KUALA LUMPUR: The defence in the trial of 18 Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia (UPNM) students over the murder of marine cadet officer Zulfarhan Osman Zulkarnain told the High Court today that there were contradicting statements by two medical experts on the cause of the deceased's death.

Counsel Amer Hamzah Arshad said the prosecution evidence in respect of the cause of the death was grounded solely on the testimony of the pathologist and forensic expert from Serdang Hospital, Dr Salmah Arshad, who is the sixth prosecution witness (SP6).

"In her testimony and the post-mortem report, SP6 concluded that the cause of the death was due to severe burn injuries. This conclusion was disputed by the 19th defence witness (SD19) Dr Rohayu Shahar Adnan, head of Sungai Buloh Forensics Department.

"Another issue which SD19 raised was with regards to the opinion of SP6 relating to the cause of death of the deceased. It may be recalled that in her oral testimony and post-mortem report, SP6 had attributed the deceased's death to severe burns," said the lawyer.

He said this during submissions at the end of the defence case on charges of murdering, injuring and abetting the murder of Zulfarhan.

Amer Hamzah said Dr Rohayu opined that there was no continuation or correlation between the burn injuries sustained by the deceased and the cause of death posited by Dr Salmah.

"Moreover, SD19 commented that since there was no finding of a systemic inflammatory response made by SP6 coupled with the fact that the infection was localised only in the lungs of the deceased, it had resulted in SP6's finding in the cause of death to be 'disputable'", said the lawyer.

Amer Hamzah who is representing the first and second accused, namely Muhammad Akmal Zuhairi Azmal and Muhammad Azamuddin Mad Sofi, said Dr Rohayu stated that the fact there were signs of infection in the lungs of the deceased warranted further investigation by the pathologist.

"According to SD19, the chronic lung infection coupled with the inflamed heart could have resulted the systemic inflammatory response which was evident through the histological examination of the other organs such as the brain, pancreas, kidneys, and spleen which also displayed signs of infection. Such widespread infection was sufficient to cause death, independent of the burn injuries," he said.

During cross-examination at the prosecution stage, Dr Salmah had told the court that the cause of death of Zulfarhan Osman was a combination of hypervolemia, heart and kidney complications.

Meanwhile, Datuk Seri M. Ramachelvam who represents the fourth accused, Muhammad Afif Najmudin Azahat, argued that there was no evidence that there was 'pre-planning' or 'pre-concert arrangement' between the other accused and his client to injure Zulfarhan.

"Therefore, the issue of whether the actions of the fourth accused is 'in furtherance of common intention' or 'in furtherance of different intentions' is the main issue that must be examined in determining whether there is a common intention," he said.

On July 31, 2019, the High Court ordered 18 UPNM students to enter their defence on charges of murdering, injuring and abetting the murder of Zulfarhan.

Five accused, namely Muhammad Akmal Zuhairi Azmal, Muhammad Azamuddin Mod Sofi, Muhammad Najib Mohd Razi, Muhammad Afif Najmudin Azahat and Mohamad Shobirin Sabri are facing charges of murdering Zulfarhan while Abdoul Hakeem Mohd Ali was charged with abetting the murder.

The offence was allegedly committed in room 04-10, accommodation block, Jebat Hostel, UPNM, between 4.45 am and 5.45 am on May 22, 2017 under Section 302 and Section 109 of the Penal Code, which provide for the mandatory death sentence, upon conviction.

The six are also accused with 12 others of voluntarily causing hurt to Zulfarhan Osman to extort a confession from him over a laptop theft.

They are Mohd Hafiz Fauzan Ismail, Mohamad Lukhmanul Hakim Mohd Zain, Ahmad Shafwan Berdal, Muhammad Amirul Asraff Mala, Luqman Hakim Shamsuri, Muhammad Sufi Mohd Mustapha, Noriznan Izzairi Noor Azhar, Muhamad Ashraf Abdullah, Muhammad Danial Firdaus Azmir, Muhammad Hasif, Muhammad Adib Iman and Mohamad Syazwan.

They were charged with intentionally causing hurt to the victim, to obtain confession that he had stolen a laptop, under Section 330 of the Penal Code, read together with Section 34 of the same code, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment and a fine.

The offence was allegedly committed at room 03-05, Jebat Hostel Block, UPNM, between 2.30 am and 5.30 am on May 21, 2017.

The submission before Justice Datuk Azman Abdullah continues tomorrow.