Carjacking suspects 'were on drugs'

Johor police say gang which abducted S’pore family may be linked to 14 other crimes

Singaporean victim Affandi Mahat (second from right, in checkered shirt) looking at the recovered items put on display at the Johor police headquarters on July 7, 2012.
Singaporean victim Affandi Mahat (second from right, in checkered shirt) looking at the recovered items put on display at the Johor police headquarters on July 7, 2012.PHOTO: ST FILE

The suspects believed to have hijacked a Singapore family’s car in Johor could have been high on the drug methamphetamine at the time of the carjacking, Johor police said yesterday.

At a press conference called at the Johor police headquarters in Johor Baru for reporters from Malaysia and Singapore, police chief Mohd Mokhtar Mohd Shariff said the trio were nabbed in a raid on Wednesday. Another two suspects linked to the July 1 carjacking are at large. All five are Malaysians, aged 30 to 47.

He said the gang is believed to have been behind 14 other crimes in Johor, including vehicle theft, robbery and drug offences.

The seven-hour raid on three homes in Felda Ulu Tebrau, a village in Ulu Tiram, yielded several items that were put on display yesterday.

These included a pump gun with three bullets, two pistols, credit cards, identification cards, driving licences and cellphones.

Among those present yesterday was the victim of the July 1 carjacking, businesswoman Rita Zahara, accompanied by her family.

The case has been classified as one of abduction and extortion, instead of kidnap, because no ransom was demanded or paid.

Ms Zahara’s car, a white Nissan Sunny, has been recovered; yesterday, she also reclaimed a cellphone and laptop. Speaking to reporters, the 37-year-old mother of two said: “I am appreciative of the hard work of the Malaysia police. They did it very quickly, in just three days.”

Referring to information from the police that the suspects may have been on drugs, she said they sounded “normal” when they spoke on the phone with her after making off with her family and car.

She said she was driving her family back to Singapore at about 1am when she stopped near Jalan Tun Abdul Razak to buy fruit from a roadside stall while her children, sister and maid waited in the car.

She returned to find the car and its occupants gone, but was reunited with them three hours later, after many tense phone conversations with the suspects. The occupants of the car were unharmed.

Another Singaporean victim of Johor crime present yesterday was Mr Affandi Mahat, 50, who was in Jalan Tebrau at about 2am on Monday when two men got into his Hyundai Sonata and ordered him at gunpoint to drive.

Mr Affandi, a planner in the aviation industry, was then in a brightly lit petrol kiosk just across the road from the police headquarters.

He said: “They pointed the gun at my waist and a knife at my neck. After about 200m, they took over the driving.”

He said they tied his hands with cable ties and left him – minus his car – by at a roadside near Kota Tinggi, nearly 140km away.

He contacted the police by walking to a restaurant nearby.

His car has also been recovered, but he has lost his cellphone, camera equipment and credit cards.

Mr Mokhtar had harsh words to describe the suspects: “These retarded and moronic criminals do not target any particular nationality.

“They are parasites of society. They will do whatever they want to perpetrate their stupid acts. In this case, they are drug addicts.”

His department also released figures on the number of crimes against Singaporeans: There were 413 in 2009, 320 in 2010, and 400 last year; in the first six months of this year, there were 216 cases.

He noted, however, that of the two million visits made by Singapore residents to Johor every month, less than 1 per cent were the victims of criminal acts.

Larkin, where Ms Zahara’s car was taken, is now more heavily patrolled, he said.

He said of her case: “There was a lot of publicity. This will affect the investment climate, the confidence of Singaporeans coming here. We don’t want all this.”

Shin Min Daily News yesterday reported another incident on Thursday night in which Singaporean part-time tutor David Lim, 24, was robbed at gunpoint in Johor Baru. It happened at 10.45pm when he met three men who appeared to be interested in buying the laptop he was selling online.