Love Triangles & Affairs: The Unsolved Murder of M’sian Beauty Queen Set To Marry Her Brother-In-Law

source: NST

The brutal yet puzzling murder of a former beauty queen-turned-teacher that stunned the nation over 40 years ago remains unsolved to this day.

The incident was followed by both domestic and international media as it was cloaked in mystery, mostly hailing from the alleged love triangle that many believe may have contributed to the motive.

The case unfolds on the fatal night of April 6, 1979, when two Malaysia Airlines employees discovered 31-year-old Jean Perera Sinnappa, a Negeri Sembilan pageant winner and mother of three, cruelly slain with several stab wounds to her chest, still belted in the passenger seat of a white Fiat 125 along the Federal Highway.

Autopsy reports found that there were injuries across Jean Perera’s torso, in the chest, abdomen and hands.

It was reported that the vehicle was driven by her brother-in-law and fiancé Karthigesu Sivapakiam, who was then 37 years old. He was discovered unconscious and faced down on the ground, beside the car.

source: FMT

Karthigesu, who was a lecturer in psychology at Maktab Perguruan Ilmu Khas in Cheras soon became the prime suspect of the crime. Jean Perera was a teacher in training at the same institution.

At the time, Berita Harian claimed that he had been secretly in love with his stunning sister-in-law but was unable to pursue the relationship as she was happily wed to his brother, S. Sinnappa, who worked as a chemist.

Sinnappa’s death in a vehicle accident four months earlier altered the trajectory of fate, and Karthigesu chose to seize the moment to propose to Jean Perera. The two reportedly shared a highly passionate connection, according to other news reports.

Karthigesu Sivapakiam.

However, Karthigesu’s joy was short-lived because he learned that Jean Perera had been having an affair. The New Straits Times and The Star both revealed that Jean Perera was romantically affiliated with Sri Lankan doctor, Dr. Narada Warnasurya.

He was a married man with a child. They met at the YMCA building in September 1978, when he visited Kuala Lumpur.

19 letters were discovered between the pair, which proved that they had been penning each other love letters before Sinnappa passed away. Though the exact contents of the letters have never been revealed, it is believed that Jean Perera had pledged her love to the doctor and expressed her desire to spend her life with him.

Karthigesu and Jean Perera were reportedly returning to Klang from an outing the night that Jean Perera tragically died. Karthigesu apparently had to use the restroom after stopping the car near Subang airport a few minutes into their trip. The subsequent events are impossible to confirm.

The two Malaysia Airlines employees who discovered the body verified Karthigesu’s assertion that he had fallen unconscious outside the car. He testified that he was struck in the back of the head and that he was unable to recall what had truly transpired.

source: NST

Following the trial, he was convicted of murdering Jean Perera at Batu 11, Federal Highway between 11.20 p.m. and 11.50 p.m. The 38-day trial involved 58 witnesses. The jury took 4 hours to reach a 5:2 decision.

The examining doctor also found that Karthigesu was not traumatised and there was no indication of a head injury as claimed. No weapons were found on his person.

Karthigesu also said that he may have been knocked down by a passing vehicle while he was relieving himself at the side of the road, but no urine indications were discovered on him either. However, there were no signs of blood, and it was difficult to imagine how someone could have aggressively stabbed someone more than ten times inside a vehicle without being even mildly stained with blood.

A witness named Bandhulanda Jayathilake, who was also the defendant’s primary witness and family member told the court that Karthigesu had admitted to the crime while confiding in him that “she deserved to die.”

source: Twitter

Karthigesu was imprisoned for two years and put on death row until Jayatilake suddenly came forth and reneged on his prior claim. The courts released Karthigesu as they lacked sufficient evidence to imprison him after this witness recanted his statement.

Jayatilake was found guilty of perjury and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, where he died two years later.

Still, Karthigesu remained a suspect in the public eye and many questioned if he could have merely been a wronged lover or if his true motivation was to preserve his brother’s honour.

The rumours date back many years, however after his release on May 9, 1979, Karthigesu supposedly married and settled down in Klang. It is uncertain where he is today.

source: Goodreads

British novelist Alex Josey, who authored The Murder of a Beauty Queen, penned a novel inspired by the incident. In his version, Jean Perera was discovered by pilots inside the car with multiple stab wounds while the seatbelt was still buckled.

In addition to being a writer, critic, and biographer in the political sphere, Josey was most known for his biography of Lee Kuan Yew, the former prime minister of Singapore. He produced more than 20 political novels as well as several political essays on Malaysia and Singapore for local and foreign publications and served as Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s press secretary for ten years.