ALTHOUGH it happened 23 years ago, the murder case involving bomoh couple Mohd Affandi Abdul Rahman and Maznah Ismail, better known as Mona Fandey, is still remembered as one of the most sensational crime cases in the country.
With the help of their assistant Juraimi Husin, the duo killed Batu Talam state assemblyman Datuk Mohd Mazlan Idris and chopped up his body into 18 pieces before burying him in an 1.8m deep hole at an unnumbered house in Ulu Dong, near Raub, Pahang, in July 1993.
The hole was then covered with cement to hide their crime, but the butchered corpse was discovered by police when Juraimi, who was hauled up for a drug offence, confessed and led the police to the crime scene.
The three were convicted and sentenced to death at the Temerloh High Court on Feb 9, 1995.
According to local Malay daily Berita Harian, the Mona Fandey case was so hot that it eclipsed all the cases before that, including that of the then most wanted killer, robber and drug trafficker, Kalimuthu Pakirisamy or Bentong Kali, who was shot dead in Medan Damansara in 1993.
It also overshadowed the case of robber and murderer Botak Chin, real name Wong Swee Chin, who caused terror in the late 1970s before he was arrested and hanged to death in 1981.
It was said that before he was hanged, Botak Chin had often caused chaos in jail by attacking the prison wardens and fighting with his fellow prisoners. Even with him behind bars, the sensational stories about Botak Chin continued.
That was also the case with Mona and Affandi. The public seemed almost obsessed with their black magic powers even though they were locked up and under close watch in prison.
Some alleged that Mona Fandey was free to go in and out of Kajang Prison – with time even to party. The same for Affandi, who was held at Pudu Prison.
True or false, no one could present any evidence to prove the rumour. But it’s difficult when the myth was increasingly accepted as fact.
Former Prisons Department Director-General Datuk Omar Mohamad Dan told Berita Harian he was often asked about this as he was the director of Pudu Prison when Affandi and Juraimi were serving their sentence there.
“Every time I went back to my kampung for holidays, people asked – is it true that Mona and Affandi were like this or like that, and so on. ‘Could they really go in and out of the prison as they like using black magic?’ ‘Did Mona really pop out for some teh tarik and did she really dance outside the prison?’
“At that time, there were so many sensational media reports going around that they warned me that as the Pudu Prison director, I had to do something about it and not bring shame to the department,” he was quoted as saying.
According to Omar, people were so interested in the couple that even unproven stories or rumours would become hot news and spread like wildfire.
“I served as a prison officer for 30 years. I can vouch that all the stories were not true and once they (the offenders) went to jail, they would not be able to go out even if they used magic or had supernatural powers.
“Black magic is a popular phenomenon especially among the Malays, but we must not forget that God is Almighty and the Creator of all,” he said, refuting all the stories about Mona and Affandi’s black magic powers.
Due to the overwhelming rumours about the couple, Omar said he was compelled to question and test Affandi himself.
At that time, it was rumoured that Affandi had extraordinary power and was able to unlock the door of his cell, as well as the other doors of the Pudu jail, with his bare hands.
The rumour had affected not only the public but also the other prisoners, he said.
Omar told Berita Harian he decided to call his deputy and several senior Pudu Prison officers to meet him at a room in the prison and ordered Affandi to be brought there.
“I wanted to prove myself whether the rumours were true or not. When Affandi was brought in, I ordered the escorting officer to take off his handcuffs. I wanted to create a calm situation and have a quiet talk with Affandi, but my officers were worried when I gave the orders for him to have his hands free.
“They were shocked when I then asked them to wait outside the room,” he was reported to have said.
He noted it was understandable for his men to be worried about leaving him alone with a convicted killer who was not handcuffed. After all, in prison, anything is possible.
“They unwillingly waited for me outside. I could see them peeping into the room every once in a while through a small mirror,” Omar recalled with a smile the antics of his officers.
“I asked Affandi to sit in the chair in front of me. I asked him if he had had something to drink. He answered, yes, he already had a drink before coming to see me.
“I invited him to have a drink with me, and he said ‘okay’, Omar said, admitting that he was a bit worried that Mona’s husband would try something and kept alert.
However, the conversation started flowing freely after they both had something to drink, and it carried on calmly until the end.
To start off the conversation, Omar said he asked Affandi to talk about his “powers” and tell him how he could open layers of doors and go in and out of his cell freely as touted.
“Can you tell me how you can open a handcuff and unlock your door? Can you really do that?
“He said, ‘of course I’ve opened the cell doors, but only those not locked by the guards.’ I couldn’t help laughing,” Affandi said.
Affandi’s frank reply was enough to give Omar the answer to the questions that had been constantly thrown at him.
It was all the proof he needed, he said.
But before Affandi left, Omar grilled him again.
“So it’s really true you cannot open a handcuff or a lock with your bare hands?
“He replied, ‘no sir’,” said Omar, who is quite confident that Affandi was honest with him.
In fact, Affandi admitted that the prison guards had looked after him well before he left, as if trying to say that he and the other prisoners would not cause trouble if they were looked after well.
“I then said, ‘if that’s the case, it’s alright then. Thank you, but don’t forget, if you have any information, please tell me.’ He thanked me and I asked the guards to take him out of the room,” Omar told Berita Harian.
Based on their meeting, Omar believes that Affandi did not have the supernatural abilities as rumoured.
He noted that Affandi’s character and behaviour was influenced by his education background, just like the other convicts in the prison, many of whom had low education.
He compared the situation to driving beyond the speed limit.
“We know that driving over the speed limit is dangerous and there is a reason why we have speed limits.
“If we go over the speed limit, we will be breaking the law, but most of the time people do it without thinking.
“If we have education and can think rationally, then we will not be reckless. We will always abide by the law to keep safe,” he said.
After his brief meeting with Affandi, Omar said he also asked to see Juraimi. He said he asked him the same questions that he asked Affandi.
During their meeting, Juraimi told him about how he cut his victim into 18 pieces.
“For security, we kept Juraimi apart from Affandi; Affandi was placed in the maximum controlled room.
“While in prison, Juraimi just ate and slept. That’s why his weight kept rising. So, we came up with a special fitness plan for him.
“Every day he had to walk to the end of the lane for exercise,” Omar was quoted a saying.