This article was published in The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942) on 17 April 1941 on Page 9. It was a report on the first case tried under Section 377A of the Singapore Penal Code.
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"NO DOUBT WHATEVER” OF STAFF OFFICER’S INNOCENCE
Acquittal Ordered In Police Court Case
"I have no doubt whatever of Capt. Marr’s innocence and he is therefore acquitted,” said Mr. Conrad Oldham, the second district judge, yesterday, at the end of the trial of Capt. Douglas Marr on a charge of having committed an act of gross indecency with a Malay youth.
Mr. D. H. Walters and Mr. D. Marshall appeared for Capt. Marr, and Mr. R. H. Green represented the Crown. Capt. Marr was described as being the Deputy Assistant Provost Marshal of the Singapore Fortress Command.
Beginning his judgment, Mr. Oldham said the charge was a very serious one and the offence of a type which, if proved, should be dealt with very severely.
I have been assisted in going into this serious charge by the three counsel and by the excellent way in which the police have carried out the investigation, he continued, "and I have therefore been able to consider the case from every aspect.
"Marr is an acting Captain and a man of education, and, thought I do not quite understand his position in military language, I am told that his position is possibly equivalent to that of the Chief Police Officer of Singapore for the administration of the military police of Singapore. He has given evidence extremely well," Mr. Oldham said, "and I am satisfied I can rely on him."
Many Lies In Evidence
"The prosecution story lies in Sudin bin Daud.
"When he first mentioned in this case he was keeping very bad company, and in his evidence there were many lies.
"He told three different stories on oath. First he said he was frightened into admitting that he had committed the offence; then he said that no offence had been committed, and lastly he said that Marr had been guilty of the offence and he himself was innocent.
"He is a man of very poor character and a liar," concluded Mr. Oldham. "I have no doubt whatever of Capt. Marr's innocence and he is therefore acquitted.
Yesterday was the second day of hearing and the first witness for the prosecution was Sudin bin Daud, who denied, when questioned by Mr. Green at the beginning of his evidence, that he was a catamite."
Sudin said that about a month ago he was walking along Stamford Road at 11 p.m. when a car driven by a European stopped nearby and the European called to him.
"I was dressed in a shirt and trousers, and over the shirt I wore a brown sports shirt," said Sudin.
“The European was in soldier’s uniform and wore three studs. He also wore a hat with a plume.”
The European asked him to enter the car, he went on, and he got into the front seat.
He was then asked to go into the back seat and lie down there and he did so, climbing over.
Invited Into House
The car was driven in the direction of Tanglin and to a certain house, where, on arrival, said Sudin, he was invited inside.
He went into a room and there the offence allegedly took place, he stated.
“The European then told me to go home and gave me $2.10. I went home, taking a wristlet watch which was lying on a table in the room, with me. The European allowed me to take it,” Sudin alleged, “and saw me taking it.” Pointing to Marr, Sudin said he was the European in question.
“I left my brown shirt behind, and after wearing the watch for two days, pawned it for $2,” said Sudin.
He added that the next time he went to the European’s house was when he guided Assistant Superintendent Wilson and two detectives to it, and identified the brown shirt as his when it was brought out of Marr’s room by a detective.
At an identification parade held at the Detective Branch, he concluded, he pointed out Marr, who was standing with a number of other men, at the request of A.S.P. Wilson to “point out the European.”
Cross-examined by Mr. Walters, Sudin said he had never had anything to do with other Europeans in the boarding house at which Capt. Marr lived.
Mr. Walters: Did you go to school in Singapore?
Do you speak or read English?—No.
Do you understand any other language except Malay?—No.
Do you understand any sort of Indian dialects?—No.
Offence With “Other Man"
I am sorry to have to ask you this but in the other district court you pleaded guilty to the offence of which you have been speaking, didn't you?—Yes.
That is the offence with the other man?— Yes.
When you made a statement to the police did you admit your offence straightway?—No. I did not.
Did you at first deny it?—Yes.
What made you change your story?—I was afraid.
Afraid of what?—Afraid because my case was serious.
You remember going to the district court and pleading guilty to the offence?—Yes.
You know the sentence you got: nine months' rigorous imprisonment?—Yes.
You also admitted stealing a watch and were given another nine months?—Yes.
And a term of police supervision?—Yes, two years.
I am sorry again to ask you this, but you have been in prison once before?—Yes, for the theft of a bicycle about a year ago.
When you got into Capt. Marr’s car that night, what did you imagine you were going to do?—I did not know.
At the house were you expecting to receive money?—Yes.
And when you got $2.10 you were very dis-! appointed?—Yes.
If it's true that Marr gave you the watch why did you plead guilty to stealing it?—I was afraid the detective might assault me.
“Must Admit Everything"
Mr. Oldham (interrupting): When was this?
Sudin: The detective told me when I went to court that I must admit everything, if I did not, he would assault me.
Mr. Walters: Did that apply to both the charges?—Yes, to both.
And what about your shirt?—I left it in the house.
On purpose?—I forgot about it. I thought I had put it on when I went away.
When you got into the room did Marr say anything to you in an Indian dialect you could not understand?—Yes.
Did you answer in Malay?—Yes.
When it was apparent that the person in the room could not talk to you were you told to go away?—Yes.
Didn't you come back afterwards and take the watch?—No.
I suggest to you that all Marr gave you were a few shillings?—He gave me a dollar note and some shillings.
I suggest nothing improper took place between you and Capt. Marr?—Nothing improper took place between us.
Sudin was then re-examined by Mr. Green: You told the court that an offence against Section 377 (a) took place in the room. Is that true or not?—It is correct.
You said just now you pleaded guilty in the district court to have committed an offence with “the other man.’* Who is ; “the other man?—Capt. Marr.
Mr. Oldham: You know that you have told a different story to each counsel who has questioned you in this case?-Yes.
Why are they different stories?—I did not know what to say.
Are you frightened of anything now?— Yes, of an assault.
If the detective had not threatened you would you have admitted committing an offence?—I would not have admitted doing so.
“I Know Nothing"
If I tell you there is nothing to be frightened about what would you tell me?
I would say I know nothing about this offence and further that I did not steal the watch.
Well, now I want the truth. Did anything take place between you and the European at the house?—I know nothing about any offence.
Did anything improper take place between you and the European?—Yes. He committed an offence on me.
Why then did you just now say nothing improper took place?—Because I did not commit the offence. He did.
Major B. Castor, Assistant Provost Marshal Malaya Command, who gave evidence at the first hearing Tuesday. was next re-called and was questioned by Mr. Oldham.
Mr. Oldham: Marr’s appointment of Deputy Assistant Provost Marshal has been described in military language. I would like to know what it means in civilian language. Would I be very far from wrong in saying that Marr was in the position, so to speak, of the Chief Police Officer of Singapore?—Yes, in some ways.
You might call him a sort of Chief Police Officer for the administration of the military police?—Yes.
Making his defence on oath, Douglas Marr, who described himself as being an Acting Captain of a regiment in Singapore, said he was in South Africa when the war broke out and almost immediately went home to enlist. He was subsequently given a commission.
“I have been in Singapore since Oct. 2 or 3 last,” Capt. Marr said, “and I know very little Malay. I do speak Hindustani and Bengali.
“Before I was appointed Deputy Assistant Provost Marshal I had no training whatever in police work."
Marr said he had heard Major Castor’s evidence on Tuesday about his duties as Deputy Assistant Provost Marshal and also what Major Castor had said about a conversation with him regarding this particular form of vice.
All the Major said was perfectly correct, Marr stated.
He went on to say that he used Major Castor’s car only once—on Mar. 13—when he went round on his duties.
“About 11 or 12 p.m." he said, "I thought of going home, but at the back of my mind was some idea of getting at the root of the homosexual type of vice and I thought, as it transpires very foolishly, that it would be a good idea to question a catamite and to try and find out to what extent soldiers in different regiments were involved.
“Going up Stamford Road I stopped and Sudin bin Daud approached me and spoke to me.
Might Get Information
“Thinking,” he said, “by his appearance that Sudin was an Indian, I thought I might get some information from him, and it seemed to me that the only place where I could question him was the house where I was staying.
“We drove there and entered my room, where I spoke to him in Hindustani, and finding I could get no answer from him, told him to go. I gave him some money, some small silver amounting to about $1.
“No act of indecency took place In the room,” declared Captain Marr.
Marr was then put through a long cross-examination by Mr. Green, at the conclusion of which Mr. Walters and Mr. Green addressed the court at some length. Mr. Oldham then gave judgment acquitting Marr.
- Section 377A of the Singapore Penal Code
- Archive of "“Abominable Type of Vice” Rife In Singapore", Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, 28 March 1941
- Archive of "STAFF OFFICER ON TRIAL IN POLICE COURT", Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, 16 January 1941
- Archive of ""NO DOUBT WHATEVER" OF STAFF OFFICER'S INNOCENCE", The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942), 17 April 1941, Page 9, on NewspaperSG.
This article was written by Roy Tan.