SHAH ALAM: The High Court here has sentenced a former lawyer and his employees to death for murdering cosmetics millionaire Datuk Sosilawati Lawiya and her three aides at a farm in Banting more than two years ago.
N. Pathmanabhan, 43, and farmhands T. Thilaiyalagan, 21, R. Matan, 22, and R. Kathavarayan, 33, did not display any emotion as Justice Akhtar Tahir handed down the mandatory death penalty.
The murder mystery caught the nation’s attention when Sosilawati, 47, her driver Kamaruddin Sham-suddin, 44, bank officer Noorhisham Mohamad, 38, and lawyer Ahmad Kamil Abdul Karim, 32, were reported missing after going to Banting for a land deal.
More than a week later, police said they were murdered and burnt, and their ashes thrown into a river near a farm owned by Pathmana-bhan.
Calling Pathmanabhan a “rogue professional”, Justice Akhtar said in his 15-page judgment yesterday: “This case is evidence of a gruesome plot executed by a rogue professional and his cohorts with extreme brutality.”
Pathmanabhan, he added, had taken the “easy route” by murdering the cosmetics millionaire while the other victims were merely at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Based on evidence, the judge said Pathmanabhan had unethically appeared for both Sosilawati and former Sementa assemblyman Datuk Abdul Rahman Palil who were on the opposite sides of a land deal.
“By doing so, he was caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. In fact, it was his own testimony that he was reluctant to organise a meeting involving them both when requested.
“When pushed to the corner, Pathmanabhan took the easy route out by eliminating one of these persons and it happened to be Sosilawati,” he said of the motive.
Justice Akhtar said other people known to Sosilawati, including Abdul Rahman, were thrown in by the defence as mere red herrings.
“These names did crop up in the police investigations and the fact that they were not called as witnesses shows that they had no role to play in this case. Similarly, they were not called by the defence.”
The abundance of evidence in the case, said Justice Akhtar, “puts to shade” the saying that dead men tell no tales.
“In this case, the dead men and woman shouted at the top of their lungs, through silent evidence, a tale of dishonesty and deception precipitated by sheer and naked greed orchestrated by a man whose profession preached trustworthiness and honour,” he added.
Regarding Kathavarayan, the fourth accused, who went against his co-accused with his testimony, Justice Akhtar said he was not convincing when testifying that he had seen Sosilawati a week after the murders.
“I noticed that when he was being questioned by the DPP on the identity of the woman he claimed he saw, he appeared fidgety and evasive. This is pure invention; if it was true, he would have revealed to the police instead of bringing them to places to recover items belonging to the victims,” said Justice Akhtar.
He noted that the case was unlike other cases as there was no recovery of the victims’ remains.
The court did not see a reason why the accused persons in this case could not be convicted merely because no bodies were recovered, added Justice Akhtar.
“The evidence in this case satisfies the ingredients required to prove a charge of murder.”
It is understood that the defence would be filing an appeal against the High Court’s decision.Chronology of events
Aug 28: Cosmetics millionaire Datuk Sosilawati Lawiya is last seen in public at a buka puasa event in Masjid Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah, Shah Alam.
Aug 30: Sosilawati leaves her house in Gombak for Banting to discuss a land deal. She is accompanied by her driver Kamaruddin Shamsuddin, lawyer Ahmad Kamil Abdul Karim and bank officer Noorhisham Mohamad.
Sept 5: Family members lodge a police report over Sosilawati’s disappearance after she fails to return.
Sept 6: The luxury cars belonging to Sosilawati and lawyer Ahmad Kamil are found in Subang Jaya.
Sept 9: T. Thilaiyalagan, R. Matan, R. Kathavarayan are arrested at Ladang Gadong belonging to N. Pathmanabhan in Banting.
Sept 10: The detained suspects lead police to a place where several of Sosilawati’s belongings are found.
Sept 11: Former lawyer Pathmanabhan is arrested. Police learn that the victims may have been murdered and their bodies burnt before the ashes were strewn in a river near Ladang Gadong in Tanjung Sepat, near Morib.
Oct 6: Divers from Marine Police comb Sungai Panchau in Kampung Kanchong Laut in search of evidence. Forensic teams comb the 1.6ha of farm where some of Sosilawati’s personal belongings are found, including her watch.
Oct 13: Pathmanabhan, Thilaiyalagan, Matan and Kathavarayan are charged at the Telok Datok magistrate’s court in Banting for the murders of Sosilawati and her aides. No plea is recorded.
Feb 24: The magistrate’s court allows the case to be transferred to a Shah Alam High Court.
July 4: The hearing at the High Court begins.
Aug 4: Former maid Siti Hamidah Karnax, 18, testifies that she heard a woman scream twice at the farm on the night Sosilawati was murdered.
Feb 1: Chemists say bloodstains found on a cricket bat most probably belongs to Noorhisham Mohamad.
April 6: Erni Dekritawati Yuliana Buhari testifies that her mother and aides went to Banting on Aug 30, 2010 to meet Pathmanabhan regarding a post-dated cheque for RM3mil.
April 30: Pathmanabhan, Thilaiyalagan, Matan and Kathavarayan are ordered to enter their defence by the High Court.
May 30: Pathmanabhan takes the stand and denies conspiring with Thilaiyalagan, Matan and Kathavarayan to kill Sosilawati.
Dec 5: Kathavarayan goes against his co-accused and says Pathmanabhan was present at Ladang Gadong during the time of the murder. His lawyer Ravi Neeko withdraws from the case.
2013Jan 16: Kathavarayan makes a shocking revelation, claiming he saw Sosilawati leaving a restaurant in Tanjung Sepat on Sept 7, 2010, a week after her alleged murder.
May 23: After more than 100 days of hearing over more than two years, the High Court convicts the four accused and sentences them to death by hanging.