I couldn’t save my wife from burning office
Lawyer recalls in court events on the day his wife was killed
The lawyer rushed from the rear entrance of the building to his sixth-storey office when he heard that it was on fire.
Knowing that his wife could be inside, Mr Rengarajoo Rengasamy Balasamy braved the thick smoke at the door of the office and called out to Madam Low Foong Meng, 56.
"Foong Meng, come out," he shouted twice very loudly, according to his statement that was read out in court yesterday.
"I then heard my wife scream once, it was very loud."
Mr Rengarajoo could not go to her rescue when he realised that it was too dangerous for him to remain inside. So he stepped out and immediately called the police.
The lawyer from B Rengarajoo & Associates took the stand yesterday on the fourth day of a murder trial involving his wife's alleged killer, Govindasamy Nallaiah, now 70.
The cabby, who used to be Mr Rengarajoo's client, is accused of killing Madam Low in the office at Afro-Asia Building at Robinson Road on Aug 10, 2011.
Mr Rengarajoo appeared stoic when he stepped into the courtroom yesterday afternoon.
But emotions soon got the better of him and his voice cracked as he recited his oath in the witness stand. He dabbed away tears from his eyes as he took his seat.
He first met Madam Low about 30 years ago. They later had a marriage ceremony but did not register the union.
They had three daughters together and in 2005, Madam Low joined his firm to help him with administrative, paralegal and secretarial work.
Mr Rengarajoo said that in 2003, Govindasamy, who was then a Customs officer, approached him over a corruption case.
In his statement, Mr Rengarajoo said: "We discussed the fees for my services and agreed on $25,000."
The cabby said that his children would help him pay the amount.
Govindasamy, who was found guilty of corruption after a trial, was sent to jail.
After his release, he failed to pay Mr Rengarajoo, who took action against him and his two children. This includes demand letters and a writ of summons.
In his statement, Mr Rengarajoo said that on July 26, 2011, Govindasamy's son, Mr Ramanathan, went to his office and offered to pay him $1,000, which he rejected. This contradicts Mr Ramanathan's earlier testimony that he had offered $10,000.
By then, the outstanding legal fees, including interest, was $38,000.
Mr Rengarajoo suggested that he pay at least half the amount upfront and settle the rest by instalments.
Mr Rengarajoo's statement said Govindasamy went to his office on Aug 1, 2011, to ask for more time.
The lawyer said: "The accused explained that he was trying to sell his car and offered to pay me $3,000 at first. I suggested that he should pay at least $10,000 upfront and the rest by instalments.
"The accused asked me for time until Aug 10, 2011, and I agreed."
After Govindasamy left the office, the lawyer conducted an online search and found out that the cabby was an undischarged bankrupt.
Govindasamy returned to the office a week later and offered his Rolex watch, which he said was worth S$35,000.
Mr Rengarajoo told him that since he was still an undischarged bankrupt, he did not have any legal status to enter into any financial agreement with him.
"I then told him to leave my office."
The court heard yesterday that two days later, Mr Rengarajoo dropped off Madam Low near their office as usual and saw her walking into Afro-Asia Building.
It was the last time he saw her alive.
The trial resumes on Tuesday.
THE NEW PAPER, YESTERDAY
ABOUT THE CASE
He engaged lawyer Rengarajoo Rengasamy Balasamy to represent him in a corruption trial in 2002.
Taxi driver Govindasamy Nallaiah, now 70, later owed Mr Rengarajoo $38,000 in legal fees and was given a final opportunity to pay up by Aug 10, 2011.
That morning, he went to Mr Rengarajoo's law firm, B Rengarajoo & Associates, at the Afro-Asia Building in Robinson Road and tried to negotiate with the lawyer's wife, Madam Low Foong Meng, 56.
Govindasamy became angry when they could not come to an agreement.
He took out a bicycle chain and padlock from his black haversack and allegedly hit her several times on her head until she collapsed on the floor.
After that, he allegedly used a lighter to set fire to some files on a table before leaving the premises.
Madam Low, who helped with administrative work at the firm, was found dead in the office.
Govindasamy was charged with Madam Low's murder on Aug 12, 2011.