Lawyer's murdered wife was alive when fire broke out in husband’s office
Man on trial for murder of his lawyer's wife
She was found dead with extensive severe burns after a fire broke out in her husband's office.
The court heard yesterday that Madam Low Foong Meng had also suffered injuries, including three wounds possibly inflicted by a sharp cutting instrument, five fractures to her skull and bruising to her left temporal muscle, the area near her left ear and temple.
Madam Low, 56, who helped her husband, lawyer Rengarajoo Rengasamy Balasamy, with administrative work at his firm B Rengarajoo & Associates, was still alive when the fire started.
Senior consultant forensic pathologist Associate Professor Gilbert Lau, who performed her autopsy, gave these details when he took the stand yesterday on the second day of her alleged killer's murder trial.
Govindasamy Nallaiah, now 70, is accused of murdering Madam Low in the office on the sixth storey of Afro-Asia Building in Robinson Road between 9.48am and 9.55am on Aug 10, 2011.
The court heard on Tuesday that before he allegedly committed the offence, he had got angry after a failed negotiation with Madam Low about some legal fees he owed the firm.
He took out a bicycle chain and padlock from his black haversack and allegedly hit her several times on the head until she collapsed.
Yesterday, Prof Lau of Health Sciences Authority testified that the five fractures on Madam Low's skull were "very superficial" and did not go through the full thickness of the bone.
When Deputy Public Prosecutor Eugene Lee asked him if they could have been caused by a chain and padlock, he replied: "Yes."
Prof Lau also said that he did not think the fractures were caused by fallen concrete from the ceiling because of the fire.
He added that if this were the case, he would expect the fractures to be "more severe" and that they would have gone through the full thickness of the skull.
Prof Lau said that Madam Low had incised wounds on her left elbow and on the area between her left armpit and back. The tip of her left middle finger was also nearly sliced off.
He explained that incised wounds are sharp force injuries caused by cutting instruments like knives.
And as for the bruised left temporal muscle, Prof Lau said that this was a blunt force injury possibly caused by a chain or a fist.
The forensic pathologist told Judicial Commissioner Hoo Sheau Peng that Madam Low was still alive when the fire broke out.
During her autopsy, Prof Lau had found "copious amounts" of soot in her windpipe and bronchi, the main passageway into the lungs.
Another witness, deliveryman Marco Jap, who had gone to Mr Rengarajoo's office to deliver a parcel shortly before the fire started, also took the stand yesterday.
He said that when he entered the office, he met a "very serious looking" Indian man carrying a bicycle chain and a padlock.
But he could not ascertain if Govindasamy, who was seated in the dock, was the man he saw that morning because the incident had taken place "a while ago", said Mr Jap.
He said that the man had told him to come back later as no one was around.
Mr Jap was waiting outside the office when he heard about three thuds. He said that it sounded very loud, like a "big hammer" hitting against the floor, and he even felt the ground vibrating.
After that, he said that he smelled "something flammable" in the air, like "gas or kerosene".
He then heard a woman screaming from inside the office. When he saw smoke coming out of the office, he quickly made his way to a security officer at the front entrance of the building.
Mr Jap said he felt frightened when he saw the smoke as he had thought that the room would explode.
He told the court that he later saw the Indian man leaving the building. This man was last seen walking towards Lau Pa Sat.
The trial resumes today.
About the case
Govindasamy Nallaiah was involved in a corruption trial in 2002 and engaged lawyer Rengarajoo Rengasamy Balasamy to represent him.
Govindasamy, now 70, later owed Mr Rengarajoo $38,000 in legal fees and was given a final opportunity to pay up by Aug 10, 2011.
At around 8.40am that day, he went to Mr Rengarajoo's law firm, B Rengarajoo & Associates, at the Afro-Asia Building in Robinson Road. He entered the office and negotiated with the lawyer's wife, Madam Low Foong Meng, 56, over the fee dispute.
Govindasamy became angry when they could not come to an agreement and allegedly hit her several times on her head until she collapsed onto the floor.
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.
On Aug 12, 2011, Govindasamy was charged with Madam Low's murder.