Boon Lay Murder Case, Siblings Convicted For Murder

Muhammad Kadar, who has been on death row for five years for knifing an elderly housewife more than 110 times in 2005, did not get to escape the gallows on Sept 29.

The decision by the Court of Appeal to affirm the sentence cast the spotlight once again on the long-running trial, which lasted three years and saw many twists and turns.

Muhammad, 39, and his older brother Ismil, first went on trial in 2006, charged with murdering their neighbour, Madam Tham Weng Kuen, 69, at her Boon Lay flat while robbing her. The case took a dramatic turn when Muhammad made a stunning confession in court that he was the sole assailant. He had told police earlier that Mr Ismil was the main culprit.

The High Court did not conclude who the assailant was but ruled that the pair were guilty of murder under the law on common intention.

They appealed against their convictions, and Mr Ismil was freed in 2011 after the Court of Appeal cleared him of murder. But he went back to jail 15 months later for consuming drugs.

We recap the landmark case with stories from The Straits Times archives:

1. What is the case about


The brothers were sentenced to hang in 2009 for murdering Madam Tham. The elderly housewife’s husband, who was a stroke patient and bedridden, was in another room in the house when it happened and could do nothing to help. The husband died in 2006 without seeing the culprit brought to justice.

Read about it here:

Brothers to hang for robbery killing of elderly woman

2. Brothers appealed against their convictions


The brothers appealed against their convictions. Justice V. K. Rajah, one of three judges sitting in the Court of Appeal, pointed out that many parts of the crime scene had not been checked for fingerprints – the bedroom of Madam Tham’s bedridden husband, kitchen toilet, toilet walls, kitchen window and the tap of a sink that appeared to have been used.

Read about it here:

Boon Lay murder: ‘Lapse’ in checks leaves unanswered questions

3. Ismil escapes gallows


More than two years after the pair were given the mandatory death penalty, Ismil escaped the gallows in April 2011, with the prosecution’s acceptance that he was not guilty of murder.

The story here:

Older brother escapes gallows

4. Ismil cleared of murder


Ismil – who spent six years in prison including two years on death row – was released from prison in July 2011 after he was cleared of murder by the Court of Appeal.

The court issued a strongly worded judgment highlighting “serious lapses” by police and prosecutors. The police had been given three statements by the victim’s husband in which he said he saw only one intruder in their flat. These were not made available to the defence until very late in the trial.

More here:

Man accused of murder freed after 6 years in jail 

5. From death row to new life


Adapting to life outside prison was a challenge for Ismil, who found work as a dispatch assistant with help from his lawyer.

Asked about how he felt, Ismil said then: “I feel like a new person, but very out of place. I think I will need some time to get used to the sudden freedom.”

Read the stories here:

The unfamiliar taste of freedom

From death row to new life 

6. Back in jail


After making headlines for how he was on the road to a more normal life, Ismil was sent back to prison 15 months after he was freed. He was jailed seven years and given six strokes of the cane for consuming drugs. Ismil told the judge: “I have tried to do… my very best. I have planned for the best, but it did not work out.”

The story here:

He’s back in jail after wasting chance for starting a new life



Ismil’s mother, Madam Asnah Ismail, said she was neither sad nor disappointed at the turn of events. “When he wasn’t taking these things, he was a good person,” she said in Malay.

More here:

Mum says son was a good person when he wasn’t taking drugs 


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