Prosecution seeks maximum life term for man who killed elderly woman

P. Mageswaran who was charged in court on 19 December 2013 with strangling Madam Kanne Lactmy, 62, was escorted to the scene of the crime by the police on Dec 23.
P. Mageswaran who was charged in court on 19 December 2013 with strangling Madam Kanne Lactmy, 62, was escorted to the scene of the crime by the police on Dec 23.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

SINGAPORE - The prosecution is seeking a life term for a 50-year-old man who killed a grandmother he had known for a decade after she caught him red-handed stealing her jewellery.

P Mageswaran was convicted last month for culpable homicide for strangling and suffocating Madam Kanne Lactmy, 62, at her Yishun Street 81 flat in 2013.

On Friday (June 2), prosecutors described the "cold-blooded" killing as the "pinnacle" of his "illustrious criminal career" of 22 years, arguing that the maximum of life imprisonment was appropriate to deter his recalcitrance.

Starting from 1991, when he was 24, Mageswaran had been in and out of jail for offences that span statutory rape for having sex with his underaged girlfriend, theft and armed robbery.

Mageswaran's lawyer Derek Kang sought a 12-year jail term, arguing that this was his client's first criminal activity involving actual violence.

Judicial Commissioner Hoo Sheau Peng adjourned the case to July 20, for the prosecution to submit more details of Mageswaran's past offences.

She also wanted further arguments on the prosecution's argument that Mageswaran, who turned 50 on May 22, should get an additional six months' jail as he cannot be caned. A High Court decision by a panel of three judges last month ruled that it is not a must to impose extra jail time in lieu of caning.

Mageswaran used to work for Madam Lactmy's older son and was invited to family gatherings.

On the morning of Dec 9, 2013, Mageswaran, who lived in Johor Baru with his Malaysian wife, desperately needed RM5,000 for an instalment payment on his new flat.

He crossed the Causeway and arrived at Madam Lactmy's flat at about 8.35am. He asked to borrow $2,000 to $3,000 from her, but she said she did not have so much money.

When she went to brush her teeth, Mageswaran searched the flat and found a box with jewellery and several pawnshop tickets. Madam Lactmy caught him and demanded that he return the box, but Mageswaran pleaded with her for it.

When she said she would call her son, Mageswaran pushed her to the floor and pressed a pillow over her face with his right hand, while he choked her with his left.

He released his grip on her neck after about four minutes but continued smothering her for another six to seven minutes until she stopped struggling.

He left with the box, wearing his jacket with the hood up and shielding his face from CCTV cameras at the lift lobby.

Mageswaran pawned the jewellery for RM26,300 (S$10,200). He used the cash to pay for his flat and also splurged on his wife and on himself.

Eight days later, questions from his wife about the money led to his arrest when she insisted on going to Singapore to speak to his employer. Mageswaran was arrested at Woodlands Checkpoint.

On Friday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Wong Kok Weng argued that the case fell under the "worst" type of culpable homicide cases and deserving of the maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Magewaran had made a calculated decision to kill a vulnerable victim who trusted him and had been nothing but kind to him in the past, said the DPP.

Mr Kang argued that based on precedents, life imprisonment is typically reserved for offenders who are dangerous to society.

He also said that Mageswaran had a frontal lobe disorder, which affected his decision-making capabilities when he was caught red-handed. He said the incident stemmed from an attempt to borrow money gone wrong that eventually escalated into homicide.