By Shannon Teoh
SHAH ALAM, Jan 15 — More than two years after the gruesome discovery of what remained of Altantuya Shaariibuu’s body in a forest just outside Kuala Lumpur, the High Court here finally began hearing testimony from one of the two police officers charged with the Mongolian’s murder in what has been one of the most politically charged trials ever in Malaysia.
Tantalising details emerged about how the two accused policemen got involved in the case on the instruction of Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s aide-de-camp Musa Safri, including the emergence of a new character, identified as a “Chinese man,” in the saga which has gripped the nation.
The High Court also heard testimony regarding how a “Chinese woman,” presumed to be the deceased, and an unidentified and mysterious “Chinese man” were allegedly blackmailing Abdul Razak Baginda, a close associate of the DPM who was originally also charged for abetment in the murder.
These details emerged when Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri, one of the two men charged for Altantuya’s murder, took the stand this morning.
In his testimony, Azilah appeared to deny any involvement in the murder as he was not at the scene of the crime at the alleged time of the murder.
The other accused is Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar.
Azilah told the High Court that Musa had contacted him on Oct 17 2006.
The two met the next day where Musa asked him if he knew anyone in the Brickfields police station who could help Abdul Razak.
The Special Action Unit (UTK) officer replied that he knew one Deputy Superintendent Idris Karim who was the CID chief in the district.
Musa told him that Abdul Razak was being blackmailed and instructed him to meet Abdul Razak and introduce him to DSP Idris, according to Azilah’s testimony.
After contacting him through a phone number given to him by Musa, Azilah and Abdul Razak met the next day in the latter’s office.
During the meeting, Azilah testified, Abdul Razak told him that he was being blackmailed by a Chinese man and a Chinese woman.
Azilah said he was not told why Abdul Razak was being blackmailed and neither was he told the amount being demanded.
But Abdul Razak let Azilah listen to a voice message, allegedly from the “Chinese man.” In the message, the “Chinese man” said in Malay that “kasi pecah you punya muka,” which can be loosely translated as “I will smash your face.”
Azilah also testified that he heard another voice message in which a woman speaks in English, but he could not make out what she was saying.
Abdul Razak also told him that a “Chinese woman,” whom he identified as “Aminah” was “causing disturbances” in front of his Bukit Damansara home.
Azilah said he advised Abdul Razak to lodge a police report but the latter refused.
Abdul Razak then told him to advise the “Chinese man,” presumably against continuing with the blackmail.
Azilah was also told by Abdul Razak that the latter had hired a private investigator.
Azilah said he was given a piece of paper by Abdul Razak in which was written the address of Hotel Malaya in Kuala Lumpur and the room number 823.
However, Abduk Razak told him to go to room 512 and “advise Aminah.” The two men then concluded their meeting, Azilah said.
Azilah proceeded to call Sirul and the two arranged to meet in Central market, which is a stone’s throw from Hotel Malaya.
The two policemen then entered the hotel and went straight to 512. At this point, Azilah said he was confused with the different room numbers, and decided to leave the hotel without doing anything.
“I was afraid I might have the wrong room and be disrupting privacy,” he said.
After that, he said that he contacted DSP Idris to ask for help in arranging a patrol car to go to Abdul Razak’s house.
Idris agreed to help.
The next day, Oct 19, the night of the alleged murder, Azilah was contacted by ASP Azani Omar, and was told that he had been assigned to replace the latter as chief escort to Najib beginning the next day.
Azilah explained that this meant he would have to be on standby in Putrajaya that night.
Later, Abdul Razak contacted him to inform him that the “Chinese woman” was in front of his house with his private investigator.
Abdul Razak asked Azilah to go there to “advise” her.
Together with his then girlfriend Lance Corporal Rohaniza Roslan, he drove to Abdul Razak’s house.
He had also contacted Sirul who said he would meet him there.
At the scene, Azilah said he saw an Indian man and a Chinese woman standing next to a car.
After exchanging brief introductions with the Indian man, Azilah said he walked back to his car.
He then contacted Abdul Razak again, and the latter told him to send the woman back to the hotel.
By this time Sirul had also arrived at the scene.
As Azilah walked back towards the Indian man and the “Chinese woman,” they walked towards the policeman’s car. The woman voluntarily got into the vehicle, he testified.
“Nobody gave any orders,” Azilah replied when asked by his counsel Datuk Hazman Ahmad, if anyone had ordered her to get into the car.
He then drove off in the car with Rohaniza, Sirul and the “Chinese woman,” presumed to be Altantuya.
Sirul then asked to be dropped off at his jeep before the two vehicles convoyed towards Bukit Aman.
However, Rohaniza said that they could not drop the Chinese woman at her hotel as she needed to meet a friend in Petaling Jaya.
Azilah then called Sirul to ask if he could send the woman back and he agreed. They stopped the cars and moved the woman to Sirul’s jeep.
This was the last time Azilah mentioned the Chinese woman in his testimony.
After reaching Bukit Aman, Azilah then went to Wangsa Maju with his fiancee, Norazila Baharudin, to have char kuey teow.
It was 10.30pm at this point and Azilah claims that they spent 45 minutes eating.
By the time Azilah had returned to Bukit Aman, it was 12.20am.
He said that he then left with Rohaniza to Putrajaya to take up his assignment as Najib’s chief escort.
He added that when he arrived at the UTK transit house in Putrajaya, he saw another personnel in the living room and identified him as Che Kamarizaman.
The hearing resumes tomorrow with the cross-examination of Azilah by the prosecution.