Text by Gregory Leow @ Makansutra.
This quiet caretaker’s house at the back of Orchard Road Presbyterian Church looks peaceful enough but back in 1987, it caught the attention of every Singaporean with what was to be known as the “Curry Murder.”
The murder story was so bizarre that it even attracted the attention of the international media back then but funnily enough no body was found, no murder weapon was ever discovered and no one was ever convicted.
The back story began three years before then, when a Mr Ayakanno Marimuthu, 38 – a live-in caretaker at the PUB holiday chalets on Biggin Hill Road, Changi – was reported missing by his 32 year-old wife, Naragatha Vally Ramiah at the Joo Chiat police station. She said that her husband told her that he was off to the casinos at Genting Highlands and he had not returned home. A missing person’s file was opened.
Mdm Naragatha later took up a job as a resident caretaker at the Foochow Methodist church along Race course road, where she lived with her three children.
Two years later, based on the investigations of a detective V. Alagamalai, enough evidence was gathered and the police, on 2am, March 23 1987, swooped in on five places and detained eight suspects, three women and five men.
Initially silent about the victim Mr Ayakanno, eventually one detainee spoke out and said that the victim had been battered to death with an iron rod in the Orchard Road Presbyterian Church’s caretaker quarters, chopped up into pieces and cooked into curry using a large aluminium pot, the same kinds used to make nasi biryani.
The ‘food’ – which included his skull and bone remains – was allegedly packed into several black plastic bags and dumped into many roadside bins.
It was suspected that Naragatha’s eldest brother, Balakrishna Ramiah, 36, a mutton stall hawker in Commonwealth Avenue Market, could have done the butchering.
When the church was approached, the then church’s business manager, Symen Gjaltema responded to journalists: “Oh no…surely you are kidding. It’s terrible…something very sad and very unfortunate.”
He said that the victim, wife and children aged around four and five years, were living in the church grounds back then for four years.
Descriptions from information gathered from detective Alagamalai indicated that Mr Ayakanno was an alleged wife beater with a temper when under the effects of alcohol. Mr Gjaltema said that the victim was the kind of man who had a hot temper, but who would apologise the next day after he cooled down.
The caretaker’s premises had been renovated in 1986 and the draughty makeshift kitchen, where the cooking of the curry body parts occurred was also renovated and they removed the old portable stove and makeshift sink.
On 27 March 1987, Naragatha and her brothers – Rathakrishnana Ramayah, 31 and Shanmugam s/o Chandra, 28 and Balakrishna – were charged for the offence but were eventually released due to insufficient evidence.
The police released a statement saying that if there was further evidence the suspects would be brought back to court but that has not happened up until this day.