Trial starts for duo accused of smothering man, sawing off legs

Tissue-paper sellers allegedly tried to recover money they lost while gambling

Criminal Investigation Department officers at the scene where the legless body of a man was found stuffed in a blood-soaked suitcase along Syed Alwi Road in June 2014.
Criminal Investigation Department officers at the scene where the legless body of a man was found stuffed in a blood-soaked suitcase along Syed Alwi Road in June 2014.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Two tissue-paper sellers from Pakistan who wanted to recover money they lost to a compatriot in a game of cards allegedly smothered the victim at their lodging house in Little India, the High Court heard on the first day of their murder trial yesterday.

After taking $6,000 from Mr Muhammad Noor, Rasheed Muhammad, 45, and Ramzan Rizwan, 27, allegedly sawed off his legs and packed the parts of his body into two suitcases.

One of the suitcases, a black case containing the legs of the 59-year-old victim, was left in the Jalan Kubor Muslim cemetery, more than 1km away near Victoria Street.

But as the two men were trying to pull the other grey suitcase containing his upper body to the same location, one of the wheels broke.

They abandoned the case when blood dripped from it as they tried to lift it, Deputy Public Prosecutor Ong Luan Tze told the court.

  • Earning 'up to $400 a day' selling tissue

  • Ramzan Rizwan, one of the two men accused of murder, told police that he came to Singapore together with two aunts and a family friend to sell tissue paper. On a good day, he said, he could earn as much as $400.

    "A lot of people from Pakistan come to Singapore to beg or sell tissue paper. The earnings is good," he said in a statement recorded on June 19, 2014, when asked about his stay here.

    The 27-year-old, who is married with three children, said his family helped him raise $1,500 as "show money".

    An agency in Karachi helped him fill up and submit his visa application papers. He said that after arriving in Singapore, he walked around Mustafa Centre to observe how others were selling tissue paper before he joined them.

    He bought two large packs of tissue paper for $3.90 from a shop and sold them using the Urdu and Malay words for "poor". Some buyers gave him $1 or $2, and the more generous, $10.

    In the two weeks before his arrest, Ramzan said he netted an average of $150 to $200 a day. On Sundays, his earnings rose to $300 to $400.

    His usual routine was to sell tissue paper at Geylang Serai Market and the Sultan Mosque.

    He also went to "a street frequented by Arabs" to smoke hookah. "There, usually I get more, especially when I greet them nicely," he said.

    Selina Lum

Hours later, an 81-year-old man found the bag and tried to push it to a police station. Several passers-by went to help him, but when they learnt there was a body inside, one of them called the police.

The duo were arrested the next day and Rasheed led police to the bag containing the victim's legs in the cemetery.

The pair face the mandatory death penalty if convicted of murdering Mr Muhammad Noor on June 11, 2014 in his room at their lodging house in Rowell Road.

Rasheed is represented by Mr Wong Siew Hong, while Ramzan is represented by Mr R. S. Bajwa.

The court heard that Rasheed and the victim were roommates at the lodging house while Ramzan lodged in another room. The co-owner of the lodging house, Mr Neeraj Chandna, testified that Rasheed and the victim checked in on May 19. Ramzan arrived later.

The prosecution said it would lead evidence to show that Ramzan and Rasheed had the common intention to kill the victim to recover the money they had lost to him from gambling with cards.

Some time after midnight on June 11, they allegedly decided to smother and strangle Mr Muhammad Noor. Ramzan pressed a shirt over the victim's face while Rasheed strangled him with a string, said the DPP.

The next morning, the duo went to Mustafa Centre to buy an electric jig saw and a grey suitcase. At Rowell Road, they bought a bow saw and some trash bags.

Returning to the room, they sawed off the victim's legs at the upper thighs. They packed the various parts into trash bags and stuffed his upper body into the grey suitcase.

The duo again went to Mustafa Centre, where Ramzan bought a black suitcase. They put the legs in it and cleaned the room up.

The DPP said Ramzan pulled one suitcase to the cemetery and returned to help Rasheed with the other, which they later abandoned along Syed Alwi Road.

Fingerprints, palm prints and footprints of both men were found on some of the trash bags used to wrap the legs, fingerprint expert Lee Mei Fun testified.

An autopsy found the victim had a bruise on his nose and abrasions on his cheek and lower jaw, injuries that were consistent with the application of some pressure on his face.

Each has pointed to the other as the man responsible for the killing.

Ramzan said he became scared while pressing the shirt on the victim's face and ran back to his room. He said Rasheed later came and told him to help get rid of the body.

Rasheed said Ramzan kicked him out of the room and when the door opened, he saw a string around the neck of the victim, who was not breathing. The trial continues.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2016, with the headline 'Trial starts for duo accused of smothering man, sawing off legs'. Subscribe