GEORGE TOWN: The High Court here has found five people, including two juveniles, not guilty of the murder of T Nhaveen in 2017.
Justice Radzi Hamid, who announced his decision this morning, acquitted and discharged the five.
The five – S Gopinaath, 30, J Ragesuthan, 22, S Gokulan, 22, and two others who were juveniles when the alleged offence took place – had been accused of murdering Nhaveen, then 18, at a park on Jalan Bunga Raya between 11pm and midnight on June 9, 2017.
They were also charged with committing grievous assault on Nhaveen’s friend, T Previin, then 19, near the Karpal Singh Learning Centre in Bukit Gelugor on the same night.
Nhaveen was reported to have been beaten and died days after being pronounced brain dead.
The trial began on May 3, 2021, some four years after the incident, following numerous postponements.
In delivering his verdict, Radzi said: “There were major flaws in the prosecution’s case against the accused, and hence a failure in proving a prima facie case.”
He said the core issue revolved around the lack of credibility in star witness Previin’s testimony, despite him being the only witness who saw the events leading to Nhaveen’s death and was subjected to physical assault himself.
Even with Previin’s testimony, he said, it was insufficient to establish whether a group of 20 people had assaulted him and Nhaveen at Padang Openg, a public park in Bukit Gelugor.
He said there was also no certainty that another beating incident had taken place at Minden Heights later.
“You can’t have the victim in two separate places. So, this whole charge appears to be in a blur. There’s serious doubt on all the charges,” he said.
Radzi said because of Previin’s inconsistent testimony, including a claim that he never spoke Malay despite attending a national-type school – which led to a lengthy engagement with a Tamil language interpreter – and a false police report claim, he had no option but to dismiss Previin’s testimony entirely as his credibility was suspect.
“The prosecution should have recognised this issue (of Previin’s differing testimony) and called two other corroborative witnesses when Previin gave conflicting statements. This would have helped establish the scene of the alleged crime,” he said.
Radzi concluded by saying the four initially accused had not shown joint intent to murder Nhaveen, hence their acquittal.
He also said the mid-trial murder and assault charge against the fifth accused, Gopinaath, was unjust. Gopinaath was charged on Dec 30, 2021, when Previin claimed during the trial that he (Gopinaath) was part of the group that beat Nhaveen to death.
“The fifth accused (Gopinaath) was never present at the scene of the crime. There was no investigation conducted regarding his involvement. This represents a failure on the part of the police to conduct a proper investigation into his role in this case,” Radzi said.
The four accused had spent six years and three months in detention, while Gopinaath had been detained for a year and nine months.
After they were freed, the accused, clenching Hindu hymn books, broke into tears and were embraced by their mothers.
Outside the court, Gopinaath expressed his gratitude to the late Ranjit Singh Dhillon, who had served as the lead defence counsel until his death, and Naran Singh, who took over from Ranjit.
Deputy public prosecutors Azhar Hamzah and Muna Jaafar prosecuted. Lawyers S Yagoo and Maanveer Singh Dhillon also represented the accused, while Sukhindarpal Singh held a watching brief for the Bar Council.
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