Tahfiz fire: Victims died before their bodies were burnt, says forensic expert

A view shows the second floor of religious school Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah after a fire broke out in Kuala Lumpur September 14, 2017. — Reuters pic
A view shows the second floor of religious school Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah after a fire broke out in Kuala Lumpur September 14, 2017. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 22 — The murder trial of two teenage boys charged with causing the death of 23 residents at the Tahfiz Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah Centre was told that the victims in the tragic fire incident had died of smoke inhalation. before their bodies were burnt. 

Kuala Lumpur Hospital (HKL) Forensic Medicine Department specialist Dr Siew Sheue Feng said the victims were found to have breathed in the products of combustion during the fire, causing them to suffocate and die before their bodies were burnt.

“Traces of soot were found in the respiratory tract of the victims which showed that they had inhaled smoke,” he said during examination-in-chief by Kuala Lumpur prosecution director Othman Abdullah at the trial before Judge Datuk Azman Abdullah, today.

To a question from Azman on how long does it take for a victim to die after smoke inhalation, the 59th prosecution witness said ‘within a short time’.

Earlier, Dr Siew said he had performed autopsies on six of the 23 bodies and the six bodies were charred.

Dr Siew was among four forensic experts assigned to perform post-mortem examinations and collect specimens from the fire victims at the centre.

The witness said that inspections on the bodies found no other injuries except for injuries due to the fire. 

Two teenage boys, then aged 16, were jointly charged with murdering and causing the death of the 23 residents at the tahfiz centre at Jalan Keramat Hujung, Kampung Datuk Keramat, here, between 4.15am and 6.45am on September 14, 2017.

The two accused, now aged 18, each face 23 counts of murder under Section 302 of the Penal Code, read together with Section 34 of the same law, which provides a mandatory death sentence, upon conviction. 

However, Section 97(1) of the Child Act 2001 states that a death sentence shall not be pronounced or recorded against a person convicted of an offence if the child is under the age of 18, and in lieu of the death sentence, as provided under Section 97 (2) of the same law, the court shall order the person to be detained at the pleasure of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Section 94 of the same law also empowers the court to order the parents or guardians of the child offender to pay a fine or provide compensation. 

At today’s proceedings, both accused were represented by lawyer Haijan Omar.

The trial before Judge Azman continues on April 3. — Bernama

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