said there can be no doubt that Mr Karthigesan Tiaga Raj's death was the result of foul play.

He said: "I am satisfied from the evidence that Mr Thangesan Bharathithasan, who inflicted the fatal wound, had caused the wrongful killing of Mr Karthigesan Tiaga Raj."

"Besides being the wrong man, he could be considered to have unfortunately been in the wrong place at the wrong time," the coroner added.

The coroner's inquiry heard that Mr Karthigesan had gone drinking in Serangoon Road with his friend and colleague Mr Arunmugam Palaniappan, now 37, on Sept 10, 2003.

At about 3am the next day, they went to Ma-Moni Restaurant.

There, they saw Mr Karthigesan's friend Sasikumaran Sarangtharum, 34, who invited them to join him.

But before the duo could sit down, Thangesan and Akbar Ahmad Basheer, then aged 22, a Malaysian who rented a unit above the restaurant, approached them, thinking they had earlier fought at the eatery.

Thangesan asked Mr Karthigesan "What is the problem" loudly in Tamil, and the latter shouted back, asking Thangesan if the eatery was "his place".

Shortly after, Mr Karthigesan raised his hand to punch Thangesan, but Mr Sasikumaran stood in between them to stop the fight.

While Mr Sasikumaran was holding Mr Karthigesan back, Thangesan punched Mr Arunmugam in the face.

Mr Sasikumaran then went to separate the two men. While he was doing so, Mr Karthegesan punched Thangesan's face, while Mr Arunmugam scuffled with Akbar.

Thangesan then went to the kitchen and got a knife with an 18cm blade, and swung it at Mr Karthigesan and Mr Arunmugam. He then stabbed Mr Karthigesan in his chest.

A restaurant helper managed to wrestle the weapon away and threw it on the kitchen floor.

Mr Karthigesan did not have a pulse when emergency services arrived. He was pronounced dead in hospital at about 4.15am.

Thangesan and Akbar left the country via Woodlands Checkpoint at about 7.25am that day.

Singapore police believe they later went to India, and had sought help from Malaysian and Indian police to trace them, but to no avail.

Investigations revealed that Mr Sasikumaran had gone for drinks at Taal Live Music Lounge, also in Serangoon Road, with his friend Bala Krishnan Vasudevan, then 57, and the latter's friends.

Mr Bala and a female friend had quarrelled outside the pub at about 3am, and she slapped him. When Mr Sasikumaran tried to stop the fight, he accidentally touched her chest and was accused of molesting her.

Mr Bala and Mr Sasikumaran then went to Ma-Moni Restaurant, but three men who were at the pub with them earlier confronted Mr Sasikumaran over the alleged molest.

When waiter Sundaran Supramaniam, then 57, tied to stop the quarrel, one of the three men punched him and then threw a chair at him. The trio then left.

A restaurant helper called Thangesan to tell him of the fight at his father's restaurant and let him know that Mr Sundaran had been injured.

Thangesan and Akbar then went to the eatery, and mistook Mr Karthigesan and Mr Arunmugam as the ones who had fought there earlier.