Oriental Hotel murder

The Oriental Hotel murder was a crime that occurred on 6 June 1994 at Oriental Hotel Singapore, when Abdul Nasir Amer Hamsah and Abdul Rahman Arshad attacked and robbed two Japanese tourists, Fujii Isae and Takishita Miyoko. Both women sustained injuries during the attack but Fujii suffered severe facial injuries that led to her death.1 The culprits were finally apprehended in 1996 and found guilty of the charge of robbery with hurt.2 They were both sentenced to long-term prison sentences with multiple strokes of the cane.3

Abdul Nasir Amer Hamsah, 25, and Abdul Rahman Arshad, 32, first met on 6 June 1994 at a coffeeshop in Marsiling.4 They went to the Oriental Hotel Singapore together that day to apply for jobs. After their job interviews, they noticed a large Japanese tour group at the check-in counter in the lobby area and decided to rob one of them.5

Fujii Isae,49, and Takishita Miyoko, 56, were both employees of a Japanese company that had sponsored a tour to Singapore for 31 of its employees.6 The two women checked in at the Oriental Hotel Singapore on 6 June 1994 with their tour group.7

Robbery and murder
Abdul Nasir and Abdul Rahman took the elevator with Fujii, Takishita and their fellow travellers to the ninth floor and trailed the victims to their room. The two men hid while the women opened their room door.8 The door was left open while the women deliberated what to do with the room key card, and Fujii approached the two men for assistance. The men then took the opportunity to push their way into the room.9 This took place at about 5.40 pm.10

Once in the room, Abdul Rahman assaulted Takishita, who pretended to faint and curled up on the floor to protect herself.11 Abdul Nasir gave Fujii several blows, particularly to her face.12 She sustained severe injuries to her face, including the fracture of her nasal bones and the cartilage wall attached to her nose, as well as severe fractures of both eye sockets and her jaw. These injuries caused haemorrhaging and the obstruction of Fujii’s airways, causing her to choke to death.13

The men robbed the women of a Seiko watch worth 70,000 yen (then S$1,000), a camera, a waist-pouch containing a passport and 65,000 yen (then S$950) in cash. They later converted the Japanese yen and divided the loot.14 Once the men had left, Takishita alerted the hotel porter who then informed the hotel duty manager. The manager notified the police and called an ambulance for Fujii. Fujii could not be revived and was pronounced dead at 6.20 pm. Takishita suffered only minor facial injuries and returned to Japan with the rest of her tour group the following day.15

Investigative process
The police launched an island-wide search for the two perpetrators of the crime.16 The Singapore Hotel Association, Oriental Hotel Singapore, Singapore Tourism Promotion Board and an anonymous insurance company jointly offered a monetary reward for any information to help police capture the culprits.17 However, they were not apprehended until two years later.18 Abdul Nasir was arrested after attempting to rob a taxi driver. His fingerprints were scanned and matched prints lifted at the scene of the unsolved Oriental Hotel murder.19 Soon after, Abdul Rahman was located, already serving a 20-month sentence at Moon Crescent Prison in Changi on consecutive charges of theft.20

While under remand at the Criminal Investigation Department lock-up, Abdul Nasir and his cell-mate Low Theng Gee attempted to escape on 3 February 1996.21 The men took two police officers hostage and threatened to kill them unless they were given guns, ammunition and a car. The crisis ended when the Special Tactics and Rescue unit raided the lock-up.22 Abdul Nasir was then charged under the Kidnapping Act and tried in a separate case.23

Legal proceedings
Abdul Nasir was charged in a district court with the murder of Fujii on 30 January 1996.24 Abdul Rahman was similarly charged on 31 January 1996.25 The latter pleaded guilty to an amended charge of robbery with hurt, leaving Abdul Nasir to shoulder the murder charge alone.26 Abdul Rahman was later sentenced to 10 years’ prison with 16 strokes of the cane.27

On 4 July 1996, Judicial Commissioner Choo Han Teck acquitted Abdul Nasir on the charge of murder, instead finding him guilty on the charge of robbery with hurt. In his judgement, JC Choo pointed out that the prosecution’s case was not strong enough to prove that it was Abdul Nasir alone who had assaulted Fujii, or that he had intentionally stamped on Fujii’s face and killed her. JC Choo said that Abdul Nasir’s height and weight of 1.8m and 76kg made it possible for an accidental step to cause Fujii’s injuries. Abdul Nasir was sentenced to 18 years’ prison with 18 strokes of the cane.28

The prosecution appealed against the outcome of the case.29 The case went before the Court of Appeal comprising Justices M. Karthigesu, Goh Joon Seng and L. P. Thean. The main issue before the court was whether Abdul Nasir had intentionally or accidentally caused the fatal injuries to Fujii.30 In the court’s first split decision in a murder appeal, Justices Karthigesu and Goh upheld the trial judge’s findings while Justice Thean dissented. The appeal was therefore dismissed on 11 October 1996 based on the majority decision.31

Other legal developments
In March 1997, Abdul Nasir was sentenced to life imprisonment and six strokes of the cane for staging the kidnapping of two police officers in 1996.32 At the time, life imprisonment was taken to mean 20 years, and the sentence was to run consecutively with Abdul Nasir’s other sentence of 18 years for robbery with hurt.33 However, Abdul Nasir appealed against the sentence of life imprisonment, asking that the two sentences run concurrently.34 The case came before the Court of Appeal, presided over by Chief Justice Yong Pung How, which dismissed the appeal and ruled that the two sentences should run consecutively. The court also defined “life imprisonment” to mean imprisonment for the rest of a convicted person’s natural life. However, the latter ruling did not apply to Abdul Nasir’s case, so the total length of his incarceration remained at 38 years, with a possible reduction for good behaviour.35

6 Jun 1994
: Abdul Nasir Amer Hamsah and Abdul Rahman Arshad attack and rob Fujii Isae and Takishita Miyoko in their room at Oriental Hotel Singapore.36

25 Jan 1996: Abdul Nasir is arrested after a robbery and linked to the Oriental Hotel murder.37
30 Jan 1996: Abdul Nasir is charged in a district court for the murder.38
Late Jan 1996: Abdul Rahman Arshad is found in jail already serving a 20-month sentence.39
31 Jan 1996: Abdul Rahman is charged in a district court for the murder.40
30 May 1996: Abdul Rahman pleads guilty to an amended charge of robbery. Abdul Nasir Amer Hamsah faces the murder charge.41
5 Jun 1996
: Abdul Rahman is sentenced to 10 years’ jail and 16 strokes of the cane.42

Mid Jun 1996: Takishita is flown back to Singapore to identify the attackers and testify in the High Court.43
4 Jul 1996: Abdul Nasir is found not guilty of committing murder, but guilty of committing robbery with hurt. He is sentenced to 18 years’ jail with 18 strokes of the cane.44 
10 Jul 1996: The public prosecutor files an appeal against Abdul Nasir’s acquittal.45
13 Jul 1996: Judicial Commissioner Choo Han Teck submits his written judgement raising questions against the prosecution’s case.46
12 Aug 1996: The court reserves judgment in the prosecution’s appeal against the acquittal of Abdul Nasir.47
11 Oct 1996
: The court dismissed the prosecution’s appeal.48

Cherylyn Tok & Joanna HS Tan

1. Elena Chong, “The Prosecution Loses Appeal against Man's Acquittal for Murder,” Straits Times, 12 October 1996, 28. (From NewspaperSG)
2. David Miller, “Second Suspect for Japanese Tourist Murder Found – in Jail,” Straits Times, 31 January 1996, 3; David Miller, “Robber Who Hit Japanese Tourist Gets Jail and Cane,” Straits Times, 6 June 1996, 1; Lim Li Hsien, “Oriental Hotel Killing: Attacked Acquitted of Murder,” Straits Times, 5 July 1996, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Miller, “Robber Who Hit Japanese Tourist”; Lim, “Oriental Hotel Killing.” 
4. Jasbir Singh, “Not So Lucky Third Time Round,” Straits Times, 24 August 1997, 26. (From NewspaperSG)
5. Ginnie Teo, “I Only Met Accused on the Day of Crime: Robber,” Straits Times, 26 June 1996, 23. (From NewspaperSG)
6. David Miller, “Survivor Flown In to Identify Attacker in Court,” Straits Times, 25 June 1996, 20; Chong, “Prosecution Loses Appeal.”
7. “2 Men Sought for Attack on 2 Japanese Tourists,” Straits Times, 8 June 1994, 19; Miller, “Survivor Flown In to Identify Attacker in Court.” 
8. Teo, “Only Met Accused on the Day of Crime: Robber.”
9. Miller, “Survivor Flown In to Identify Attacker in Court.” 
10. Raoul Le Blond, “Woman Tourist Killed in Hotel Room,” Straits Times, 7 June 1994, 22. (From NewspaperSG)
11. “2 Men Sought for Attack on 2 Japanese Tourists”; Miller, “Robber Who Hit Japanese Tourist.”
12. “Accomplice Told Me to Punch Victim: Accused,” Straits Times, 2 July 1996, 23. (From NewspaperSG)
13. Ginnie Teo, “Shoe ‘Could Have Caused Injuries’,” Straits Times, 28 June 1996, 58. (From NewspaperSG)
14. Zheng Ren, “One Culprit Pleads Guilty to Amended Charge of Robbery,” Straits Times, 31 May 1966, 63. (From NewspaperSG)
15. “2 Men Sought for Attack on 2 Japanese Tourists.”
16. Miller, “Second Suspect for Japanese Tourist Murder.” 
17. “$150,000 Reward for Info on Tourist’s Murder,” Straits Times, 10 June 1994, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
18. Miller, “Second Suspect for Japanese Tourist Murder.” 
19. David Miller, “Suspect Caught after Trying to Rob Taxi Driver,” Straits Times, 30 January 1996, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
20. Miller, “Second Suspect for Japanese Tourist Murder.” 
21. “2 Charged with Trying to Flee CID Lock-Up,” Straits Times, 6 February 1966, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
22. “Man Acquitted of Murder Back in Court,” Straits Times, 9 July 1966, 20. (From NewspaperSG)
23. Lim Li Hsien, “Man Acquitted of Murder Tried for Kidnap,” Straits Times, 18 February 1997, 25. (From NewspaperSG)
24. Miller, “Second Suspect for Japanese Tourist Murder.” 
25. “Tourist’s Murder,” Straits Times, 1 February 1996, 26. (From NewspaperSG)
26. Zheng, “One Culprit Pleads Guilty.” 
27. Miller, “Robber Who Hit Japanese Tourist.”
28. Lim, “Oriental Hotel Killing”; Brendan Pereira, “Unsafe to Rely on Prosecution’s Evidence, Says JC,” Straits Times, 19 July 1996, 48. (From NewspaperSG)
29. “Hotel Murder Acquittal: Appeal Filed,” Straits Times, 10 July 1996, 27. (From NewspaperSG)
30. “Court Reserves Judgement on Prosecution’s Appeal,” Straits Times, 13 August 1996, 22. (From NewspaperSG)
31. Chong, “Prosecution Loses Appeal.”
32. Elena Chong, “Man Escapes Gallows Twice in a Row,” Straits Times, 4 March 1997, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
33. Tan Ooi Boon, “CJ: What Is Life Imprisonment?” Straits Times, 20 May 1997, 3; Chong, “Man Escapes Gallows Twice in a Row.” 
34. Tan, “CJ: What Is Life Imprisonment?
35. Tan Ooi Boon, “Life Term Means Jail for Rest of Prisoner’s Life, Says Court,” Straits Times, 21 August 1997, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
36. Miller, “Second Suspect for Japanese Tourist Murder.” 
37. Miller, “Suspect Caught after Trying to Rob Taxi Driver.”
38. Miller, “Second Suspect for Japanese Tourist Murder.” 
39. Miller, “Second Suspect for Japanese Tourist Murder.” 
40. “Tourist’s Murder.”
41. Zheng, “One Culprit Pleads Guilty.” 
42. Miller, “Robber Who Hit Japanese Tourist.”
43. Miller, “Survivor Flown In to Identify Attacker in Court.” 
44. Lim, “Oriental Hotel Killing.” 
45. “Hotel Murder Acquittal.”
46. Pereira, “Unsafe to Rely on Prosecution’s Evidence.”
47. “Court Reserves Judgement on Prosecution’s Appeal.”
48. Chong, “Prosecution Loses Appeal.”

Further resources
Oriental to Tighten Security,” Straits Times, 10 June 1994, 32. (From NewspaperSG)

Security Stepped Up at the Oriental,” (1994, June 15). Straits Times, 15 June 1994, 19. (From NewspaperSG)

The information in this article is valid as at 2011 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.