SINGAPORE - The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) on Monday (Dec 18) addressed questions raised by the public in the case of the couple who abused their 26-year-old flatmate to death and explained why murder charges were not brought against the husband and wife.
On Dec 1, Tan Hui Zhen, 33, was sentenced to 16½ years' jail, and her husband Pua Hak Chuan, 38, was given 14 years' jail and 14 strokes of the cane.
They had pleaded guilty to various charges for the extensive torture of Ms Annie Ee, a 26-year-old waitress who had intellectual disabilities, over eight months. The daily beatings left Ms Ee with 12 fractured ribs and seven fractured vertebrae, a ruptured stomach and a body crowded with blisters and bruises. They were initially charged with murder.
In a statement, an AGC spokesman explained that the prosecutor's duty is to only prefer a charge which is supported by evidence.
The evidence given by the forensic pathologist was that Ms Ee's death was caused by acute fat embolism. This was an unusual occurrence that would not have ordinarily resulted from the injuries inflicted by Pua and Tan, said the statement.
Ms Ee had been beaten so severely that fatty tissue below the skin had separated from the muscle and entered her bloodstream, interfering with blood getting oxygen in the lungs and leading to progressive cardiac and respiratory failure.
"As Pua and Tan did not intend to cause Annie's death, and the injuries they inflicted would not ordinarily cause death, the offences of murder and culpable homicide cannot be proved against them," the spokesman said.
The prosecution thus proceeded with charges of voluntarily causing grievous hurt - which the law defines as including death - with a dangerous weapon.
"These charges reflect the most serious offences committed by the two accused, as supported by the evidence," the spokesman said.
The spokesman added that while the AGC can understand why the public was shocked and moved by Ms Ee's suffering and the circumstances of her tragic death, the integrity of the legal system requires that all parties, including the accused, are treated fairly.
This means that cases are prosecuted fairly and decided strictly according to the law and evidence presented.
It is critical that the public refrain from making comments or interfering with ongoing proceedings, or seek to influence their outcome, he added.
The AGC decided to release the statement after the period for appealing the court's decision has expired and no appeal has been filed.