Teck Whye fatal stabbing: Man on trial for murder of co-tenant in quarrel over rent

The accused, Mohammad Rosli Abdul Rahim, had suspected that his co-tenant was overcharging him for his share of the rent. PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO

SINGAPORE - A man who had been sleeping in the rough found a roof over his head after a stranger approached him to split the rent on a flat in Teck Whye Crescent.

But the previously homeless Mohammad Rosli Abdul Rahim, now 51, started to suspect that his co-tenant Mohammad Roslan Zaini, 35, was overcharging him for his share of the rent.

In the early hours of Aug 16, 2017, an argument over rent and utility payments ended with Rosli stabbing Roslan in the heart and killing him, while two acquaintances looked on.

On Tuesday (Feb 16), prosecutors told the High Court on the first day of Rosli's murder trial that he had intentionally inflicted the fatal stab wound - between 11cm and 13cm deep - which penetrated the victim's sternum and pierced his heart.

If convicted, Rosli faces the death sentence or life imprisonment.

Rosli also inflicted two other stab wounds on the victim - one on his right thigh and the other on the right forearm - and numerous slash wounds on his upper back, right arm and thumbs.

"The deceased was unarmed and defenceless, and the accused suffered nary a scratch. The attack only stopped after the deceased ran out of the flat," said Deputy Public Prosecutor Yang Ziliang.

The prosecutor told the court that around November 2016, Rosli was homeless and slept at void decks in Bukit Batok. Later, he slept outside an acquaintance's flat on the third floor of Block 165A Teck Whye Crescent.

Roslan, who was renting a flat on the fourth floor of the same block, approached the accused and suggested that they co-rent his unit.

The two men later registered their names with the Housing Board as co-tenants and agreed to split the monthly rent.

In August 2017, Rosli began to suspect that the younger man was overcharging him for his share of the monthly rent.

A day before the stabbing, he complained to a mutual friend - the victim's former girlfriend - that he had given Roslan more than $100 but the younger man did not pay for the flat rental.

He also told the woman that he wanted to stop renting the flat with the victim, the court heard.

At about 4am on Aug 16, 2017, Rosli and Roslan were watching movies in the flat with two mutual acquaintances when they began arguing over money.

Incensed by the victim's comments, Rosli walked to the kitchen and picked up a knife with a 17cm-long blade.

Holding the knife with a downward grip, Rosli then stabbed the shirtless victim in the chest while the victim tried to fend off the attack with his bare hands.

The two visitors fled the unit on witnessing the attack and called for help.

The victim also escaped, struggling down the stairs before collapsing on a grass patch.

A bus driver on the way to work saw Roslan lying face down covered in blood and called the police.

Meanwhile, Rosli washed the knife and cleaned the blood stains on the floor, then left the flat with his belongings and drugs.

Footage from police cameras captured him leaving the flat via a flight of stairs at the end of the block away from the lift lobby, avoiding the police officers who had arrived at the scene.

Rosli was arrested at about 10.15 am that day.

In a statement to the police three days later, he said: "I wanted to use the knife to hurt (the deceased) as I was angry with him cursing my mother. I did not have the intention to kill him."

Rosli also told an Institute of Mental Health psychiatrist that he had consumed nitrazepam, a sedative, around the time of the offence.

Dr G. Kandasami, from the department of addiction medicine, said Rosli would have had some degree of "cognition and volitional impairment" under a high dose of nitrazepam, but did not consider that this was the sole contributory factor "weakening his self-control over his impulses".

Rosli is defended by Mr Anand Nalachandran under the Legal Assistance Scheme for Capital Offences.

The trial continues.

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