KUCHING: A Federal Court review panel sitting here today reduced the natural life sentence on a man to the maximum of 40 years in prison for killing a schoolgirl, having sexual intercourse with the corpse and then decapitating the body.
A three-member bench chaired by Justice Zabariah Yusof ordered the prison term of John Nyumbei to start on March 18, 1993, the date of his arrest.
Because of the revised sentence, the 57-year-old was freed today, taking into account the one-third remission of his sentence, his court assigned lawyer Joshua Baru Bian told FMT.
Zabariah was joined on the review panel by Justices Rodzariah Bujang and Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil.
John’s application was filed according to the Revision of the Sentence of Death and Imprisonment for Natural Life (Temporary Jurisdiction of the Federal Court) Act 2023.
John, who was originally sentenced to death by the High Court here on April 4, 1997, had his murder conviction and sentence upheld by the Court of Appeal and subsequently by the Federal Court.
His death sentence was commuted to a natural life term by the Pardons Board on Feb 15, 2016.
John then filed for a review of his sentence to the Federal Court under the 2023 Act, which gives the courts the option to substitute a natural life term with a prison sentence of between 30 and 40 years.
In court today, deputy public prosecutor Yusaini Amer Abdul Karim pressed for the maximum sentence, given the gruesome nature of the crime.
“The court must take into account the nature and seriousness of the offence, public interest and also the impact the offences caused to the family members,” Yusaini, who was assisted by DPP Fairuz Johari, said.
According to the facts of the case, John murdered 18-year-old Jong Liu Chin in Sebuku, Bau, between 5.30am and 7am, on March 16, 1993.
Acting on information received, a policeman found a headless body donned in a blue-coloured school uniform with a name tag of the deceased pinned on it.
John was arrested on March 18 and he led the police to the recovery of a knife.
Further interrogation led police to recover a human skull, later determined by Masatsugu Hashimoto, a professor in forensic odontology and physical anthropology at the University of Tokyo, to be that of the deceased.
During the trial, Dr Sardar Jehan, a forensic pathologist testified that she found evidence of sexual intercourse from the large quantity of sperm deposits.
John failed to convince the court that he was of unsound mind at the time of committing the offence. He admitted to killing the girl and then having sexual intercourse with the corpse.
He also admitted to severing the deceased’s head and carrying it away with him. He then flayed the skin from the head and threw the skull into the rainforest in Kampung Opar, Bau.