By V. Anbalagan | Free Malaysia Today

A three-member Federal Court bench has ordered Low Kian Boon to be given 12 strokes of the rotan.

A youth who murdered a German-born Australian businessman more than two decades ago has had his death sentence commuted to a 35-year jail term by the Federal Court.

A three-member bench chaired by Justice Zabariah Yusof also ordered Low Kian Boon, now 39, to be given 12 strokes of the rotan for killing Hans Herzog on Nov 12, 2003. The bench ordered Low’s jail term to begin from the date of his arrest on Nov 13, 2003.

Justices Nordin Hassan and Abu Bakar Jais were the other judges who heard the matter yesterday as it came before the apex court following the abolition of the mandatory death penalty last year.

Low’s case was brought up under the Revision of the Sentence of Death and Imprisonment for Natural Life (Temporary Jurisdiction of the Federal Court) Act 2023, which gives judges the option of imposing a jail term or capital punishment.

Low was 18 years old when he murdered Herzog with a 17-year-old boy, who was freed after receiving a royal pardon in September 2020.

Low’s lawyer, Edmund Bon, asked that the bench impose a jail term of between 30 and 32 years on his client, adding that Low had been in prison for more than 20 years and had not received replies to two clemency applications.

The human rights lawyer said the death penalty should be reserved only for the rarest of cases such as serial killings or the rape and murder of babies.

Bon said that when Parliament amended the law, it intended for judges to lean in favour of the presumption of life, subject to extenuating circumstances.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Aznee Salmie Ahmad urged the bench to maintain the death penalty as he said Herzog’s murder was gruesome and he had suffered multiple slash wounds.

Herzog was murdered at his home in USJ, Subang Jaya, in the early hours of Nov 12, 2003. The facts of the case revealed that Herzog was involved in a scuffle with intruders, during which he sustained 23 slash wounds which eventually killed him.

His face was slashed and his right hand was almost severed. Police also found a long-bladed knife on the sill of the window that the attackers were believed to have used to enter and leave the house.

Initially, Low, the 17-year-old boy who received a royal pardon, and two sisters aged 14 and 16 were charged with Herzog’s murder. Herzog had been married to the sisters’ mother.

The High Court acquitted the girls but sentenced Low and the boy to 10 years in jail for culpable homicide not amounting to murder as there was doubt over who had delivered the fatal blow.

The prosecution did not appeal against the sisters’ acquittals.

The Court of Appeal then found Low and the boy guilty of murder. Low was sentenced to death while the child offender was ordered to be held in prison at the pleasure of the Selangor ruler.

The Federal Court affirmed the ruling on March 17, 2010.