SINGAPORE - Criminal lawyer Subhas Anandan, 67, died of heart failure on Wednesday morning.
Mr Sunil Sudheesan, who is Mr Subhas' nephew, told The Straits Times he was informed about his uncle's death before an appeal case on Wednesday.
But he stayed in court till the case was over before going to the hospital. Tearing up, Mr Sunil said: "(Subhas) would have wanted me to finish the appeal."
More than a dozen family members and friends were at the Singapore General Hospital, with some in tears and being comforted by others.
The family, in a statement, said they were grateful for the outpouring of condolences but asked to be allowed to grieve in private. Details of the funeral will be shared at a later stage.
Mr Subhas had been in ill health, and he was diagnosed with heart and kidney failure last year. He had three heart attacks since 1978, lost one kidney to cancer in 2001, suffered diabetes and blocked intestines.
The prominent lawyer, a senior partner at RHTLaw Taylor Wessing and president of the Association of Criminal Lawyers in Singapore, had earned a reputation for defending notorious criminals, many a time pro bono.
He defended Anthony Ler, who hired a teenager to kill his wife in 2001; Took Leng How, a vegetable packer who befriended eight-year-old girl Huang Na, then killed her in 2004; and Leong Siew Chor, who chopped up a woman he killed in the Kallang body parts case.
Another client was ex-stewardess Constance Chee, who abducted her ex-lover's four-year-old daughter and caused her death after a fall from a flat in 2004.
In his career, he had taken on more than 2,500 cases since he was called to the Bar in 1971 after graduating from the then University of Singapore.
Said senior lawyer Amolat Singh, a long-time friend of Mr Subhas: "Everybody is in utter disbelief. It's a very shocking piece of news, like a bolt out of the blue. He was out and about, always giving people encouragement. There was never a moment that we thought he was going so soon. He was always a fighter."
Members of the legal fraternity paid tribute to Mr Subhas on Wednesday, after news of his death spread.
Law and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam said Mr Subhas' strong sense of justice has made him a "legal legend" to the legal fraternity as well as the general public.
In a Facebook post, Mr Shanmugam wrote: "Described by many as a titan in criminal law, Subhas' name is synonymous with tenaciousness in court, a sharp intellect and above all, a generous heart.
"His unswerving belief in fair representation for the accused, and granting them a second chance in life, makes him an inspiring role model for the rest of the Criminal Bar."
Attorney-General V. K. Rajah said Mr Subhas made a meaningful difference to the legal landscape and, in particular, to the administration of criminal justice.
Mr Subhas had "an uncanny legal acumen" that identified the most persuasive points to be made even in apparently "hopeless" cases, and was also a pioneer in promoting pro bono services long before it was recognised as an essential facet of legal practice, he added.
"In establishing the Association of Criminal Lawyers, Subhas gave the Criminal Bar a distinctive voice that was not just heard but one that often influenced policy making... All in all, he was a lawyer with a good head, a big heart and an uncommon touch."
In a statement, Law Society president Thio Shen Yi said Mr Subhas was known for his tenacity and perseverance, and will be fondly remembered and sadly missed by his colleagues at the Bar, particularly the Criminal Bar.
"Throughout his career, Subhas was recognised as a renown criminal lawyer who took on some of the most high profile criminal cases in Singapore's legal history," Mr Thio said. "Our thoughts and condolences are with his family during this time of grief."
Mr Sunil said that details of the funeral will be shared at a later stage.
He had a second book, titled It's Easy To Cry, due on the shelves later this year.
He leaves his wife, Vimala, 56, and son Sujesh, 24.