Friday, 25 April, 2003
Malaysian princess' killers jailed
A court in Malaysia has jailed five men for killing a princess, in a case that has gripped the nation amid claims that black magic was involved.
Four were sentenced to 20 years in jail each and one, who had confessed earlier to manslaughter, was sentenced to 14 years by the Taiping high court.
Princess Hazleza Ishak, 26, was a former model abducted last October. She was the second, younger, wife of Raja Jaafar Muda Musa, second in line to become Sultan of the state of Perak.
Malaysia's Bernama news agency said the convicted men were found guilty on an amended charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
Two of those jailed were described as "bomohs," or witchdoctors.
Princess Hazleza's body was found soon after she was abducted. She had been bound and gagged and thrown from a bridge in a jungle clearing in Perak.
She had apparently been dragged from her car in broad daylight. Her body was reportedly found in a state of undress.
The witchdoctor jailed for 14 years had confessed to kidnapping her for a fee of 5,000 ringgit ($1,316), chopping her on the neck with his hand and throwing her off the bridge, the AFP news agency reported.
The prince's first wife of many years, to whom he is still married, was arrested and held for questioning for six days, then released without charge.
But what really intrigued people were the allegations of black magic, according to Lionel Morais, crime correspondent of the Malay Mail.
"It was said in court that there were dead birds in the compound of the palace, that the prince's first wife started vomiting blood," he said.
"A bomoh, a traditional medicine man, was also involved, which lent credence to the fact that black magic was used.
"All this came out in open court and that gripped the readers and the nation."
The BBC's Jonathan Kent in Kuala Lumpur says allegations that jealousies between the two wives may have been a factor are a familiar talking point in a country where polygamy is still common.
Rehman Rashid, associate editor of the New Straits Times, says the case has also exposed some core aspects of the Malay psyche.
"Very ancient old and dark things are at work here," he commented.
"There are the ancient dignities of the royal houses, coupled with this apparent continuing belief in black magic as an element in how we adjust to each other's relationships."
Princess Hazleza appeared in a local movie, Putera, several years ago.
She was said to be a divorcee and is variously reported as having one or two children from a previous marriage.
Palace sources say she married Raja Jaafar in January last year.
Nine of Malaysia's states have royal families and the nine rulers take it in turns to be head of state, with the title passing to a new king every five years.
The royals are treated with considerable deference and lead privileged lives.
Although the rulers wield very little political power they play a prominent ceremonial role and it is widely considered taboo to criticise them.