Man accused of killing student Felicia Teo loses appeal to be completely cleared of murder charge
An appeal by the man accused of killing art student Felicia Teo in 2007 to be acquitted of a murder charge was on Thursday dismissed by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon.
Ahmad Danial Mohamed Rafa’ee, 38, had sought a discharge amounting to an acquittal, which would have completely cleared him of the charge without a trial.
Ms Teo went missing in 2007, when she was 19. Ahmad was among the few people who had been with her when she was last seen alive.
A partial skull, which was later determined as likely to be the missing woman’s, was found in June 2010 during excavation works in Punggol. No other remains were found.
The Chief Justice, who upheld the lower court’s decision in dismissing the appeal, noted that Mr Ragil Putra Setia Sukmarahjana, who was also allegedly involved in Ms Teo’s death, is still at large.
He added that Mr Ragil seemed to be a “live lead” and that as things stand, the murder charge cannot proceed unless he is found.
The Chief Justice said a discharge not amounting to an acquittal struck the correct balance between the public interest in completing investigations into Ms Teo’s death and the personal liberty of an individual.
A discharge not amounting to an acquittal allows the state to revive proceedings, while the accused is free of some restrictions such as being remanded in custody, he said.
The more serious the charge, the more the balance would tilt in favour of public interest, he said. And in the present case, the charge of murder was at the highest end of the scale, he added.
Police had questioned Ahmad after Ms Teo went missing in 2007, but he claimed then that he did not know what had happened to her.
In 2020, a review of the case led to Ahmad being questioned again.
This time, he revealed that he was involved in the disposal of her remains, that he was involved in the disposal of her possessions, and that he had not been truthful in 2007.
Last October, Ahmad was sentenced to 26 months’ jail on four charges relating to Ms Teo’s death – including one for dumping her corpse and one for giving false evidence to the police. The sentence was backdated to when he was arrested on Dec 15, 2020.
On the murder charge, he had been given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal by a district judge in July 2022.
This means that the charge was withdrawn, but Ahmad can still be prosecuted if relevant information or evidence should emerge later.
The prosecution had sought the discharge as Mr Ragil was still at large and efforts to trace him in Indonesia were ongoing.
On Thursday, Ahmad’s lawyer, Mr Shashi Nathan, argued that it was unfair for his client to have the murder charge hanging over his head indefinitely and questioned the efforts made to locate Mr Ragil.
Mr Nathan also cited, as an example of the hardship caused to Ahmad, the fact that his application for his passport to be renewed was rejected because of this case.
But Deputy Public Prosecutor Yang Ziliang argued that the seriousness of the offence involved weighed heavily against an acquittal at this juncture.
An acquittal would grant Ahmad absolute immunity from ever being taken to task for the murder of the victim even if evidence of such involvement subsequently came to light, said the prosecutor.
Get The New Paper on your phone with the free TNP app. Download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store now