Australian resident Jessica Wongso says 20 year sentence for murdering a friend in Indonesia ‘isn’t fair.’
AUSTRALIAN resident Jessica Kumala Wongso has been convicted of the so-called Jakarta coffee murder and sentenced to 20 years in jail amid dramatic scenes in a Jakarta court last night.
Three Judges in the Central Jakarta District Court sealed Wongso’s fate, calling her crime “vile and sadistic” and accused her of crocodile tears during the five-month trial.
The 28-year-old was found guilty of lacing her friend Mirna Salihin’s Vietnamese iced coffee with cyanide in an upmarket Jakarta cafe on January 6 this year. Judges said they were satisfied it was the former Sydney woman’s malicious actions which killed her 27-year-old friend.
Mirna’s family broke down in tears at the verdict. “Thanks God” her sobbing mother said. And Mirna’s father Darmawan Salihin also praised God, saying that Allah had revealed the evil one. He said he respected the Judge’s decision to give 20 years. The family had wanted death.
“The most important thing is that it has been proven that Jessica has killed Mirna. She had sadistically poisoned Mirna,” Mr Salihin said.
And Mirna’s husband of just a few months, Arief Soemarko, said the family would never be satisfied because Mirna would never come back.
The trial has gripped Indonesia since it began in June this year and last night’s verdict, as with much of the trial, was broadcast live on television.
More than 500 police were on hand for security and actions were taken to separate the supporters of the two camps – the Wongso camp and the family and supporters of Mirna. They wore t-shirts emblazoned with her photograph as show of support.
The Judges, lead by presiding Judge Kisworo, said the only mitigating factor was that Wongso was young and could hopefully rehabilitate and fix herself.
“The defendant’s act caused the victim Wayan Mirna Salihin to die. The defendant’s act was vile and sadistic and was done to her friend. The defendant was never remorseful. The defendant did not admit her act,” the judges found.
“The defendant Jessica Kumala Wongso is proven guilty of premeditated murder and sentence her to 20 years imprisonment.”
Wongso immediately told the court: “I can not accept this verdict. I feel that this is not fair.” Her lawyers said she would appeal.
Wongso escaped the death penalty, which is the maximum for premeditated murder in Indonesia. Prosecutors had demanded a 20-year sentence.
The Australian government sought a guarantee from Indonesian authorities that she would not be sentenced to death in exchange for providing evidence from Australia about the two women’s time in Sydney and about Wongso’s criminal record in Australia.
The court had previously said it was not bound by any such guarantee.
But Mirna’s father said he believed the promise to Australia meant the Judges had decided not to give her the death penalty.
“Indonesia is a nation that always fulfils our promise. That’s okay. We feel thankful,” Mr Salihin said.
Wongso and Mirna Salihin met while both were students at the Billy Blue College of Design in Sydney in 2007. Wongso had gone on to work as a graphic designer at NSW Ambulance and stayed in Sydney whilst Mirna had returned to Jakarta.
The Judges accepted that the motive for the poisoning was revenge and jealousy after Mirna had told Wongso to dump her then boyfriend, an Australian called Patrick O’Connor. Only months before the murder Mirna had married her sweetheart Arief Soemarko and Wongso had not been invited to the wedding.
The Judges also recounted evidence from Australian police that in 2015 Wongso was depressed and often drunk in Australia, had rammed her car into a Sydney nursing home on one occasion and attempted suicide.
Her former boyfriend in Sydney had also taken out an AVO against her. And the court was read a statement by Wongso’s former boss at NSW Ambulance, who said Wongso had told her she knew exactly how to kill someone and knew the right dose.
On December 1 last year Wongso was fired from her job at NSW Ambulance. Soon after she arranged to return to her native Indonesia and said she was looking for a job.
Kristie Carter, Director Marketing Media, NSW Ambulance told News Corp Australia:
“With an appeal likely, it continues to be vitally important to me that justice is allowed to run its course without interference or unnecessary speculation.
“This has been a difficult time for myself and others involved in this complex case. I provided accurate, truthful and evidence-based information in response to all questions asked of me by “Australian and Indonesian authorities and will continue to co-operate fully and honestly, as required.
“On a personal note, Jessica was a talented employee, a valued member of my team, who had a promising career ahead of her.
“I am deeply saddened by the loss and impact these circumstances have had on not one, but two promising young lives.
“My sincere thoughts and sympathies are with the Salihin family; with hope the sentencing outcome brings them some comfort and closure in this difficult time.
“I will not make any further comment to media on the case or the nature of the information I provided.”
During the trial controversy ensued when three Australian experts, called by the Defence, testified that toxicology reports had tested negative to cyanide in the gastric fluid, bile, liver and urine and there was criticism that a full and complete autopsy had never been conducted.
Only a small amount of cyanide was found in Mirna’s stomach.
The Judges found that just because a full autopsy was not conducted it did not mean the case was not proven.
And they said that just because the accused denied any involvement in the murder didn’t mean she was innocent.
In their judgment the three Judges found that Wongso had arrived earlier at Cafe Olivier, on the day of the murder, in order to secure a “safe” seat and had bought three paperbags of soap from a nearby shop, which she then placed on the cafe table so as to obscure the view of the cafe’s CCTV cameras.