Kovan deaths: Killer fails in bid to escape gallows

Iskandar was found guilty of murdering a father and son during a botched robbery on July 10, 2013, at the older man's Hillside Drive house in Kovan.
Iskandar was found guilty of murdering a father and son during a botched robbery on July 10, 2013, at the older man's Hillside Drive house in Kovan.ST FILE PHOTO
Tan Boon Sin Tan Chee Heong
Tan Chee Heong
Tan Boon Sin Tan Chee Heong
Tan Boon Sin

His legal recourse ends as apex court rejects his contentions and 'unbelievable' account

A policeman who killed a father and son during a botched robbery in 2013 yesterday failed in his bid to escape the hangman's noose, when Singapore's highest court dismissed his appeal.

Iskandar Rahmat had mounted a multi-pronged defence before the Court of Appeal to argue why he should not be sentenced to death for fatally stabbing car workshop owner Tan Boon Sin, 67, and his son Chee Heong, 42, in what became known as the Kovan double murder.

In various contentions, Iskandar had argued through his lawyer Wendell Wong that he had had no intention to kill, was merely acting in self- defence, had stabbed the victims in the heat of a sudden fight, and was suffering from a mental illness.

However, Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang, delivering the decision of the three-judge court, rejected each of the contentions and found his account to be "unbelievable", "incredible" and "mere afterthoughts".

After the verdict, more than a dozen friends and family members, including his parents and sister, took turns to speak to the man in the dock. Many cried and hugged one another.

Iskandar appeared mostly relaxed and even broke into a broad smile at the sight of an infant. But he later turned misty-eyed and was seen taking off his spectacles and dabbing at his eyes.

His family declined to speak to reporters.

The family of the two victims were not in court.

  • About the case

  • Iskandar Rahmat joined the police force in 1999 and regularly won commendations.

    But a short-lived marriage landed him with various unpaid loans. Facing bankruptcy and the loss of his job, he hatched a plan to steal from car workshop owner Tan Boon Sin. He knew Mr Tan had a large amount of cash in a Certis Cisco safe deposit box, from a police report he made about a theft.

    Pretending to carry out a sting operation to catch the thief, he coaxed Mr Tan to remove his money so a surveillance camera could be placed inside the box. He then escorted Mr Tan home.

    What happened in the 30 minutes inside the house on July 10, 2013, is disputed. Iskandar claimed Mr Tan realised he was being tricked, became angry and attacked him first, and that Mr Tan's son Chee Heong arrived at the house, and also attacked him.

    But the prosecution argued that Iskandar had planned Mr Tan's murder and then killed the son, when he arrived, to silence him.

Iskandar had been suspended from duties since July 15, 2013, after his arrest, and will be dismissed from service, a police spokesman said yesterday.

With the rejection of his appeal, his legal recourse ends. The next step would be to file a clemency petition to the president.

Iskandar was found guilty in December 2015 of murdering the two men on July 10, 2013, at the older man's Hillside Drive house in Kovan.

Iskandar, who was facing imminent bankruptcy, said during his trial that his plan had been simply to rob the car workshop owner, but the victim attacked him with a knife when he realised Iskandar was up to no good.

The son then arrived at the house and, seeing his father's body on the floor, charged and threw a punch at Iskandar, who retaliated.

The older victim suffered 27 stab and slash wounds, and died from a slit throat. His son, who was dragged for nearly 1km under his father's car which Iskandar had stolen to get away, was found with 20 knife wounds, and died from one to the neck. Iskandar had relatively minor injuries on his hands.

The High Court rejected Iskandar's claim of self-defence in a sudden fight, given the number and severity of the victims' wounds.

In October last year, Iskandar appealed against his murder conviction, relying on the same arguments, but raising a new defence of an acute stress reaction and adjustment disorder which qualified him for diminished responsibility.

Yesterday, Justice Phang noted that Iskandar's case depended on the court believing his version of events that the older man had come at him with a knife after finding out he had been duped.

But the court had seen no evidence of anything that could have aroused Mr Tan's suspicions. Even if Mr Tan had somehow uncovered Iskandar's ploy, it was "simply unbelievable" that the 67-year-old with a chronic knee problem would attack Iskandar, then 34, with a knife.

The court was also unconvinced by his "incredible" claim that he did not realise the knife was still in his hand when he swung punches at the younger Tan.

The injuries inflicted on both men also showed that Iskandar had intended to "do more harm than was necessary" for the purpose of defending himself.

Turning to the diminished responsibility defence, Justice Phang noted that Iskandar had not raised this during his trial. The court preferred the evidence of the prosecution psychiatrist that Iskandar did not have a mental illness at the time.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 04, 2017, with the headline 'Kovan deaths: Killer fails in bid to escape gallows'. Print Edition | Subscribe