Singapore

Kovan double murder trial: Accused had debt to pay on day of murders

Ex-cop on trial for double murder

On the day he allegedly killed two men, Iskandar Rahmat was supposed to repay a bank $50,000 - money which he did not have.

He faces the death penalty if convicted. (See report, below)

Sitting in the dock yesterday on the first day of his double murder trial, Iskandar, a former policeman, appeared calm and collected, reading legal documents.

He is accused of killing car workshop owner Tan Boon Sin, 67, and his son, Tan Chee Heong, 42, on July 10, 2013.

When the trial began at 11.05am, prosecutors outlined their case, which would seek to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Iskandar committed the murders in a bid to rob the older Mr Tan.

Beyond the glass panels of the dock, it was a packed courtroom filled with curious observers, legal students and the media.


THE MONEY: He owed bank $50,000 on day of alleged killing

Addressing the court, Deputy Public Prosecutor Lau Wing Yum said Iskandar Rahmat was an "experienced investigation officer" at the time of the crime.

Iskandar joined the Singapore Police Force (SPF) in 1999 at the age of 20. By 2013, he had been a policeman for 14 years, holding the rank of Senior Staff Sergeant and working as an investigation officer in Bedok Police Division.

But some time in 2005, after his divorce, he started getting into financial trouble.

Iskandar started falling behind on payments for his flat and car, which were repossessed by OCBC Bank and sold.

Despite that, he still owed the bank $60,000 in June 2012, and OCBC filed a bankruptcy application against him in October that year.

In January 2013, he was transferred from the Investigation Branch to the Operations Team while waiting for disciplinary proceedings to commence. He was also not allowed to carry a gun.

On July 3, 2013, he faced disciplinary proceedings for being financially embarrassed. There was a range of possible sanctions, which included being dismissed from the SPF.

During the hearing, Iskandar assured his superiors that he would be getting money from his cousin to pay his debts.

That cousin does not exist.

The same day, he contacted an OCBC Bank staff member in charge of unsecured debt facilities to offer an out-of-court cash settlement of $50,000.

Bank records show that during that time, he had less than $400.

To avoid being made bankrupt, he had to repay OCBC Bank by July 10, 2013, the same day of the killings.

That was when, the prosecution said, Iskandar hatched an insidious plan.


HIGH PROFILE: The double murder trial involving Iskandar Rahmat packed the courtroom yesterday. TNP ILLUSTRATION: KELVIN CHAN

A: Accused: Iskandar Rahmat

B: Deputy Superintendent of Police Daniel Wong in witness stand

C: Justice Tay Yong Kwang

D: Lead Defence Counsel: Mr Shashi Nathan

E: Lead Prosecutor: DPP Lau Wing Yum

F: DPP Prem Raj Prabakaran

G: DPP Mansoor Amir

THE CASE

Iskandar Rahmat, 36, is accused of murdering Mr Tan Boon Sin, 67, and his son, Mr Tan Chee Heong, 42.

On July 10, 2013, Mr Tan Chee Heong's body was found outside a taxi stand at Kovan MRT station, having been dragged nearly 1km by a Toyota Camry belonging to his father.The blood trail led to his father's home at 14J, Hillside Drive, where Mr Tan Boon Sin's body was found with multiple stab wounds.

The car was later found abandoned in Eunos.

Iskandar fled to Johor Baru on his scooter that night. He was arrested on July 12 by Malaysian police at an eatery in Danga Bay and extradited back to Singapore.

He faces two charges of murder and, if convicted, he will face the death penalty.

THE PLAN: He rented car to appear more professional

While he was an officer in Bedok Police Division, Iskandar got to know of Mr Tan Boon Sin when he was the investigation officer initially assigned to Mr Tan's case.

But he had never met Mr Tan before the incident.

During her testimony, Mr Tan's widow, Madam Ong Ah Tang, told the court that her husband had read about theft from a Certis Cisco safe deposit box at the company's facility in Paya Lebar.

Concerned, he went to check on two safe deposit boxes he and his wife had signed up for in 2003 - a bigger one where he kept his collection of old Singapore notes, and a smaller one where Madam Ong kept her savings and wedding jewellery.

The check showed that some of his old notes were missing, so Mr Tan made two police reports in November 2012.

While the investigation was subsequently handed over to another officer, Iskandar remembered the case and believed that the money in Mr Tan's safe deposit box would be enough to clear his $50,000 debt, said the prosecution.

He even called Mr Tan - on the pretext of following up on the investigation - to ask if all his money had been stolen. He learnt that there was some $200,000 left in the safe deposit box.

According to the prosecution, Iskandar then devised a plan which he carried out on July 10, 2013.

1 Impersonating an officer from the Police Intelligence Division, he called Mr Tan to tell him that his safe deposit box was about to be broken into.

2 He took a dummy closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera from his home, put it in a modified box and told Mr Tan to place it in his safe deposit box before 3pm that day.

3 He told Mr Tan to remove the contents of his safe deposit box and take them home.

4 He also told Mr Tan that what they were doing was a highly confidential police operation and no one could know about it.

5 Cutting one end of a earphone, he connected it with a wristlet to make it seem as though he was using a walkie-talkie.

6 He brought along his security pass and warrant card, and also wore the clothes he used to wear as an investigation officer to make himself seem convincing.

7 He even rented a car, a black Nissan Sunny, to appear more professional than if he had used his scooter.

8 Iskandar escorted Mr Tan from Certis Cisco in Paya Lebar to his home at Hillside Drive so he could get close to the valuables.

THE ATTACK: Groans heard from CCTV recording

The prosecution believes that Iskandar's plans started to unravel after he called Mr Tan Boon Sin on July 10, 2013.

CCTV footage from the Certis Cisco Centre showed a limping Mr Tan, dressed in a blue short-sleeved shirt and holding an orange bag.

TNP INFOGRAPHICS: TEOH YI CHIE

A witness, property consultant Hor Doon Long, told the court that he saw Iskandar and Mr Tan in the same car at a Shell petrol station near the Certis Cisco Centre in Paya Lebar.

He was in his black Audi when Mr Tan's silver Toyota Camry cut in ahead of him in a queue of cars exiting the petrol station.

Mr Hor got out and knocked on Mr Tan's window, asking why he had cut the queue. Mr Tan apologised in English, saying "sorry" three times.

He noticed Iskandar sitting in the front passenger seat, dressed in a long-sleeved shirt.

Iskandar kept quiet and only quickly glanced at him from the corner of his eye, Mr Hor said.

After they returned to Mr Tan's home in Hillside Drive, Iskandar used the toilet at some point.

In statements to the police, Iskandar said that after using the toilet, he came out and saw Mr Tan speaking to someone on his home phone.

Investigation officer Daniel Wong said it is unclear whom Mr Tan was speaking to as there are no records available on land lines unless a special arrangement is made.

The prosecution believes that after this, Iskandar attacked Mr Tan "viciously and repeatedly", stabbing him 12 times in his neck and chest, and cutting him at least nine times in his face, neck and hands.

Later, when Mr Tan's eldest son, Mr Tan Chee Heong, entered the house, he was also attacked, stabbed seven times in his face and neck, with at least eight wounds to his scalp, face and right forearm.

Iskandar fled the house, reversing Mr Tan's silver Toyota Camry into his son before driving off.

The son's body was dragged about 1km before it finally got dislodged on Upper Serangoon Road just outside Kovan MRT station, leaving a trail of blood.

CCTV footage from a neighbour's home shows that just three minutes passed between the time Mr Tan Chee Heong entered his father's house, and the time that he was run over by the reversing car at 3.36pm.

During those three minutes, groaning can be heard on the video recording that was played in court.

However, portions of Iskandar's statement that were read out in court tell a different version of events.

He said he was attacked by the elder Mr Tan after coming out of the toilet and that he acted in retaliation.

Midway through the scuffle, the son entered the house, saw what was happening and attacked him too, forcing Iskandar to react.

Only after all the prosecution witnesses have been called will Justice Tay Yong Kwang decide if the defence has a case to answer.

If so, Iskandar will be called to take the stand and can then offer his side of what happened.

The trial continues tomorrow.

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