Looking back at major crimes and tragedies that grabbed headlines throughout 2020
THE discovery of the body of a woman partially stuffed inside a suitcase at Jalan Aman in Sibu on Oct 6 was thought by many as a copycat case.
It was reminiscent of the murder case of a tailor in Kuching, Wong Sie Tuang, whose body was found inside a suitcase dumped underneath a bridge at Kampung Pangkalan in Bau District on July 19, 2019.
In the Sibu case, the woman was later identified as Heng Meow Lin, aged 37. It was a
passer-by who made the grim discovery at about 6.30am. The body, which was fully clothed, was inside the bag from the waist down. It is believed that Heng died a few hours before she was found.
At the scene, police found two handwritten notes, but the contents remained undisclosed.
In a statement, Sibu police chief ACP Stanley Jonathan Ringgit said based on post-mortem conducted by forensics expert Dr Norliza Ibrahim at Sibu Hospital, the woman had put up a fight while being beaten and strangled by her attackers.
“Dr Norliza concluded that the cause of death was asphyxia (due to) neck compression.
“The body showed signs consistent with someone who had tried to defend herself,” he said.
On that same day, at around 3.45pm, police picked up a couple, both aged 38, at a house along Jalan Tong Sang to facilitate the murder investigation.
On Oct 19, Seow Pei Chie of Subang Jaya, Selangor, and her husband Cheung Chia Ming from Jalan Tun Sambathan, Kuala Lumpur was charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code for murder – read together with Section 34 of the same Code – at the Sibu Magistrate’s Court.
They were jointly charged with the murder of Heng inside a house at Jalan Tong Sang, between Oct 5 and 6, from around 10pm to 6am. The charge provides for the mandatory death sentence upon conviction.
However, no plea was taken from the couple pending the chemist’s report – the two had remained on remand, as murder is a non-bailable offence.
Murder in Taiwan
Later in October, another case shocked Sibu – Irene Chung, who hailed from the town, was murdered in Taiwan.
The body of the student of Chiang Jung Christian University in Tainan, was found in the mountainous Alian District in Kaohsiung on Oct 29. She was 24.
Irene was reported missing by the university after she did not turn up at a meeting on Oct 28, where she was supposed to meet a classmate.
A closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage showed Irene walking alone, close to a railway overpass near the university, at around 8pm that night. Using the CCTV footage as lead, Taiwan police identified and arrested a 28-year-old man, who later confessed to strangling the young woman using a rope and later, dumping the body in Alian District.
On Nov 1, Irene’s parents Desmond Chung and Ting Ching Ching flew to Taiwan and returned to Sibu on Nov 4 – bringing along their daughter’s ashes for interment at the Nirvana Memorial Park.
Kuching also recorded a couple of murder cases, which began as gruesome finds.
On June 4, Padawan police arrested a 54-year-old man, suspected to be responsible for the death of Mohd Alias Abdullah, 57, whose body was found at a farm along Jalan Landeh in Kota Padawan a day before.
Padawan District police chief Supt Aidil Bolhassan, who confirmed the arrest, said the suspect was a local bus driver.
“He claimed that the victim had attacked him first using a machete, which then led to a fight at the farm on June 3,” said Aidil, adding that the suspect had also said he managed to grab the machete and used it against the victim.
“After that, the suspect went home and told his wife, who immediately lodged a police report over her husband being attacked by an unknown person.
“A neighbour also took the suspect to Sarawak General Hospital (SGH) on the same day of the incident, where the latter received a few stitches for the wounds on his head and left shoulder.”
However, Aidil said based on police investigation, it appeared that the suspect’s story did not add up – this led to his arrest.
At the farm, police found items such as a motorcycle helmet, a pair of scissors, a mobile phone, slippers and a slingbag – all believed to have belonged to Mohd Alias.
“Police also found a gold bracelet, belonging to the suspect, at the scene,” said Aidil.
This case is being investigated under Section 302 and Section 324 of the Penal Code.
Meanwhile on Sept 21, an elderly woman was found dead inside her house in Kampung Rampangi near Bandar Baru Samariang in Kuching, at around 6.30am.
Dara Mohamad, aged 66, was found sitting on a chair, with wounds on her face and chin.
It is suspected that she was murdered by her grand-nephew.
The paramedics from SGH, who arrived at the scene after receiving an emergency call, pronounced the senior citizen dead on-site.
Kuching District deputy police chief Supt Merbin Lisa said following the grim discovery, a 27-year-old man – identified as Dara’s grand-nephew – was arrested to facilitate investigation.
It is believed that the motive was an misunderstanding between the elderly woman and her grand-nephew over some financial issues. Police also said a knife, believed to be the murder weapon, was also found at the house.
Adding on, Merbin said the woman’s grand-nephew had a previous criminal record related to drug abuse.
“The suspect tested positive for methamphetamine. The case is currently on-going in court,” he said.
Tragic turn of events
On Aug 29, a hike undertaken by three friends on Mount Santubong near Kuching city took a tragic turn when one of them died after complaining of breathing difficulties during descent.
A Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) spokesperson said a team was deployed to Summit 4.5 – the location on the mountain where Muhammad Hazwan Bakar, 24, and his two friends were waiting.
“When the rescue team arrived, they saw that the victim (Muhammad Hazwan) was already unconscious. A CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) was performed on him but despite all their best efforts, the victim remained unresponsive.
“He was then brought down to the mountain’s base, on a stretcher, which took about two hours of trekking along the steep and hilly 4.5km trail. Paramedics, who were waiting at the base, later pronounced the man dead at 9.16pm.”
The other two hikers were unhurt.
On Oct 27, a vessel owned by DESB Marine Services Sdn Bhd struck the Baram B oil platform located 14.4 nautical miles off Miri at 6.23am.
Two offshore workers, who were among 187 people on-board MV Dayang Topaz, were killed in the incident – they were Thomas Liang, a 39-year-old Sarawakian, and Aaron Michael Rajasgara, aged 34, who was from Negri Sembilan.
According to a statement issued by Petronas, the vessel had crashed into the platform after its anchor wire gave way during adverse weather. The ship, at the time, was undertaking operational works on the platform for Petronas Carigali Sdn Bhd.
The alert on the incident was received by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcemen Agency (MMEA) in Miri at 7.45am.
It is reported that the two workers who were killed, were among the 125 crewmen who had jumped off the ship after it struck the rig. The remaining 62 people had remained on board the vessel.
RM2-million drug haul
On Aug 3, Sarawak police recorded what they regarded as the largest drug haul worth over RM2 million from the raids on two condominium units in Miri, which also resulted in the arrest of two individuals.
Datuk Dev Kumar, who was the state police commissioner then, said police also confiscated cash and properties totalling nearly RM50,000 during the operation.
“At 8pm on Aug 3, a team of NCID (Narcotics Crime Investigation Department) personnel from the Sarawak police headquarters carried out an ambush on a condominium unit in Miri, where they apprehended a 43-year-old man and a 28-year-old woman.
“A check found that the two had been using the premises to mix the drugs,” said Dev Kumar in a statement.
He said the substance confiscated from the condominium consisted of 9,055g of powdered Ecstasy, 998g of ketamine, 2,520 Ecstasy pills, 233g of methamphetamine, 11,000 Erimin 5 pills, and 3,159g of powdered Erimin 5 – in street price, these would be worth an estimated RM1,330,740.
Dev Kumar added that one of the suspects later led police to another unit in the same condominium block, where more drugs were found.
“Several packets and containers containing a mixture of Ecstasy and fruit juices, weighing 7,491g, were found inside the (secnd) unit along with Eramin 5 pills weighing 24g.
“The drugs seized from the second condominium unit was estimated to be worth RM750,150 – bringing the total value of seizure from the whole operation, to RM2,080,890,” said Dev Kumar, believing that the amount of drugs seized could potentially cater to 195,688 addicts.
On the properties seized from the raids, Dev Kumar said they comprised RM5,360 cash, a car valued at RM15,000, and a gold necklace worth RM29,000.
The arrested man later tested positive for methamphetamine, while the woman tested positive for ketamine. The case is currently being investigated under Section 39B of Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 for trafficking in narcotics, which carries the mandatory death sentence upon conviction.
In July this year, Bukit Aman NCID quashed two major syndicates, which had been supplying drugs to Sarawak, with the arrest of 14 individuals including two senior police officers.
Bukit Aman NCID director Datuk Ramli Din told a press conference on July 7 that 12 raids were carried out in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Johor and Sarawak during an operation dubbed ‘Ops Nutcracker’, which ran from July 1 to 6.
“A total of 182kg of various types of drugs were seized – these drugs are estimated to be worth RM10 million. With that amount of drugs, it can cater to 580,000 drug users,” said Ramli, adding that the drugs comprised Eramin 5, syabu and ketamine.
Ramli added that the syndicates had also supplied drugs to Sarawak’s neighbours, Indonesia and Brunei. He pointed out among the 14 suspects, aged between 26 and 58, there were an assistant superintendent of police (ASP) and a sub-inspector who were stationed in Sarawak.
“They (senior police officers) are believed to be in cahoots with one of the syndicates,” he said.
On the modus operandi, Ramli said the syndicates could have been using drug mules – they could either be Sarawakians or Peninsular Malaysians residing in Sarawak, or travelling frequently to Sarawak.
“The first syndicate flies its drug mules from Sarawak to Kuala Lumpur, and places them at five-star hotels.
“At these hotels, the drugs would be packed into boxes which then, would become part of their (drug mules’) luggage upon returning to Sarawak via KLIA and KLIA 2,” said Ramli.
He said the second syndicate used locals from the peninsula who had moved to Sarawak or lived in the peninsula but travelled frequently to Sarawak.
“Based on initial investigation, the second syndicate had made 28 deliveries since 2017 – each needing between one and three drug mules. This syndicate has been operating for quite a long time.”
On the arrest of the two senior police officers, Ramli said the two would be investigated under Section 3(1) of Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventative Measures) Act 1985.
“The other 12 suspects would be investigated under Section 39B of Dangerous Drug Act 1952 for drug-trafficking, which carries mandatory death sentence upon conviction,” he added.
Rabies still a risk
At time of writing, the latest death from rabies was reported on Dec 15, involving a 53-year-old woman from Selangau who was receiving treatment at Sibu Hospital.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, in a statement released yesterday (Dec 22), said the victim was pronounced dead on Dec 15 and her diagnosis of being infected with rabies meningoencephalitis was confirmed on Dec 17 through laboratory tests conducted by the Medical Research Institute.
Dr Noor Hisham said the victim was bitten on the finger by her pet dog in October, she but did not seek any treatment at any health clinics.
“After having bitten its owner, the dog died a few days later due to unknown reasons. The case was not reported to the Department of Veterinary Services,” said Dr Noor Hisham.
He further revealed that the victim took care of a number of dogs and cats at her home, but none of the animas had been vaccinated against rabies.
Dr Noor Hisham said the latest case had brought the total number of rabies cases in Sarawak, ever since the outbreak on July 31, 2017, to 31 – with 29 fatalities.
“Only two cases are still alive, and both are children, who had received early treatment,” he added.
New faces in Sarawak police force
On Nov 17, Datuk Fisol Salleh officially replaced Dato Dev Kumar as Sarawak deputy police commissioner.
Dev Kumar was transferred to Bukit Aman on Nov 4.
“Sarawak is the largest state and this is a new challenge for me. Even so, I will give my full commitment throughout my service here.
“I hope all parties would cooperate to ensure that the state would remain peaceful,” said Fisol in his maiden speech after the handing-over of duties ceremony, which was witnessed by the state police commissioner Datuk Aidi Ismail.
“For your information, Fisol is a former commander of the ‘Pasukan Gerakan Khas’ (Special Operations Force) Komando 69. This is not just any post.
“Therefore I believe that with his experience, he would have no problem carrying out his duties in Sarawak,” said Aidi.
Previously, Fisol was the deputy director of the Internal Security and Public Order Department (Special Operations Team) in Bukit Aman.