Former MasterChef Finalist Accused Of Murder Is Freed On Bail Pending Trial Result

Etiqah Siti Noorashikeen Mohd Sulong's bail is the second time in Sabah history that bail was granted for a non-bailable offence.

Cover image via Bloomberg via The Edge Markets & Free Malaysia Today

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A former MasterChef Malaysia 2012 finalist, who was charged with murdering her maid in December last year, has been granted bail by the Court of Appeal yesterday, 26 April

33-year-old Etiqah Siti Noorashikeen Mohd Sulong, who is a mother of three, was charged with murdering her 28-year-old Indonesian maid along with her 40-year-old husband Mohammad Ambree Yunos @ Unos.

The murder allegedly took place at a house in Amber Tower, Lido Avenue, Jalan Lintas, Penampang in Sabah between 10 December and 13 December last year.

They were arrested on 14 December, which is a day after they lodged a police report claiming that they found their maid on the floor of their apartment.

The couple was charged in the Magistrate's Court in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah on 29 December 2021.

Etiqah Siti Noorashikeen Mohd Sulong (second from the left, behind) competing in popular cooking show MasterChef in 2012.

Image via RD SUUDU (Facebook)

Murder is a non-bailable offence but the courts have the power to exercise discretion under special circumstances

Section 388 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which the couple is charged under, stipulates that bail can be granted to an accused facing the death penalty on the grounds that he or she is below 16 years of age, is a woman, or is sick or infirm.

According to Free Malaysia Today, a three-member panel chaired by Judges Datuk Lee Swee Seng ordered Etiqah to post RM30,000 in one surety as a condition for her release pending the outcome of the trial.

Lee, joint by Datuk Supang Lian and Datuk Gunalan Muniandy, ordered her to surrender her passport to the Magistrates' Court in Kota Kinabalu as well as report to the Penampang district police headquarters at noon every Monday.

While justifying the exercise of the court's discretion to grant bail, the court held that they found merits in the application under special circumstances as she is a mother who is currently breastfeeding, reported New Straits Times.

Additionally, Etiqah's lawyer Datuk Rakhbir Singh told Free Malaysia Today that he presented evidence to the judges that his client needed psychiatric care as she was suffering from depression and anxiety attacks.

"She has twins, aged two, and her elderly parents are unable to take care of them," said the defence counsel.

Etiqah (left) with lawyer Datuk Rakhbir Singh appearing at the court yesterday.

Image via Free Malaysia Today

The proceeding yesterday was held via online conference call from Putrajaya. Deputy Public Prosecutor Datuk Mohd Dusuki Mokhtar appeared for the prosecution.

Etiqah was seen in tears outside the courtroom while hugging one of her children, reported New Straits Times.

While Etiqah — who is an engineer with Petronas — has been freed pending outcome of the trial, her contractor husband Ambree will remain as a remand prisoner as he did not apply for bail

Prior to the Court of Appeal's decision yesterday, Daily Express reported that the High Court in Kota Kinabalu had on 31 March denied Etiqah's bail application as her lawyer had failed to prove that there were special and exceptional circumstances.

It is learnt that Rakhbir told Judicial Commissioner Amelati Parnell that his client is breastfeeding and has to take care of her three children, among other reasons as heard in the Court of Appeal.

He also provided medical documents showing her children were seeing a therapist for a mild case of autism.

In return, the prosecutor argued that Etiqah has recovered from her mental health conditions and was able to return to work one year ago.

The judge also said her children could be looked after by her family members as they already were, adding that the children could be taken to see the therapist by any of her family members.

At the Magistrate's Court, Etiqah's lawyer also applied for bail but was rejected, too.

Mohammad Ambree Yunos @ Unos (centre) and his lawyers at the court in December 2021.

Image via New Straits Times

New Straits Times reported that Etiqah's bail is the second time in Sabah history that bail was granted for a non-bailable offence.

The first case involved wheelchair-bound businessman Hobalan N. Vello, who was charged with murdering Albert @ Recquel A Agang in December 2020 outside a restaurant in Beaufort.

He was released on a RM200,000 bail with a RM50,000 deposit in two sureties.

Learn more about Etiqah's case here:

Here are other cases where the accused are freed pending appeal at a higher court: