From the Straits Times archives: In the 1984 Curry Murder, six were charged with murder of caretaker but later released

Facebook photo of Mayang Prasetyo who was killed, chopped up and cooked by her Australian chef husband. -- PHOTO: MAYANG PRASETYO FACEBOOK PICTURE
Facebook photo of Mayang Prasetyo who was killed, chopped up and cooked by her Australian chef husband. -- PHOTO: MAYANG PRASETYO FACEBOOK PICTURE
Mr Ayakanno Marimuthu was allegedly bludgeoned to death with an iron rod in the caretaker’s quarters of the Orchard Road Presbyterian Church.
Orchard Road Presbyterian Church, the ''curry murder church''. It was here that police believe Mr Ayakanno Marimuthu, 38, was killed. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

AUSTRALIAN chef Marcus Volke, 28, allegedly killed his 27-year-old Indonesian transsexual wife Mayang Prasetyo and cooked her body parts in their Brisbane apartment.

According to reports, police showed up at the apartment last week after neighbours complained of a bad smell, but Volke is believed to have escaped and slit his own throat in an alley.

The case evokes memories of Singapore's own Curry Murder from three decades ago. In 1984, caretaker Ayakanno Marimuthu, then 37, was allegedly bludgeoned to death with an iron rod at Orchard Road Presbyterian Church.

His body was believed to have later been chopped up, cooked in curry and rice, and packed into plastic bags which were thrown into roadside rubbish bins.

In 1987, his wife and her three brothers were charged with murder, while the widow's mother and sister-in-law were charged with abetting the murder.

The six were released that same year due to lack of evidence. The brothers were re-arrested the same day and detained under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act, but were freed in June 1991. The victim's remains, as well as the murder weapon and pot used for cooking were never found.

We look back at the case and the trial that led to the release of those accused.

These articles first appeared in The Straits Times on June 7, 1987

Judge frees six charged in curry murder case

Released for lack of proof but they don't get full acquittal

A DISTRICT judge yesterday released six members of a family charged with murdering or abetting the murder of a caretaker in what has become known as the curry murder case.

District Judge Zainol Abeedin gave them a discharge not amounting to an acquittal, after the prosecution said it had insufficient evidence to proceed against them.

A bid by the two defence lawyers, Mr Subbiah Pillai and Mr Raj Kumar, to get the six a full acquittal was rejected.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Mr Ang Sin Teck in opposing this said the police were still continuing with their investigations and that the prosecution had "every intention in future to charge the accused for murder."

He cited a legal precedent to support his argument that a magistrate's court had no power to acquit a person up on a murder charge.

In what was popularly known as the gold bar triple-murder case in 1972, the prosecution had withdrawn the murder charges against its key witness.

The Court of Criminal Appeal had found that the discharge granted by the magistrate to the witness following withdrawal of the charges did not amount to an acquittal, "it being the law that a magistrate's court had no power to grant an acquittal in such circumstances".

Yesterday's court decision means the six - the murdered man's widow, her three brothers, their mother and the wife of one of the men - can still be brought back to court to face trial if police uncover fresh evidence against them.

Immediately after the tense 12-minute hearing in Court 26 in the Subordinate Courts Complex, the three men - Rathakrishnana Ramayah, 31, Shanmugam Chandra, 28, and Balakrishna Ramiah, 36 - were taken to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to help in further investigations.

They and their sister, Nagaratha Vally Ramiah, 33, had been accused of murdering her husband Ayakanno Marimuthu, 37, on the night of Dec 12, 1984. He was a caretaker of PUB chalets in Changi.

The killing was said to have been carried out at the Orchard Presbyterian Church premises in Orchard Road.

The widow's mother, Kamachi Krishnasamy, 54, and sister-in-law Mary Manuee, 29, were accused of abetting them in the murder. Manuee is the wife of Rathakrishnana.

When police revealed the murder 10 weeks ago, they said Mr Ayakanno, a father of three, was hit with an iron rod and his body cut into pieces and cooked in curry and rice.

His remains - not found - were said to have been packed in plastic bags and dumped into roadside rubbish bins.

In court yesterday, the six stood in the dock looking somewhat dazed, but they showed no emotion when the judge announced his decision.

They were later taken to the court's meeting room where their lawyers spoke to them for about five minutes before they were led out under tight police escort.

Had the six been granted full acquittal, they cannot be charged again for the same offence.

The courtroom scene was witnessed by 200 people including 25 relatives of all the accused. After it was over, several women cried outside the court as the three men were taken to a basement lock-up and from there to the CID.

The three accused women, Nagaratha, Kamachi and Manuee, were allowed bail on Friday by the High Court. Bail was set at $5,000 in one surety or $2,500 in two sureties for each.

A timeline: Five months of digging into caretaker's murder

POLICE spent five months trying to gather enough evidence to prosecute the widow of a caretaker and five members of her family for his murder.

The six - three men and three women - were held in remand after they were charged separately in late March.

The CID's Special Investigation Section started its probes in January this year after a detective received a tip-off.

But the drama really started on Dec 18, 1984 when Nagaratha Vally Ramiah reported to the police that her husband, Mr Ayakanno Marimuthu, had not returned home from a trip to Genting Highlands a week earlier.

Jan 9, 1987: Detective Constable V. Alagamalai receives a tip-off that the missing man has been murdered.

Mid-January to March 23: Intensive probes by the CID lead to nearly 30 people being questioned.

March 23: Eight suspects are picked up after simultaneous pre-dawn raids. But the suspects deny they know anything.

March 25: One of the suspects finally tells the police that Mr Ayakanno was bludgeoned to death with an iron rod before he was cut into small pieces and cooked in curry and rice.

March 27: The murdered man's widow Nagaratha, 33, and her three brothers, Balakrishna Ramiah, 36, Rathakrishnana Ramayah, 31, and Shanmugam Chandra, 28, are jointly charged with the murder. Balakrishna is a mutton butcher at Commonwealth Avenue market, Rathakrishnana is a caretaker of the Finance Ministry's holiday bungalows in Netheravon Road, off Upper Changi, and Shanmugam is also a caretaker, but of the Orchard Road Presbyterian Church.

March 28: The widow's mother, Kamachi Krishnasamy, 54, a housewife, and her sister-in-law, Mary Manuee, 29, a factory worker, are charged with abetting the others in the murder.

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