An Australian student has been found guilty of murdering her friend with cyanide-laced coffee and will spend 20 years in an Indonesian prison.
Jessica Wongso, now 28, was arrested at a Jakarta hotel on January 30, accused of murdering her 27-year-old friend Mirna Salihin with a cyanide-laced iced coffee.
On Thursday, after months of hearings, a panel of three Jakarta judges ruled that she was guilty of premeditated murder.
Wongso showed little emotion as the verdict was handed down in Central Jakarta District Court on Thursday, and indicated she would appeal the ruling.
‘I don’t accept this decision because for me, it’s not fair and very one-sided,’ Wongso said after the verdict, eerily smiling as she was led away.
The Australian Federal Police assisted in the case on the condition that she spared from the death penalty if found guilty.
During the marathon session the three Jakarta judges made findings on the ’emotional baggage’ that they said led Wongso to return to Jakarta in December last year, after living in Australia.
‘Because of the defendant’s personal problem in Australia which were so horrifying … (she) decided to come back to Indonesia,’ Judge Binsar Gultom said.
‘It was not with the intention of having a holiday, but because of her many problems (to do with her) relationships, social life, work and legal problems.’
He said Wongso was still hurting over her break-up with Australian man Patrick O’Connor in late 2014 and when she first met up with Mirna and her husband Arif Soemarko last December and saw them ‘so happy’ something was ‘triggered’.
During the trial two Australian forensic experts put forward by the defence argued it was not possible to conclude that Mirna had died from cyanide poisoning, as an autopsy had not taken place on religious grounds.
Dr Michael Robertson said only a small amount of cyanide had been found in samples from Mirna’s stomach and her death could have been due to other causes.
But the judges rejected this, finding almost 300mg of cyanide had entered Mirna’s body – significantly eclipsing the lethal dose of around 120 mg.
Wongso, they added, was the only one at Olivier cafe in central Jakarta that day with the means and motive to carry out the murder.
Oustide court Mirna’s father Eddy Dermawan Salihin hit out at the sentence and the deal struck with the Australian Federal Police (AFP) following Wongso’s arrest in January.
The AFP only agreed to assist with the police investigation on the proviso that the death penalty would not be sought or carried out.
Were it not for the agreement, he said, Wongso could have been sentenced to death.
When the student emerged in May to be handed over to prosecutors, she faced a heaving press media pack screaming out her name.
She drew heavy criticism after flashing smiles and even bursting into fits of laughter after media outlets asked her whether or not she put cyanide in the drink.
Wongso visited Jakarta in December last year and organised to meet Mirna, with whom she studied in Australia.
Allegedly seething from comments Mirna made about Wongso’s Australian ex-boyfriend Patrick O’Connor, prosecutors say Wongso sought to ‘avenge’ the pain she felt over her break-up.
Wongso organised a catch-up with Mirna and their friend Boon Juwita at Olivier Restuarant in one of Jakarta’s upmarket malls in the centre of the city on January 6.
Wongso arrived before the other women and ordered Mirna’s favourite drink – a Vietnamese iced coffee.
When it was served, she arranged three gift bags around the drink, blocking view of it so she could pour cyanide into the beverage, police allege.
After Mirna arrived and tasted her coffee, she began foaming at the mouth.
Wongso, prosecutors say, did nothing but stare while others rushed around Mirna.
The recently married Mirna was dead by the end of the day.
In a statement read to court, Wongso’s former colleague, Kristie Carter, director of marketing and media at NSW Ambulance, described Wongso as a woman of ‘two personalities’ – smiling and kind one moment, quick to anger the next.
Ms Carter spoke of an incident in October when Wongso allegedly said: ‘If I want to kill someone, I know how.’
When Ms Carter refused to help Wongso with a personal matter last November, she allegedly replied: ‘You must die and your mother must die.’
In the last days of her trial, Wongso pointed the finger at Mirna’s husband Arif Soemarko.
She claimed a person spotted Mr Soemarko the day before the alleged murder took place giving a black plastic bag to the barista who served Mirna’s coffee.
Mr Soemarko and the Olivier cafe staff member denied the allegation.