Crimes that shook the nation: Murder of beauty queen still a mystery

Jealousy speculated to be motive, brother-in-law charged with killing

10 Apr 2020 / 12:47 H.

MURDER most foul, lurid tales of sex, betrayal and mystery.

Malaysians in their golden years will never fail to recall until this day the murder of 31-year-old beauty queen Jean Perera Sinnappa (pix) on April 6, 1979, and the trial that followed.

Over the past four decades, both local and foreign news sources had carried dozens of articles on the case.

Even documentaries were made, chronologically analysing the murder that until this day remains unsolved.

The charming young woman, who had won titles in several state and national beauty pageants, was left widowed just months earlier when she lost her chemist husband S. Sinnappa in a road accident in Petaling Jaya on New Year’s Eve.

Jean, who hailed from Negri Sembilan and was a school teacher, was out with her husband to celebrate and usher in the new year when tragedy struck. She escaped with minor injuries.

Following her husband’s death, she and her three young children moved to stay with her mother-in-law.

Also living in the same house in Klang was her late husband’s brother, S. Karthigesu, a psychology lecturer, who was eventually charged with her killing.

Living under the same roof, it is alleged that it did not take long before Jean and her brother-in-law began courting.

It appeared to be the perfect arrangement but four months down the road, life took a cruel twist.

Two aircraft engineers, who were passing the Subang airport interchange at the Federal Highway at night, pulled over when they found Karthigesu lying next to a car by a road shoulder.

Inside the car was Jean’s bloodied body in the front passenger seat.

She had multiple stab wounds to her chest and was dead at the scene.

When a police probe commenced, investigators did not buy Karthigesu’s testimony that he pulled over to ease himself but was knocked unconscious and had no knowledge of how and who killed Jean.

When no injuries were found on Karthigesu, then aged 37, he was arrested and about a month later, he was charged with Jean’s murder at the Kuala Lumpur High Court on circumstantial evidence.

The murder trial ran for 38 days with 58 witnesses being called up.

Details of disloyalty from an affair Jean allegedly had with a Sri Lankan doctor were exposed.

A large heap of love letters the duo had exchanged were exhibited.

Jealousy as a result of a love triangle was speculated to be the motive behind the murder.

However, the damning testimony came from a close friend of Karthigesu’s family, Bandhulanda Jayathilake who testified that he had heard Karthigesu saying Jean deserved to die.

The lecturer was eventually sentenced to death at the end of the trial.

Four days after the verdict, Jayathilake confessed that he had lied under oath and his testimony was false. Jayathilake was charged with perjury and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment but died in jail two years later.

On May 20, 1981, after two years behind bars, Karthigesu was vindicated and stepped out of prison a free man.

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