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AGC: Murder and culpable homicide cannot be proved against couple who tormented their victim for 8 months

The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) has issued an explanation on why a married couple was not charged with the murder of their tenant, despite the fact that they had tortured the victim for eight months until her death due to her injuries.

The AGC acknowledged questions from the public as to why Pua Hak Chuan, 38, and Tan Hui Zhen, 33, were charged with voluntarily causing grievous hurt with a weapon in a statement on Monday (18 December).

However, it pointed out that the evidence against the couple did not support the charges of murder and culpable homicide, saying, "It is the Prosecutor’s duty to only prefer a charge which is supported by evidence. The integrity of the legal system requires that all parties, including the accused, are treated fairly and that cases are prosecuted and decided strictly in accordance with the law and the evidence."

Tan was sentenced to 16-and-a-half years' jail, and her husband was given 14 years' jail and 14 strokes of the cane.  Tan is given an additional six months in lieu of the caning that she would have been given for the offence.

As revealed through the hearing of the case, Ms Annie Ee Yu Lian, 26, who had borderline intelligence became estranged from her family and had moved into Tan and Pua's flat in late 2013 and was tasked to do the housework.

Though she was not asked to pay for the stay at first, the couple eventually started collecting $150 a month from Ms Ee and which was then gradually increased to $550.

Tan started assaulting Ms Ee in August 2014 after she blamed the victim for a bedbug infestation by slapping and whipping her, trying to strangle her, banging her head against a wall, and kicking and steping on her. While, Pua was the "standby slapper" who occasionally took over when Tan became tired.

Tan also psychologically abused the victim by undermining her sense of self-worth and questioning her daily, telling the victim she had a "pig brain"

The assault then continued for eight months.

Her body was discovered on 12 April 2015 and the couple had tortured her with a roll of shrink wrap weighing about 1 kg, as well as smashing a plastic dustbin on her, which cracked upon impact.

The autopsy report performed on Ms Ee showed that she had suffered fractures to seven vertebrae and 12 ribs and that she passed away from a rare cause known as acute fat embolism, which occurred when, as a result of the blunt force impact on her buttocks, fatty tissue entered her bloodstream and travelled to her lungs, creating a blockage of the blood vessels. This interfered with blood getting oxygen in the lungs, leading to progressive cardiac and respiratory failure.

The AGC pointed out that Ms Ee died from acute fat embolism, based on the evidence of the forensic pathologist and noted that it was an unusual occurrence that would not have ordinarily resulted from the injuries inflicted by the couple.

It also said, "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 Prosecution therefore proceeded against both Pua and Tan 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 AGC added.

The AGC also stated that the period of appeal for Ms Ee’s case has expired with no appeals filed.

Change.org petition was earlier created by a member of public, Ms Neo Chuan Yi to seek heavier punishment on the couple and has been signed by close to 35,000 individuals.

AGC commented that it was "critical that the public refrains from commenting on, or interfering with, pending proceedings or otherwise seek to influence their outcome".