KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Two friends were sent to the gallows yesterday for the murder of Singaporean celebrity Una Angelia Oliveiro eight years ago.
Make-up artist Esma Faizul Zainul Nor, 38, and unemployed Mohd Fazli Ismail, 27, cried when the verdict was passed after a year-long trial during which 24 witnesses testified.
The two were found guilty of murdering Oliveiro, then 44, at her bungalow at Jalan Bukit Travers, Brickfields, at 11.15am on Nov 14, 2001.
Oliveiro, a former producer-cum-actress, played the role of "Opah" in the local sitcom Kipas Anggun.
Oliveiro, of Chinese and English parentage, was found in the dining room with several stab wounds.
She was married to Finnish businessman Heiner Kirchubel and had three young children. The family was not at home at the time of the murder.
Reading out the grounds of his decision, judge Datuk Mohamed Apandi Ali said the defence of both accused were mere denials.
He said the two, however, did not deny the fact that they went to Oliveiro's house on the day of the murder nor the fact that they knew Oliveiro.
"The victim and her Filipina maid, Florencia A. Estapon, knew Esma," the judge said.
"There was also the confession made by Esma to his girlfriend, Siti Sarah Ismail. Both Esma and Fazli had also confessed to their friend Zaimy Roduan."
(The confession was that they had killed a woman who had acted in a Malay drama, entitled Kipas Anggun).
Siti Sarah is also Fazli's sister.
Apandi said these confessions were exceptions to the hearsay rule and could be accepted as evidence under the Evidence Act 1950.
"Such confessions are substantive evidence, which is also the best evidence."
Apandi added that even if they had made exculpatory statements, it could be accepted as long as their confessions showed their involvement in the offence.
He said that there were no grounds for the court to disbelieve the witnesses who had heard the confessions.
The judge said the defence's submissions that Siti Sarah was confused when she testified on Esma's confession was merely a suggestion made up by the counsel.
"This suggestion arose after the case was adjourned to the following day. The court had also observed the witness' demeanour when she testified."
Apandi said the confessions were supported by other facts, among them:
- the confessions were made just hours after the incident;
- the murder weapon, a knife which was never found, was taken from the victim's kitchen; and
- the six stabs wounds in the chest of the victim corresponded with the confession, the post-mortem report and the pathologist's evidence.
Apandi added that there was also clear evidence of common intention between the two accused.
In Apandi's view, Esma, who was only arrested on March 5, 2004, had been on the run for two years.
Fazli, aged 19 then, was arrested on Nov 21, 2001 after being found in a shack in a secondary jungle in Hulu Langat.
Apandi said the only reason Esma did not meet Siti Sarah was due to the fact that her brother, Fazli, was already arrested for the murder.
"It was not a reasonable behaviour for a lover not seeing his girlfriend for two years due to workload."
The families of both accused wept after the judgment and hugged the men before they were led away.
THE NEW STRAITS TIMES