GEORGE TOWN: A distress call was made by Australian Annapuranee Jenkins to her husband on the day she disappeared, a Coroner's Court was told.
Lawyer S. Raveentharan, who was holding a watching brief during the inquest into the death of Annapuranee, claimed the Malaysian-born woman had called her husband, Francis James Jenkins, at 5.22pm on Dec 13, 2017, the day she was last seen.
“The first report Francis made clearly said the late Annapuranee was arrested or withheld against her wishes by two Ukrainians,” Raveentharan told the court in his opening statement when the inquest commenced before Coroner Norsalha Hamzah.
He also claimed the possible ransom was the 66-year-old’s international passport.
“The investigating officer did not exercise due diligence or neither did he investigate this crucial piece of evidence,” the counsel who represented the Jenkins family told the court.
Raveentharan claimed that the investigating officer did not visit the site.
“The investigating officer did not make any attempts to investigate the landline number and the owners of the said number. Her last words to her husband was that she wanted to return to the hotel,” he said.
Raveentharan then said a death certificate dated June 24, 2020 was issued but the cause of death was undetermined.
However, before he could go further, state prosecution office director Datuk Kahirul Annuar Abd Halim interrupted him to say that Raveentharan’s statement could give the wrong perception on the whole case.
“The whole reason for the inquest is to identify the cause of death so I would like to ask the watching brief counsel to hold on to his statement and let this inquest go on first,” he said.
He said the inquest is to find out the truth behind what happened to Annapuranee so it was not right for the watching brief counsel to give such an opening statement.
He further said the watching brief counsel’s presence during the inquest is to assist in the hearing and not to go against the prosecution which is there to present the facts of the case.
Raveentharan agreed with Kahirul Annuar and requested that his prayers mentioned in his statement be prioritised.
Coroner Norsalha then started the inquest with the testimonies from witnesses.
Confirming that Annapuranee and her husband, Francis, made reservations to stay at the hotel from Dec 5 to Dec 21 in 2017, Jen Hotel Penang general manager O. Odayappan said he met the couple several times at the lobby of the hotel during their stay there.
“They were friendly and appeared to be very close as I would notice the husband would always accompany her to the lobby if she was going out,” he said.
He said they were a loving couple and that she was a cordial and soft-spoken person.
"The last time I saw Annapuranee, she tried to get an e-hailing ride but failed to do so on her phone.
“We saw her crossing the street to a taxi stand down the road across from the hotel along Magazine Road. That was the last time I saw her," he said.
He also identified a picture of Annapuranee leaving the hotel premises at about 2.40pm dated Dec 13, 2017, taken from a CCTV recording at the hotel, confirming that it was her.
Odayappan then told the court that the next day, Francis had told them that Annapuranee did not return to the hotel.
“He told us that she went out and did not return so we asked him where she might have gone and he said she was going to visit her mother in a nursing home.
"A colleague then helped Francis lodge a police report," he said.
Odayappan then drove Francis around George Town to search for Annapuranee but could not find her.
Annapuranee was reported missing on Dec 13, 2017 while on the way to visit her mother at a nursing home.
Her remains and belongings were found on June 24, 2020 at a construction site near where she was last seen.
The inquest continues on Tuesday (March 28).