PETALING JAYA: The wife of a drug suspect who died in police custody four years ago, and was awarded RM281,300 in damages today, insists she will not be satisfied unless the police and the government apologise for her husband’s death.
“I’m happy with the judgement but I want the police and the government to admit their guilt. I only want that,” said Janagi Nadarajah.
“My husband (Benedict Thanilas) was extremely sick when he was in the lockup, but they just ignored him.
“I’m really infuriated. That (an apology) is all I want.”
Thanilas, who took eight different types of medication daily, had a heart bypass operation just before his detention under the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985.
Previous reports cited lawyer M Visvanathan as stating that there was no evidence Thanilas was involved in drug trafficking.
The 44-year-old Thanilas, who also suffered from diabetes and hypertension, was found unconscious in his cell at the Jinjang police lockup on July 10, 2017 – 12 days after his arrest.
It was previously reported that the police officers who arrested Thanilas did not take his medicines along when arresting him but instead told Janagi to bring them to the Sentul police station later in the day.
However, Thanilas’ toxicology report after his death found no traces of the eight medicines in his body.
Last year, the coroner’s court ruled that Thanilas’ death could have been avoided if he had been given the medical attention he needed.
The Kuala Lumpur High Court ordered the government and police to pay RM281,300 in damages to Thanilas’ family, with NGO Eliminating Deaths and Abuse in Custody Together (Edict) saying the court ruled that the family had proven the case on the balance of probabilities.
Janagi was awarded RM91,800 in dependency claims, RM50,000 for pain and suffering, RM100,000 in aggravated damages, damages for bereavement at RM30,000, and funeral expenses at RM4,000.
Another RM5,500 was awarded as cost on letters of administration.
Speaking to FMT, Visvanathan said Thanilas’ family plans to appeal the amount for aggravated damages as it was too low, adding that a higher sum would send a “strong message” to the authorities.
Noting a recent verdict in another case, Visvanathan said the Federal Court had awarded RM200,000 in aggravated damages to the widow and daughter of lorry driver P Chandran who died in a police lock-up.
“This case is almost similar to that of Chandran’s, who earlier this year was awarded RM200,000 in aggravated damages,” he said.
“So that’s a shortfall of RM100,000, which is not a small sum.
“If the awards meted out by the court are high enough to reflect its indignation and contempt … only then will the authorities take the issue of custodial deaths seriously and act to stop it.”
He added that he also plans to lodge an appeal on the non-award for (the claim of) misfeasance in public office, subject to final discussions with family members.
Visvanathan also drew on another case where housewife N Indra, whose son A Kugan died in a police lock-up in 2009, was awarded RM100,000 for misfeasance.
He explained that misfeasance occurs when authorities abuse their power and neglect those under their care.
“The coroner last year recommended that the AGC (Attorney-General’s Chambers) take action against the police officers involved for failing in their duties.
“Since Thanilas was detained, the police knew he was a heart patient, but they couldn’t care less if they had his medication or food.
“This is a classic case where misfeasance should be awarded.”