Defence lawyers in alleged exorcism trial uncover plaintiff’s past

SINGAPORE: A landmark trial, believed to be the first in Singapore on alleged exorcism, started its hearing in the High Courts on Wednesday.

Two priests, the Novena Church and seven church choir members are being sued for allegedly forcing a rite of exorcism on Amutha Valli on 10 August 2004.

Lawyers defending the Novena Church and its helpers said the 50-year-old plaintiff has hatched up a scam for compensation of at least a quarter of a million dollars.

The court also heard how she had tried to hide her 25 years of psychiatric medical record.

Justice Lee Seiu Kin, who is presiding over the case, has visited the church grounds to retrace what happened on that fateful night.

He was accompanied by five teams of prosecution and defence lawyers.

Amutha, a former national sportswoman and private tutor, had gone to Novena Church to pray with her son, daughter and sworn brother.

She allegedly fainted while praying.

Defence lawyers said Amutha “slithered like a snake, rattled on the grilles, and marched like a soldier on command of her sworn brother” — a sight that frightened many who were in the church at that time.

Among the issues of contention is whether her family members were the ones who said she was possessed and needed a rite of exorcism.

Amutha and her family are claiming that they did not give consent to the “exorcism” and that the priests had conducted the rite against her will.

The plaintiff also claimed she was physically abused and was traumatised after the two-and-half-hour session.

The church, on the other hand, said what it did was just a prayer, not a rite of exorcism.

They had stepped in to restrain the woman as she had apparently turned violent and started strangling herself.

Amutha is now suing the church for compensation of at least S$250,000 for loss of ability to work and function normally.

Shortly after she filed her suit against the church last year, the church’s lawyers engaged a private investigator to check on the woman’s private life.

The investigator found that the woman was actually quite well, and she was able to go to the gym regularly, walk freely without the help of a walking stick and go to the bathroom all by herself. She was not afraid to be left alone with strangers as well.

He also reported that Amutha appeared weak and pale only on the days when she had to see her doctors.

Lawyers said the private investigator’s findings contrast with Amutha’s claims that the alleged exorcism left her physically and mentally fragile.

Defence lawyers told the court that Amutha had a 25-year history of psychiatric problems and a record of alcohol abuse, which she tried to hide.

She saw psychiatrists at the National University Hospital in the late 1980s and was admitted to the Institute of Mental Health for alcohol intoxication.

Members of the public sitting into the trial gasped when a lawyer said Amutha used to drink a bottle of gin a day.

Lawyers uncovered that she once drank blood that was offered to her by murderer Adrian Lim, and she had also allowed Lim to electrically shock her.

Given her long medical history, the lawyers argued the alleged exorcism act should not be held liable for the ‘post-traumatic stress disorder’ she claims to be suffering.

The only sensible conclusion, they said, is that this is a scam that has been hatched up for money.

The trial on Wednesday started with the cross-examination of her 22-year-old daughter, Subashini Jeyabal.

Hearing continues on Thursday.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday October 25, 2007.
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