Cops not ruling out pre-meditated murder in fish bombing incident

Sabah police chief Omar Mammah (middle) inspecting a police line during the monthly gathering of the Sabah police contingent in Kota Kinabalu today.

KOTA KINABALU: Police say they are not ruling out the possibility of pre-meditated murder in the deaths of three divers in Semporna, initially thought to be an accident involving fish bombs.

When asked if the police have re-classified their investigation to murder, Sabah police chief Omar Mammah said: “That is an assumption for now, but we are conducting our probe along various angles.

“For now, though, it is more on fish bombing. We’ll find out more after the post-mortem on the victims today,” he told reporters after the monthly assembly of the Sabah police contingent here.

The three divers, identified as Chinese nationals Zhao Zhong, and Xu Yingjie, both 26, and diving instructor Ab Zainal Abdu, 30, were killed off Pulau Kalapuan, Semporna last Friday.

Police later arrested a boatman and his assistant, aged 24 and 23.

Omar today said 10 others including sea gypsies have been detained in connection with the incident.

He added that the boatman and his assistant are related to Zainal.

He said the victims had been on a boat with seven others.

“After the three got off the boat to dive at about 2.30pm, the dive master (Zainal) told them to return to the jetty not far away to retrieve oxygen tanks.

“However, the trio should not have been left alone without any supervision,” he said, adding that the boat had returned about an hour later.

At that point, he said, the victims were nowhere to be seen.

He said eyewitnesses told the police that after the incident, they saw foam on the surface of the water and damaged corals and dead fish floating about – all signs of fish bombing activities.

“Even one of the Chinese tourists was found with a chunk of coral on top of him,” he added.

Omar said police have collected pieces of bottles, believed to be part of the fish bomb, which will be sent for analysis.

He said some eyewitnesses also claimed to have seen a boat with two men on board, approaching the site where the three were diving.

“One of them was rowing while the other was standing,” he said, declining however to confirm if they were among those recently detained.

He also said Zainal, who was reported as having a Malaysian identity card, actually possessed an IMM13 document.

IMM13 is a visitor’s pass issued by the immigration department to Filipino refugees who escaped to Sabah following the unrest in southern Philippines in the early 1970s.

IMM13 holders are allowed to stay in Sabah and Labuan and work without having to apply for a work pass. They are also allowed to attend school and access government medical services.