PUTRAJAYA: An engineer escaped the gallows today for the murder of his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day six years ago.
However, a five-member Federal Court bench ordered that Cheong Teik Keon be placed at Hospital Bahagia in Ulu Kinta, Perak, as he was of unsound mind.
“We find that the appellant committed the offence. However, the trial judge failed to consider that he was of unsound mind under Section 84 of the Penal Code,” bench chairman Ahmad Maarop said in allowing the appeal.
The judge said Cheong had proved on the balance of probability that he was not in the right frame of mind when the offence was committed.
“We set aside the conviction and order that he be kept at a mental asylum and report to the governor of Penang,” he said.
Cheong, 35, murdered Tan Ching Chin in Seberang Perai, Penang, at 8.40am on Feb 14, 2013.
His lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik later told reporters that the conviction was set aside as his client was of unsound mind at the time.
“But the apex court ordered for him to be placed in a hospital to continue receiving medical treatment,” he added.
Cheong was convicted by the High Court and sentenced to death on Oct 18, 2016.
A psychiatrist testified that Cheong had stabbed Tan three times before attempting to commit suicide by stabbing himself four times so that he could be reunited with her in heaven.
His appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal last year.
Last month, Hisyam argued before the Federal Court that the trial judge had misdirected himself in ruling that legal insanity had not been established by the defence on a balance of probability.
He said the trial judge had failed to consider the evidence of two psychiatrists who told the court that Cheong was incapable of knowing that his actions were wrong as he was suffering from a major depressive disorder and was of unsound mind at the time of the offence.
Deputy public prosecutor Asmah Musa had urged the court to dismiss the appeal, saying Cheong was referred to the psychiatrists to determine whether he was fit to stand trial, not to examine his state of mind.