The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) yesterday addressed questions raised by the public in the case of the couple who abused their flatmate to death, and explained why murder charges were not brought against them.
On Dec 1, Tan Hui Zhen, 33, was sentenced to 16 1/2 years' jail, and her husband, Pua Hak Chuan, 38, was given 14 years' jail and 14 strokes of the cane.
The couple had pleaded guilty to various charges related to the extensive torture of Ms Annie Ee, a 26-year-old waitress with intellectual disabilities.
The daily beatings over eight months left Ms Ee with 12 fractured ribs and seven fractured vertebrae, a ruptured stomach and a body crowded with blisters and bruises.
The pair were initially charged with murder, but the counts were amended after police completed investigations.
In a statement, an AGC spokesman explained that the prosecutor's duty is to only prefer a charge which is supported by evidence.
The evidence given by the forensic pathologist was that Ms Ee's death was caused by acute fat embolism.
MURDER CHARGE AMENDED
As Pua and Tan did not intend to cause Annie's death, and the injuries they inflicted would not ordinarily cause death, the offences of murder and culpable homicide cannot be proved against them.
This was an unusual occurrence that would not have ordinarily resulted from the injuries inflicted by Pua and Tan, said the spokesman.
Ms Ee was beaten so severely that fatty tissue below the skin had separated from the muscle and entered her bloodstream, interfering with blood getting oxygen in the lungs and leading to progressive cardiac and respiratory failure.
"As Pua and Tan did not intend to cause Annie's death, and the injuries they inflicted would not ordinarily cause death, the offences of murder and culpable homicide cannot be proved against them," the spokesman said.
The prosecution thus proceeded with charges of voluntarily causing grievous hurt - which the law defines as including death - with a dangerous weapon.
"These charges reflect the most serious offences committed by the two accused, as supported by the evidence," the spokesman said.
He added that while the AGC can understand why the public was shocked and moved by Ms Ee's suffering and the circumstances of her tragic death, the integrity of the legal system requires that all parties, including the accused, are treated fairly.
This means that cases are prosecuted fairly and decided strictly according to the law and evidence presented.
It is critical that the public refrain from making comments or interfering with ongoing proceedings, or seek to influence their outcome, he added.
The AGC said it decided to release the statement after the period for appealing against the court's decision expired and no appeal has been filed.