Cabby gets 10 years for killing his lawyer's wife in fire
Man who attacked his lawyer's wife, started fire in their office and left her to die gets 10 years' jail
A man who set fire to his lawyer's office after attacking the lawyer's wife was yesterday sentenced to 10 years' jail for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
Govindasamy Nallaiah, 71, had gone to B. Rengarajoo & Associates on Aug 10, 2011, to settle a dispute over a $38,000 fee.
At the office in Afro Asia Building, Govindasamy assaulted Madam Low Foong Meng, 56, who did administrative work for her husband, Mr Rengarajoo Balasamy. She was alone in the office at the time.
Govindasamy had knocked her unconscious and set fire to his case file on a table.
Madam Low suffered three non-fatal wounds and five shallow skull fractures as a result of Govindasamy hitting her with a sharp cutting instrument and a bicycle chain and padlock during the attack.
She was found dead with extensive severe burns.
Agreeing with the prosecution's sentencing recommendation of 10 years' jail, Judicial Commissioner Hoo Sheau Peng said it was one of the more serious cases of culpable homicide.
She described the attack on Madam Low as "deplorable".
Originally charged with murder, Govindasamy, a taxi driver, was found guilty of culpable homicide in February.
B. Rengarajoo & Associates had represented him in a 2002 corruption trial in which he was found guilty and sentenced to eight months' jail.
He ended up owing the firm $38,000 and was given a final opportunity to repay the debt by Aug 10, 2011, or legal action would be taken against his two children, who were his guarantors.
During sentencing submissions, Deputy Public Prosecutor Eugene Lee said Govindasamy had exhibited "a high degree of premeditation and planning" before the attack.
He went to the office in Robinson Road in disguise. He also had spare clothes and weapons - a heavy cutting instrument and a chain and padlock - in a haversack.
DPP Lee said: "The accused's act not only caused the death of the deceased, it endangered a large group of the public in the building that day and caused severe property damage."
Defence lawyer A. Sangeetha said her client was remorseful for causing Madam Low's death.
Asking for a jail sentence of not more than seven years, she said Govindasamy's conviction in the corruption trial had led to a whole host of problems.
He lost his previous job as a Customs officer and his substantial retirement benefits, and he incurred legal costs of $25,000 that rose to $38,000 with interest.
Ms Sangeetha said: "The one brush with the law led to more than a decade of problems, eventually affecting the lives of his elder children."
After Govindasamy was pushed against a wall with no other options, his paternal instincts set in and, under a "compromised state of mind", he committed the offence at his lawyer's office, she said.
Govindasamy's son and daughter were present in the High Court hearing.
His daughter, Ms Letchmi Ghandi Govindasamy, told reporters after sentencing: "We are relieved. (We're) waiting for him to come back home."
THE NEW PAPER, OCT 22, 2015