Mona Fandey - A modern witchcraft murder.

Perhaps one of the most sensational and unusual cases of modern times in the Far East reached its conclusion on November 2nd, 2001 when Maznah Ismail, her husband Mohd Affandi Abdul Rahman and their 31 year old helper, Juraimi Hussin, were hanged at Malaysia's Kajang Prison on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.

Maznah was better known as Mona Fandey, which was her stage name, when she performed as a pop singer and water ballet dancer in her younger days. At her death, she was 45 years old, while her husband was a year younger. When her earlier career ran out of steam, she and Affandi made a living as witch doctors and were known locally as "bomohs." Belief in the powers of witchcraft is not uncommon among superstitious Malays, and they were able to attract a high class clientele which included politicians.

In the photo a smiling Mona is being led away from the court during her trial.

The crime.

In July 1993, an assemblyman for central Pahang state, Datuk Mazlan Idris, had approached Mona for supernatural help to boost his political career and climb the party ladder. He was persuaded by the couple to take part in a ritual in which he was to lay on the floor with his eyes closed waiting for the money to "fall from the sky."  No money fell, instead it was the blade of an axe. Idris was decapitated and then dismembered and partially skinned. His body was found cut up into 18 parts and buried in a hole near Mona's home in the state of Pahang, about 130 kilometres northeast of Kuala Lumpur.
Mazlan was reported missing on July the 2nd,1993 after he had withdrawn 30,000 ringgit (then US$12,000) from a Kuala Lumpur bank. The day after the killing, Mona went on a shopping spree in Kuala Lumpur, and later bought herself a Mercedes-Benz and had a facelift. When questioned, Juraimi made a statement to the police which led to the discovery of Mazlan's remains. Unsurprisingly, Mona and husband immediately became the prime suspects.


Mona, Affandi and Juraimi were tried before Judge Datuk Mokhtar Sidin sitting in the Temerloh High Court in 1995, charged with murder under Section 302 of the Malaysian penal code, a crime which carries a mandatory death sentence.
The trial was a media sensation. Mona and Affandi were an attractive couple in their late 30's accused of a gruesome, voodoo related murder. Mona had a penchant for wearing expensive outfits to court each day. Unlike most people on trial for her life, she always had a smile for the media and seemed to revel in the attention. The picture right shows Mona and Affandi being taken to court.

The case lasted 65 days and heard evidence from 76 witnesses. The prosecution told the court that money was the motive for the killing and pointed to the shopping spree, the facelift and the Mercedes. Juraimi, testified against Mona and Affandi and revealed the gruesome details of the murder. It was alleged by the prosecution that Mazlan had been killed between 10 p.m. on July the 2nd and 12 midnight on July the 18th, 1993, in Kampung Peruas, Ulu Dong, Raub in Pahang state. His body was found on July 22nd, 1993, buried 1.8m beneath the storeroom of an uncompleted house and sealed over with a concrete cap.
Affandi, in his defence, said Mazlan owed him two million ringgit ($526,000) for a "magic cane,"  talisman and a traditional hat said to have belonged to former Indonesian president Sukarno. Mona testified that she also gave talismans and charms to several other UMNO politicians to boost their popularity with the electorate.
It only took the seven member jury just 70 minutes to reach a unanimous verdict of guilty against all three defendants. Affandi and Mona smiled when the foreman of the jury delivered the verdict on the 9th of February 1995. Gulam Mustaffa Nadar Ali Khan, who represented Mona and Affandi, was invited to offer mitigation but declined and said they would be lodging an appeal. Juraimi's counsel, Karpal Singh, told the court that his client was only 24, unemployed and of low intelligence.
The judge then asked them if they had anything to say before he passed sentence and Affandi and Mona replied that they would leave it to the discretion of the court. He then passed the death sentence on each of them - that they be taken from court to a recognised prison and later be hanged till they were dead. After hearing her sentence Mona said, "I am happy and thank you to all Malaysians." She was photographed smiling as usual as she was led from the court to prison.

Their appeals were heard by the Chief Justice of the Federal Court, Tun Mohd Eusoff Chin, the Chief Judge of Malaya, Datuk Wan Adnan Wan Ismail and Federal Court Judge Datuk Dr Zakaria Yatim in the Federal Court, Malaysia's highest court sitting in Kuala Lumpur. The appeal process had started in June of 1998 but then had been adjourned until 1999 after legal arguments on the admissibility of Juraimi's statement to the police which led to the discovery of Mazlan's body. On the 13th April 1999, all three appeals were dismissed and the death sentences upheld. In April 2001, the Pardons Board turned down their pleas for clemency leaving the way clear for their executions.

The hangings were set for dawn on Friday, the 2nd of November 2001 in the newly opened Kajang Prison. On the previous day, Mona and Affandi were allowed an eight hour visit with about a dozen members of their families. It was reported that they spent their last hours advising their children from both their own marriage and their previous marriages to "grow up to be good people" and also told their children "jaga diri baik-baik" (to take care of themselves well). A senior Prisons officer had said there was a lot of crying and hugging as they spoke to their children and family for the last time. It was also reported that Mona had said she would never die just before she was executed. It is not known what she meant by that.
It is normal practice in Malaysia for condemned prisoners to be given the food of their choice for their last meal, however, this offer was declined. Apparently, according to prison sources, they were very calm, saying very little and requesting nothing in their last hours.
The picture right, shows a Malaysian hood and noose which was on exhibition in Pudu Prison after it closed.
Before dawn on the Friday morning, the trio were each handcuffed and hooded in their holding cells adjacent to the execution chamber and then led to the gallows with its three British style nooses dangling from the metal beam. On the trap, their legs were strapped and the nooses adjusted round their necks. At 5.59 a.m., the drop fell and the three plummeted down. The execution would have been witnessed by a small number of guards and officials and the prison doctor. The press and the general public were excluded. One official told the afternoon Malay Mail newspaper that they expressed no repentance at the end. "They didn't say anything, they were calm - just like those who accept that they are going to die." The executions were formally announced later in the morning by a spokesman for Malaysian Prisons Department. Jamil Razif Kassim told reporters, "All three have undergone their sentence as of this morning."
The bodies were left hanging for an hour before being taken down for autopsy and then burial. Mona and Affandi were buried in a cemetery in Kajang later in the morning, while Juraimi was buried in his hometown of Port Klang, in the Telok Gong Muslim cemetery that afternoon.

After the executions, Mazlan's widow, Datin Faridah Zainuddin, told reporters that she could finally bury the past behind her and said she hoped now to carry on living her life with her children without the painful memories.

It seems extraordinary in modern times that a well educated man such as Mazlan Idris was, would believe in the power of witch doctors to bring him wealth and further his career. Yet belief in superstition and the supernatural is still strong in the Far East.
The crime itself seemed to have been committed entirely for greed and due to Mona's impatience to spend their ill-gotten gains, was easily detected.
It is unclear what Mona meant when, on the eve of her execution, she said she would never die. Whether she expected a last minute reprieve from the President or whether she meant that her spirit would live on after the execution.
There was a hiatus in the death penalty in Malaysia during the late 1990's and no executions were carried out between January 1996, when three men were hanged for drug trafficking, and November 2000 when another two were executed for this crime. In the meantime, the notorious Pudu prison had closed and executions moved to the Selangor Central Prison in Kajang. Mona thus became the first woman to hang in Malaysia since Tan Bee Lee went to the gallows in July 1994 for drug trafficking.

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