With a stroke of luck, one man avoided death row with the help of a dead hamster.
In September 2015, Raj Kumar Aiyachami received the wrong package, which ended up getting him tossed in jail and handed a death sentence. Instead of getting a bad of chemically-sprayed tobacco called “butterfly,” he ended up with a bag filled with almost 2kg of cannabis.
Singapore has some of the toughest drug laws in the world, with those caught with over 500 grams of cannabis subject to the death penalty. The other man at the drug deal was Ramadass Punnusamy, who was arrested and later sentenced to life imprisonment along with 15 strokes of the cane.
It was a bizarre coincidence that ended with both men being acquitted by Singapore’s Court of Appeal.
Raj’s savior came in the form of a tiny finger tattoo that marked the death date of a beloved deceased pet hamster of an inmate he had befriended in prison.
Raj told his story to his fellow inmate and cellmate Mark Kalaivanan Tamilarasan. Mark said that he too was in the same location on the same day to collect the marijuana that Raj got stuck with but got a bag of “butterfly” by mistake.
The reason why Mark had remembered the date so well was because his pet hamster had died that same evening: September 21, 2015. On his left middle finger, Mark got the words “RIP 21.9.15 PAT” tattooed on his left middle finger to commemorate the rodent’s death.
In 2020, the prosecution didn’t believe the story the two could’ve colluded in private but the ruling was recently overturned Singapore’s Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said that Mark’s evidence shouldn’t have been rejected right away and that there is “an immense difference between having the opportunity to do something and actually doing that thing.”
Menon continued: “Mark was effectively implicating himself in a very serious offense, which at the time he gave evidence, he had not been investigated for or charged with. He had much to lose and seemingly nothing to gain in doing this, if it was all false.”
Mark’s fate still remains uncertain after his own testimony. He told the court that he was supposed to collect the marijuana on behalf of another acquaintance in exchange for 100 grams of free weed. It’s also unclear as to whether Raj or Ramadass will face new charges for trafficking illicit tobacco products.