KUALA LUMPUR, June 21 – The High Court will decide today on whether there is or isn’t a prima facie case against Samirah Muzaffar and two teenagers who are charged with murdering her husband and Cradle Fund chief executive Officer (CEO) Nazrin Hassan four years ago this month.
The trio are accused of committing the murder on June 14, 2018 at a double-storey house in Mutiara Damansara, Selangor, which they allegedly attempted to cover up by setting the place on fire.
If High Court judge Datuk Ab Karim Ab Rahman decides in favour of the prosecution and rules that there is a prima facie case against Samirah, the widow now aged 47 will have to defend herself and prove that she did not commit the crime.
But if he decides otherwise, she will be acquitted and discharged of the crime.
The same goes for the two boys who were aged 13 and 16 when they were charged with the murder and cannot be identified except for their age and gender as they were minors at that time.
Before that, here’s a quick reminder of what has happened so far to this case that has been disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Who was Nazrin Hassan?
The Cradle Fund CEO kicked off his working life as a corporate finance executive in banking giant CIMB after graduating with a law degree from the UK in 1994.
He later became an entrepreneur under the ZAR Group before joining the Malaysian Venture Capital Management Bhd as its acting head and strategy and policy adviser in 2004 from which the Cradle Investment Programme, an agency incorporated under the Finance Ministry in 2003, was introduced to nurture Malaysian start-ups.
He left in 2005 to set up his own tech company and returned as Cradle Fund CEO in 2007.
Among the successful businesses it has nurtured are MyTeksi (now known as Grab), iPay88, iMoney, FlexiRoam and Carlist.
Nazrin was 45 when he died.
How his death became a murder case
Nazrin’s death on June 14, 2018 was initially attributed to a fire that broke out in his bedroom said to have started when the handphone next to him exploded.
It was classified as murder on August 6, 2018 after forensics reports from the Fire and Rescue Department taken from the scene of his death and post-mortem examinations indicated foul play.
Traces of petrol were found in various spots in the bedroom where Nazrin was found, including on his body, head as well as the bed and pillow he was sleeping on.
Four months after his death, Nazrin’s remains were exhumed for a second autopsy. The results showed he died from blunt force trauma to the head. The depressions on his head were said to have been caused by a blunt object like a hammer or an archery set.
Nazrin’s widow, Samirah, who is also the daughter of political scientist and celebrated human rights fighter Chandra Muzaffar, and two teenage boys were first charged with murder on March 4, 2019 at the Magistrate’s Court. The trial was subsequently transferred to the High Court.
The prosecution rejected the earlier belief that Nazrin died in a fire caused by an exploding handphone.
In arguing for prima facie, the prosecution pointed out the “irregular” burn patterns in the room that led investigators to believe the fire was not accidental but deliberate.
Deputy public prosecutor Asnawi Abu Hanipah told the High Court the fire was “staged” by three people, Samirah Muzaffar and two teenagers.
Investigators also noted that the bedroom could be locked from the outside and was indeed locked from the outside when first responders arrived at the scene, opening the possibility that Nazrin had been locked in, unable to escape.
A bag of fireworks was discovered in the room as well. Fireman Stanley Sigau Nyalang from the Damansara Fire and Rescue Department testified that the burnt bed looked as if it was struck by sparks from fireworks.
The second pathologist in the case Dr Prashant Naresh Samberkar suggested that Nazrin’s body had been shifted from its original position when he died based on the positioning of the deceased’s limbs, which were not consistent with a body placed on the floor.
Dr Prashant noted that both Nazrin’s left and right hands were locked just above the ground while his calf was also not touching the floor of the bedroom he was found in. All these were signs pointing to rigor mortis setting in before the body was found.
In his expert testimony, Hospital Kuala Lumpur forensic medicine consultant Dr Siew Sheue Feng said Nazrin had a 6.8cm-deep wound track in his head. The wound was listed as the first among 16 other injuries and marks found on Nazrin’s body.
Dr Siew who conducted the first post-mortem examination on Nazrin at 5pm on June 14, 2018, said there was no evidence of soot in the victim's trachea and deeper air passage.
He explained that the absence of soot injury and inflation, among other conditions, showed Nazrin did not breathe in hot air when he died.
He said these conditions were not consistent with the death as if Nazrin had died on the bed, his body would only have one distinct burn pattern and his body would have been close to an exit as he would have been trying to escape from the fire.
The prosecution’s 29th witness, Eliza Elias, is listed as a close friend of Nazrin. She and Nazrin’s personal assistant Nurul Anisah Abdullah (the 47th prosecution witness), both testified that Nazrin’s work performance had been affected after his marriage to Samirah.
Eliza told the court that she often saw Nazrin flustered after speaking to Samirah on the phone and that he had complained about his wife’s spendthrift nature to the point he was considering divorce.
Eliza also testified that Nazrin’s son from his first marriage identified as Juan, had a poor relationship with Samirah and had been told by his stepmother that he was not welcome at the family house.
The court was also told that Nazrin had received death threats and filed a police report about them, only to withdraw them at a later date after police investigations showed the calls had been made from a phone said to belong to a close relative.
Samirah is represented by prominent lawyers Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah and Rahmat Hazlan.
They have argued that the investigations in Nazrin’s death were flawed and that the prosecution have not proved a prima facie case.
Shafee has cast aspersions on the Fire and Rescue Department staff, alleging that they did not follow standard operating procedures nor provided a plausible explanation for how the fire in Nazrin’s bedroom started.
He also questioned the police for failing to track down the fourth suspect, Indonesian Eka Wahyu Lestari who was Samirah’s maid until her termination a month after Nazrin’s death when reports emerged that she was seen in Sarawak.
Shafee argued that Chemistry Department investigators went back to the scene of Nazri’s death and took samples for laboratory tests, but found no petrol on the walls.
The defence also alleged that some prosecution witnesses had changed their statements.
One he singled out was Nur Ronal Ardes Amir, a retired corporal from the Petaling Jaya district police headquarters’ Mobile Patrol Vehicle Unit.
Shafee pointed out inconsistencies in Nur Ronal’s police statement, her witness statement and her oral reply and suggested that she had fabricated what transpired.
Samirah and the two teenagers are charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code with murder, which is punishable with a mandatory death sentence.
The charge under Section 302 was read together with Section 34 of the Penal Code, where each of the accused would be liable in the same manner as if the act was done by the person alone if a criminal act is done by several persons to fulfil their common intention.
The prosecution closed its case last February 14 after calling 57 witnesses.