Felicia Teo case: Man originally charged with murder given discharge not amounting to acquittal
SINGAPORE: A man who was originally charged with the murder of a 19-year-old woman in 2007 was given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal on Monday (Jun 27).
Ahmad Danial Mohamed Rafa'ee, 37, had his capital charge substituted with six new charges for lesser offences.
He was also offered bail of S$20,000. He appeared in court via video-link, and members of his family were present in court.
He will return to court to plead guilty to the new charges next Wednesday.
Those granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal can still be prosecuted for the alleged offence in the future should there be developments in the case, such as the emergence of new evidence.
Ahmad Danial was originally charged in December 2020 with the murder of Ms Felicia Teo Wei Ling, 13 years after she was reported missing by her mother.
He had been accused of murdering her between 1.39am and 7.20am on Jun 30, 2007 at a flat in Block 19, Marine Terrace with suspected accomplice Ragil Putra Setia Sukmarahjana, who is at large.
Ms Teo, who would have turned 34 this year, was reported missing on Jul 3, 2007.
Ahmad Danial is now accused of leaving Ms Teo's body around Punggol Track 24 on or around Jun 30, 2007.
He is also accused of intentionally omitting information about Ms Teo's sudden or unnatural death to the police, when he was legally bound to do so.
Instead, Ahmad Danial allegedly misappropriated Ms Teo's Nokia or Blackberry mobile phone, MacBook Pro and Olympus camera and lenses at a flat in Marine Terrace.
He is then suspected of fabricating false evidence by placing Ms Teo's phone near East Coast Park between 7.20am and 8.22am on Jun 30, 2007, purportedly to support false information given to the police that she had gone there.
He is also suspected of fabricating false evidence by making calls to Ms Teo's phone, leaving her voicemails and messaging her on social media to create the false impression that he believed she was still alive.
On Jul 11 and Jul 25, 2007, he then allegedly gave false information to two police officers to the effect that Ms Teo had left the Marine Terrace flat on her own on Jun 30, 2007 and that he did not know what happened to her.
Mr Ragil, who was then 18, is named as Ahmad Danial's suspected accomplice in all six charges.
SEARCH FOR ACCOMPLICE IN INDONESIA
Deputy Public Prosecutors Yang Ziliang and R Arvindren told the court that the main reason the prosecution was applying for a discharge not amounting to an acquittal was because Mr Ragil was still at large.
They argued that there was no prejudice to Ahmad Danial and no excessive delay in the case as authorities had made and continued to make reasonable efforts to trace Mr Ragil.
"The Indonesian authorities have been informed and they are in the process of tracing (Mr Ragil)," said the prosecutors.
"This is not a case where police have been trying for many years to trace (Mr Ragil)," they said, adding that authorities only started tracing him after Ahmad Danial's arrest in 2020 and "new facts came to light during the investigations".
They added that there was no evidence that Mr Ragil was dead, and that the murder charge was a serious one that carries the death penalty.
Both prosecutors argued that a discharge not amounting to an acquittal would balance "the public interest and the rights of the individual".
"WAIT FOR THE GUILLOTINE TO FALL"
Defence counsel Shashi Nathan urged the court to grant his client a discharge amounting to an acquittal instead, citing a lack of evidence for murder.
He gave the example of a skull fragment found by investigators that was still in the midst of being identified, and said that his requests for information on tests performed on the bone fragment had gone unanswered.
He also argued that his client had served a long time in remand, asking: "Who's going to pay him back for the one-and-a-half years that he sat in prison waiting for the gallows?"
Mr Nathan said that Ahmad Danial's family had gone through a "terrible time" during this period, with his wife having to move out of the home because of people bothering the family.
Police investigators had treated Ahmad Danial's wife with "disdain and impunity", said the lawyer, adding that he had made a formal complaint and received an apology for this.
Additionally, he argued that the prosecution's application for a discharge not amounting to an acquittal meant that the murder charge would hang over his client's head for "an indeterminate time".
"They're not just asking for a pound of flesh. What they're asking for is, after we've taken your pound of flesh, lay your head on the board and wait for the guillotine to fall on your head," he said.
Taking issue with Mr Nathan's contention that this was originally a missing person case and not a murder case, Mr Yang argued that Ahmad Danial's alleged offences in 2007 created the impression that Ms Teo was alive.
He said that when police uncovered evidence that this was not correct, investigations were launched and Ahmad Danial was arrested.
He added that the fragment of skull mentioned by Mr Nathan was found in the area where Ahmad Danial said he had placed the corpse.
Addressing Mr Nathan's analogy of the guillotine, District Judge Eugene Teo said: "Sometimes such emotive language can portray the matter inaccurately."
"I say inaccurately because (Ahmad Danial) continues to have counsel on record, and in the event that the guillotine is to be activated, due process must always prevail."
Judge Teo noted that the defence had raised two objections to a discharge not amounting to an acquittal.
On Ahmad Danial's one-and-a-half-years in remand, the judge said that based on the chronology of the case, the period of remand was not for a "futile reason".
On the prospect of an "indefinite period" of waiting after a discharge not amounting to acquittal, the judge said: "I have to agree that there is no basis to grant an outright discharge amounting to an acquittal."
He added that arguments could be made about the need for finality and there could be a review of the case law on this, but said that this was not the appropriate time for that.
Those convicted of depositing a corpse can be jailed up to six months, fined up to S$2,000 or both.
Anyone who fabricates false evidence can be jailed up to seven years or fined.
The punishment for misappropriating the property of a dead person is up to three years' jail and a fine.
The penalty for omitting to give information to public servants as required by the law is up to one month's jail and a fine of up to S$500.
Anyone who gives false information to a public servant can be jailed up to six months, fined up to S$1,000 or both.
C. (2022, June 27). Felicia Teo case: Man originally charged with murder given discharge not amounting to acquittal. CNA. https://www.channelnewsasia.com/singapore/ahmad-danial-felicia-teo-missing-teen-girl-murder-discharge-not-acquittal-2772466