Woman charged with murdering maid freed due to failing health, judge says

Ambika MA Shan at the Magistrate’s Court in Bukit Mertajam in April last year. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: A High Court judge in Penang says a woman accused of murdering her maid was set free mid-trial as the government lawyer did not offer valid grounds for a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA).

Akhtar Tahir said even after repeated questioning by the court about the reason for such an application, all the deputy public prosecutor could say was that she was told to apply for a DNAA.

He said the defence lawyer, referring to Section 254 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Code, had urged the court to grant an acquittal citing the accused’s age and failing health.

“Reading Section 254 (3), it is clear that the court has in certain circumstances the discretion to order an acquittal instead of a DNAA,” he said in his judgment made available to FMT.

On April 19, Akhtar acquitted Ambika MA Shan, 61, of murdering her domestic worker Adelina Lisao. Adelina, 26, succumbed to multiple organ failure following alleged abuse at a house in Bukit Mertajam last year.

Neighbours had reportedly spotted Adelina sleeping next to a dog in the compound of Ambika’s home, and burn marks and bruises were said to have been found on her body.

Akhtar said in this case, the trial had begun and the deputy public prosecutor’s inability to explain the application for a DNAA was reason enough to acquit Ambika.

“Further, the accused is over 60 years old and has health issues,” he said, adding that the court had given priority to the case.

He said it would be unfair to the court to reschedule the case again in the event that Ambika is recharged.

However, he said Ambika had only been acquitted of murder, and that the prosecution can still charge her with other offences if it wants.

The prosecution had called three witnesses before its unsuccessful bid for the DNAA.

Ambika had been a remand prisoner as bail is not usually provided for those charged with offences that carry the death penalty.

Following her acquittal, the government filed an appeal in the Court of the Appeal. Case management will be held on July 12.