The forensic artist who drew a sketch plan of former Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong’s house was told by the investigation officer in Parti Liyani’s case to draw three boxes of allegedly stolen items instead of the original two.
Ms Parti’s defence lawyer Anil Balchandani’s line of questioning during his cross-examination of the artist Goh See Kiat at her theft trial revealed that Mr Goh was unsure about the exact number of boxes at the house at 49 Chancery Lane from his recollection.
Together with Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Tang Ru Long — the investigating officer (IO) in the case — Mr Goh visited the Liew family at 49 Chancery Lane and Mr Liew’s son Karl at 39 Chancery Lane on 3 December 2016 to have the alleged stolen items photographed.
Mr Goh testified in April 2018, however, that he had only taken photographs of the exhibits and not of the house itself.
In his evidence later, he said that “two or three” of those boxes were still at Mr Liew’s house.
Mr Goh told Deputy Public Prosecutor Marcus Foo in the prosecution’s cross-examination of him that a sketch plan serves to “roughly give you a bird-eye view of the house overall”.
It is not related to the presence of the boxes in question or any other things in the house, he added.
Mr Anil in a re-examination of Ms Parti’s friend Diah Kapi in January 2019, however, reiterated that Mr Goh had included the three boxes in his sketch plan of 49 Chancery Lane as of 21 March 2018 when the boxes were not present during his visit on the specified date.
“Why did he include it? Because IO Tang told him to include it. Now we want to ask IO Tang if this is correct and then of course make, or put a part of our case to IO Tang,” he told the court.
District Judge Olivia Low, however, told Mr Anil: “I don’t think this is something that at the end of the day affects the outcome of your client’s case one way or other.”
The defence lawyer stressed that it was crucial to recall ASP Tang to allow the police officer to explain his part on what Mr Goh had said in his testimony in April 2018.
Judge Low, however, repeated that it was not necessary to recall the officer as it would be immaterial in terms of influencing the outcome of the case.
Police discovered “stolen items” were still with Liews when Parti was arrested at airport
Ms Parti was arrested at Changi Airport upon her arrival on 2 December — a day before ASP Tang visited the Liew family at 49 Chancery Lane and Mr Karl at 39 Chancery Lane.
TOC understands from Ms Parti that when she was questioned by the police about the three jumbo boxes containing the alleged stolen items, she told the investigating officer that the boxes were still with the Liew family.
The police suspended the interview with Ms Parti immediately upon realising that the alleged stolen items were with the Liews.
The items from the three jumbo boxes were only taken into police custody by ASP Tang on 18 April 2018 — 16 months after Ms Parti’s arrest.
Justice Chan Seng Onn of the High Court in September this year ruled in favour of Ms Parti’s arguments regarding the break in the chain of custody of evidence related to three jumbo boxes containing the allegedly stolen items.
Rehashing that the police did not seize the exhibits immediately and had even later permitted the Liew family to take back the items from the boxes for their daily use, Justice Chan said that this “creates a real possibility of a mix up of the items”, particularly if “no special markings” were made or “proper record” was kept of those items.
It was also uncertain if the returned items “are the same items that have been removed earlier”, he added.
“The Defence rightly submits that there was no contemporaneous evidence of the specific items, save for the Video recording, to determine with any level of certainty or precision as to what exact items were found inside the three boxes at the point in time which Parti left 49 CL,” he reasoned.
Justice Chan also highlighted that the police officer “did not attend or view the scene of the offences” — the senior Liew’s family home at 49 Chancery Lane — “until some five weeks later on 3 December 2016”, as the police officer had testified during cross-examination with Mr Anil in 2018.
“This was one day after Parti returned to Singapore on 2 December 2016 and was arrested,” the judge said, noting that only “the exhibits that were found in Parti’s possession” when she was arrested at Changi Airport were immediately seized by the police.
The police’s delay in visiting the crime scene and taking photographs of the allegedly stolen items as well as seizing the items, Justice Chan reasoned, “created a clear break in the chain of custody of the evidence from their discovery on 29 October 2016 to 3 December 2016 when the photographs of the alleged exhibits were taken”.