Man on trial for murder of his former lawyer’s wife
On the day he was due to settle his $38,000 debt to a lawyer, he went to the law firm and allegedly ended up killing the lawyer's wife.
In its opening statement on the first day of Govindasamy Nallaiah's murder trial yesterday, the prosecution said the accused had, in a fit of rage, taken out a bicycle chain and padlock and hit Madam Low Foong Meng on her head several times on Aug 10, 2011.
After she fell on the floor and became motionless, Govindasamy, now 70, allegedly used a lighter to set fire to some files on a nearby table.
When the fire alarm went off, he fled the office of B. Rengarajoo & Associates on the sixth storey of the Afro-Asia Building at Robinson Road.
Madam Low, 56, who helped her husband with administrative work at his firm, was later found dead in the office.
Senior consultant forensic pathologist Associate Professor Gilbert Lau of the Health Sciences Authority found that her head injuries could have rendered her unconscious, making her vulnerable to the fire.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Eugene Lee said: "(Assoc Prof Lau) found that the deceased had sustained a number of defensive injuries on her arms.
"He will also testify that the final cause of death was a combination of inhalation of fire fumes and extensive severe burns."
Madam Low's husband, Mr Rengarajoo Rengasamy Balasamy, was owed legal fees after representing Govindasamy in a corruption trial in 2002.
Court papers did not mention the outcome of the corruption case.
DPP Lee told Judicial Commissioner Hoo Sheau Peng that between 2002 and 2011, Mr Rengarajoo tried unsuccessfully to recover his fees.
By July 2011, the outstanding amount, including interest, was $38,000.
In that month, Mr Rengarajoo issued a writ of seizure and sale against Govindasamy's son, Mr Ramanathan Govindasamy.
The court heard that Govindasamy's daughter, Ms Letchmi Ghandi Govindasamy, had also executed an acknowledgement of debt for her father's legal fees.
Said DPP Lee: "(Mr) Rengarajoo gave the accused one final opportunity to make repayment by Aug 10, 2011, or he would take legal action against the accused's children."
On that day, closed-circuit television (CCTV) shows Govindasamy entering the Afro-Asia Building at around 8.40am.
Mr Sa'at Tulus, a cleaner, testified in court yesterday that before the fire broke out, he saw a "friendly" Indian man inside the building.
He identified the man as Govindasamy, who was seated in the dock.
Mr Sa'at said they chatted and Govindasamy told him that he wanted to go to a lawyer's office, without saying where exactly.
At around 9.45am, Mr Rengarajoo dropped his wife off at the rear entrance of the building and left to park his vehicle, DPP Lee said.
Soon after, Govindasamy arrived at the office and negotiated with Madam Low over his debt.
DPP Lee said: "When both parties could not come to an agreement, the accused became angry.
"He took out a bicycle chain and padlock from his black haversack and hit the deceased several times on the head until she collapsed onto the floor."
When Mr Marco Jap, a delivery man, showed up to deliver a parcel, Govindasamy is said to have told him to return later as no one was in.
DPP Lee said Mr Jap later heard thuds and a female voice screaming in the office.
When he noticed smoke coming out through the office door, he went to the front entrance of the building to speak to security officer Xu Jia Jing.
CCTV footage shows Govindasamy leaving the building at around 10am.
Mr Rengarajoo reached the building at around the same time and realised his office was on fire. When he got to his office, it was pitch dark and extremely smoky.
He immediately alerted the police.
Madam Low's body was found after the fire was put out.
Major Koh Chee Hian from the Singapore Civil Defence Force testified yesterday that the fire had been deliberately started.
The lead fire investigator could not recall if there were sprinklers in the law firm.
The trial resumes today.
THE NEW PAPER, AUG 13 2011
He took out a bicycle chain and padlock from his black haversack and hit the deceased several times on the head until she collapsed onto the floor.
- Deputy Public Prosecutor Eugene Lee telling the court yesterday what Govindasamy Nallaiah allegedly did to Madam Low Foong Meng before setting the office on fire