SINGAPORE – A 52-year-old man who stabbed his flatmate in the heart during a quarrel over rent was found guilty of murder on Tuesday (Nov 9) after the judge rejected his defence that he had accidentally inflicted the fatal wound.
In convicting Mohammad Rosli Abdul Rahim, High Court Justice Dedar Singh Gill said: “The evidence, on the whole, shows beyond a reasonable doubt that the fatal stab wound was intentionally inflicted by the accused.”
The case was adjourned for sentencing arguments. Rosli faces the death penalty or life imprisonment, but prosecutors said they would not be objecting to a life term.
Rosli had killed 35-year-old Mohammad Roslan Zaini, his co-tenant, in a flat in Teck Whye Crescent on Aug 16, 2017, while two acquaintances looked on.
In his trial, he claimed that during a chaotic melee in the poorly lit flat, he “accidentally poked” the victim’s chest when he was swinging the knife downwards because the victim moved forward.
Justice Gill said: “The defence’s case, however, is not borne out by the evidence and is inherently incredible.”
The judge said it was clear, from the forensic evidence and the testimony of one eyewitness, that the fatal stab wound was inflicted by an inward thrust.
Forensic pathologist Gilbert Lau had unequivocally testified that it was not possible for the fatal stab wound to be caused by a slashing motion, the judge noted.
Rosli had also claimed that he was under the influence of Nitrazepam, a sedative, at the time of the attack, which affected his ability to aim with intent.
After considering the expert evidence on the effects of the drug, the judge concluded that the reduction of Rosli’s physical control was not severe.
Justice Gill also rejected Rosli’s argument that he lost self-control because of grave and sudden provocation by the victim, who had uttered vulgarities insulting his mother.
The judge said he did not think the insults were sufficiently “grave”.
Police officers gathering evidence in a unit on the fourth floor
The court heard during the trial that Rosli had been homeless and sleeping in the rough around November 2016, but found a roof over his head after Mr Roslan approached him to split the rent on the flat.
In August 2017, Rosli began to suspect that his co-tenant was overcharging him for his share of the rent.
A day before the stabbing, he complained to a mutual friend – the victim’s former girlfriend – that he had given Mr Roslan more than $100 but the younger man did not pay for the flat rental.
He also told the woman that he wanted to stop renting the flat with the victim, the court heard.
At about 4am on Aug 16, 2017, Rosli and Mr Roslan were watching movies in the flat with two mutual acquaintances when they began arguing over money.
Incensed by the victim’s comments, Rosli walked to the kitchen and picked up a knife with a 17cm-long blade.
The two visitors fled the unit on witnessing the attack and called for help.
The victim also escaped, struggling down the stairs before collapsing on a grass patch. He was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.