Jailed for life: Schizophrenic man who killed eldest sister by stomping on her chest

·Senior Reporter
·4-min read
A person clenching a fist in front of a crouched figure.
A person clenching a fist in front of a crouched figure. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — A schizophrenic man with a history of aggression towards his family members was jailed for life on Tuesday (14 September) after killing his sister by stomping repeatedly on her chest without any apparent provocation.

Raja Vinayagar, 50, then lied to the authorities that Gayathiri Palaniappan, 66, had had an asthma attack, coughing blood before collapsing on the floor on 23 August 2019.

The unemployed man pleaded guilty to one count of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, with the prosecution seeking life imprisonment, citing a pressing need to ensure the public was protected from him.

Aggression towards mother, sisters

Raja’s history of schizophrenia dated back to 1987. He was exempted from serving National Service and had not held a job since he was 25. He had a “lengthy history of wilful non-compliance with medication and violent behaviour towards his family members”, including two sisters and his 87-year-old mother, said the prosecution.

A week before the fatality, Raja began acting up and was aggressive towards his mother. On the morning of 23 August 2019, he again lashed out at his mother but Gayathiri intervened, bringing their mother out of the flat.

The two women then met the mother’s friend, who chatted with them. Gayathiri and the friend decided to head back to the flat, and Gayathiri bought two packet drinks which she intended to pass to Raja.

At about 3.18pm, the two women returned to the flat and Raja asked where his mother was. He exited the flat in search of his mother but returned shortly. While with Gayathiri at the lift landing outside his flat, he threw the packet drinks on the floor and attacked his eldest sister, hitting her forcefully in the face and pushing her to the floor.

Raja was 1.75m tall, weighing 82.6kg, while Gayathiri was 1.5m tall and weighed 54kg. He overpowered her with his bigger build and she lost consciousness.

As Gayathiri lay on the floor, Raja stomped on her upper body more than five times, causing her head to jerk. His sister had a history of a recurrent respiratory disease which she was diagnosed with in 2013.

The friend, who witnessed the attack, got a fright and took the stairs down. She called Raja’s other sister and told her about the incident. When this sister called home, Raja answered and claimed that Gayathiri was lying in the room and “had gotten a beating”.

The sister called “995” and returned home at 4.32pm. By the time police and paramedics arrived on scene, Raja had moved Gayathiri’s body into a bedroom to hide his deed. He knew that she needed immediate medical attention due to her pre-existing condition but did not call for help. He then lied to police officers, alleging that Gayathiri was already panting when she returned home and had coughed blood before collapsing in the bedroom.

Paramedics noticed blood around Gayathiri’s head but did not suspect how it had come about. They tried to resuscitate her before conveying her to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead at about 5.46pm.

Non-compliance with medication

In the course of investigations, police uncovered evidence of Raja’s involvement and arrested him on 26 August 2019. They also obtained CCTV footage capturing the attack.

An autopsy uncovered that Gayathiri had fractures in her nose, upper jaw, spine, ribs and numerous haemorrhages in her neck, scalp, and right lung. The cause of death was haemorrhage due to blunt force trauma to the chest.

Raja was assessed by the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) and had reportedly defaulted from follow-up treatment two years after he was first diagnosed.

“He has had multiple admissions to the IMH over the years mostly due to non-compliance with medication and violence towards his family members. His last admission to IMH took place from 12 November 2015 to 3 March 2016,” Deputy Public Prosecutors Winston Man and Ng Jun Chong told the court.

Raja’s schizophrenia was deemed to have been in relapse at the time the assault, with his actions substantially influenced by psychotic symptoms. However he was not of unsound mind and was found fit to plead in court.

His psychiatrist stated that Raja would need potentially lifelong treatment for his condition and is at high risk of future relapses, in part due to his lack of compliance with medication. Raja had relapsed despite being given his regular dose of antipsychotic injection.

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