Episode 10 Sumarti Ningsih and Seneng Mujiasih

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In the early hours of November 1, 2014, British resident, Rurik Jutting, called police three times to report that something had happened in his Hong Kong apartment on the 31st floor. At one point he claimed that special forces were surrounding him and at 3:42 am, he asked for police to come and investigate.


As police headed toward the residence, Jutting, a vice president for Bank of America in Hong Kong, called his office. He warned a superior, ‘I am in a lot of trouble, you need to do something about the reputation of the bank.’

In the early hours of November 1, 2014, British resident, Rurik Jutting, called police three times to report that something had happened in his Hong Kong apartment on the 31st floor. At one point he claimed that special forces were surrounding him and at 3:42 am, he asked for police to come and investigate.


As police headed toward the residence, Jutting, a vice president for Bank of America in Hong Kong, called his office. He warned a superior, quote, ‘I am in a lot of trouble, you need to do something about the reputation of the bank,’ end quote.


Police arrived at the building, which is only a 10-minute walk from Hong Kong’s infamous red-light district. As officers entered the building, there were no special forces operatives in, or out of sight, but police might have noticed a smell. Over the last few days, residents in the highrise had begun to notice a bad odor; like a dead animal.


Hello and welcome to Turned Up Dead. I’m Fiona and the true crime case I’m going to tell you today is the murders of Sumarti Ningsih and Seneng Mujiasih. A quick content warning, although it isn’t in detail, this episode does mention rape and suicide.


When police got to Jutting’s apartment, they found the 31-year-old seemingly hallucinating. When they entered the apartment, they were met with the shocking sight of a woman who had been brutally attacked in the last moments of her life. The unknown victim was naked and unconscious on the floor. The young Asian woman’s throat had been cut and she died at the scene shortly after police arrived. Her buttocks had also been slashed with a blade.


The British suspect was taken to be interviewed and following strict procedures, police began to process the crime scene. They recovered a serrated knife and the remains of a bag of cocaine from the blood-soaked living room. An Indonesian passport for a 23-year-old woman named Sumarti Ningsih was also found.


Eight hours later, police moved out onto the balcony where they found a large black suitcase. Inside, wrapped in a towel and plastic sheets, was the decomposing body of a second woman. The second victim was also Asian and she had been dead 3-4 days.


During his first interviews with police, the suspect spoke freely of killing the women. Speaking of his first victim, he said, quote, ‘She was unlucky to be the person in my flat when I realized that physically hurting someone under cocaine was something I gained satisfaction from,’ end quote. He claimed that killing her had awoken a part of him that he didn’t know existed.


When police showed the killer images of his victims, he didn’t flinch – which isn’t surprising given what was found on his phone. He had taken photographs of himself with the first woman after he killed her. Graphic selfies showed him alongside various parts of her body in close-up.


Jutting was arrested and charged with two counts of murder and one count of preventing the lawful burial of a body. After his arrest, the suspect refused to cooperate.


The young women’s bodies were flown back to their families in Indonesia.


The first victim was identified as Sumarti Ningsih, it was her passport that was found at the crime scene. Sumarti was 23 years old and was from a small village in central Java, Indonesia. She worked in Hong Kong from 2011-2013 on a domestic worker visa. But, along with many other women from less fortunate backgrounds who go abroad to take up domestic work, Sumarti found herself working in the much riskier sex industry. Sumarti returned to Hong Kong in August 2014 with the hope to find work as a DJ. 


Sumarti was a single mother and her son was five when she was murdered. She sent money back to Indonesia to provide for him and her family, but they had no idea where the money was really coming from. Sumarti had married at 17. Her husband left less than a year into the marriage when Sumarti was pregnant with their child. In 2008, her older sister went missing after she took up work as a domestic helper in Indonesia’s capital Jakarta.


Seneng Mujiasih was 26 years old and went by the name Jesse Lorena in Hong Hong. She was also Indonesian and had first arrived in the city to work as a domestic helper and had also turned to sex work. Seneng had been sending part of her earnings to her family in South Sulawesi which enabled her family to build a new house. Seneng had been living in Hong Kong since 2006 but her work permit had expired and she had overstayed her visa.


The women’s killer appeared in court in November 2014 was charged with two counts of murder and manslaughter. He didn’t enter a plea and preparations were made for the case to go to trial – pending the results of psychiatric testing. Following two weeks of mental evaluation at the maximum-security Siu Lam psychiatric center, Judge Bina Chainrai ruled the defendant mentally fit to stand trial. The prosecution was granted additional time to examine around 200 pieces of evidence which delayed the beginning of the trial.


As in British and US criminal law, there are a few special circumstances where a legally valid reason for homicide can be argued. Hong Kong’s diminished responsibility law is one of these. It states, ‘A person shall not be convicted of murder if he was suffering from such abnormality of mind [whether arising from a condition of arrested or retarded development of mind or any inherent causes or induced by disease or injury] as substantially impaired his mental responsibility for his acts,’ end quote. 


When the diminished responsibility defense is used it’s on the defense to prove that the defendant isn’t liable to be convicted of murder.


Just shy of two years after the killings, and five days before the start of his double murder trial Jutting’s parents divorced after a 32-year marriage. 


On October 24, 2016, the trial began. Jutting’s parents didn’t attend.


Jutting pleaded guilty to the charge of preventing the lawful burial of a body but pleaded not guilty to the two murders. Instead, they offered a plea to plead guilty for manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. The prosecution rejected this. Jutting stuck to his plea of not guilty to the two murder charges, and so the murder trial went ahead.


Indonesian migrant worker groups rallied outside the court and the judge told five Indonesian women in the courtroom’s public seats, “We don’t have demonstrations in court” before ordering them out of the court. The women had all been wearing shirts emblazoned with the word “justice.”


The first victim’s family only heard the trial had started from online news reports. 


In Hong Kong, serious criminal offenses such as murder are tried with a jury of seven or nine jurors. For Jutting’s trial, the judge ordered there to be nine jurors.


On Tuesday, Oct. 25, the five men and four women watched a 20-minute section of the video that the defendant filmed of himself torturing Sumarti. The footage was unimaginably graphic and only the audio was shared with the press. The defendant threatened to “punish” Sumarti if she screamed and coldly told her not to cry.


The jury sat through hours of monologues that were filmed over eight days. One of the recordings began with the defendant saying, quote, “My name is Rurik Jutting. About five minutes ago I just killed, murdered, this woman here,” end quote. He then turned the phone to record Sumarti’s body in the shower and confessed that he didn’t feel any guilt for torturing, raping, or killing her. Throughout the videos, he recorded himself snorting cocaine and speaking fluently about what he had done.


In a video filmed after he attacked Seneng, he told the camera, quote, “I imagine this may be my last video, this just happened,” end quote. As he did before, he then turned the camera around, but this time it was too dark to pick up any image.

The defense began their case for diminished responsibility with an overview of the accused’s psychological history. Defense counsel Tim Owen told the jury his client’s actions were due to his heavy use of cocaine and alcohol and that he lacked the ability to control his judgment at the time of the murders. He said his client suffered personality disorders that stemmed from past trauma.


A number of psychiatrists gave expert testimony for the defense.


British forensic psychiatrist, Richard Latham testified that the defendant had been a victim of sexual assault on two occasions. The first was when he was a schoolboy in the UK and was allegedly forced to perform oral sex on another student, and the second was as an adult when he believed he had been raped as he was too drunk to resist having sex with a woman. He also told how, when the defendant was 16 years old, he had found his father bleeding from the wrists after a suicide attempt.


After five and a half hours, the psychologist concluded that Jutting had sexual sadism disorder and a narcissistic personality which made him crave attention, arrogant, and void of empathy. He told the court that Jutting’s behavior was driven by the desire to be in control and cause harm for sexual pleasure and that killing likely wasn’t his intention.


Another British expert, psychologist Derek Perkins, gave similar testimony. After a 15 hour assessment, the Broadmoor psychologist had left, also believing Jutting to be a sexual sadist and narcissist. The doctor testified that the defendants’ sexual sadism had quickly escalated in the two to three years before the killings. Despite having tested the killer’s IQ to be 137, the doctor told the jury Jutting had become “out of control” and “chaotic” and he was unable to cope with the problems he created. 


Dr Perkin’s said Jutting was inspired by violent pornography to act out his fantasies and that killing hadn’t been part of his original plan. Killing Sumarti was the result of his personality disorders and the defendant was shocked at what he had done to her.


Jutting didn’t testify in his own defense.


When prosecutor John Reading cross-examined Dr Perkins, the expert for the defense wouldn’t give a clear answer regarding the defendant’s culpability and whether he had the capacity to form intent at the time of the killings.


The prosecution argued that Jutting was in control of his actions when he killed both women. Shopping trips to buy rope, a hammer, and other objects proved that ‘significant planning’ had been done before he held Sumarti Ningsih captive and tortured her for three days. 


No matter how inhumane, the prosecution said that the killer showed logic when he decided to kill Sumarti so she couldn’t report him for the abuse he had inflicted on her.


Rurik George Caton Jutting was the grandson of a British policeman in Hong Kong and a local Chinese woman. He grew up in the UK and was privately educated before he read history and law at Cambridge University.


While working in finance in London, he picked up a cocaine habit after he was allegedly introduced to the drug by an escort. He also lost control over alcohol and reported to be drinking 84 units of alcohol a week.


In 2012 his salary was £270,000, about $370,000 US dollars. He used a large majority of his earnings to pay for increasing amounts of cocaine, alcohol, and sex workers.


The out-of-control banker was transferred to Hong Kong in 2013 following dubious behavior at work which led to him being flagged for being a serious risk to the organization.


In Hong Kong, he was given the position of vice president and head of Structured Equity Finance and Trading for Bank of America-Merrill Lynch and a salary of £350,000, about $480,000 USD.


He lived very well in Hong Kong. His high-end apartment had a rooftop pool and was surrounded by fashionable restaurants, but he chose to spend his free time in red-light district bars. From spring 2014 onwards, he would fly to the Philippines most weekends where he would spend time with sex workers in Angeles City.


By March 2014, his addictions were affecting his work. On a trip back to the UK to attend a wedding, Jutting missed days of work at the London office he was supposed to be working from. After three cocaine-fueled days and nights in the historic Waldorf hotel and in the company of more sex workers, Jutting called the office and said his unexplained absence was because he had HIV.


In the late summer of 2014, he met a woman named Joanna during one of his visits to the Philippines. For the next two months of their ‘relationship,’ Jutting paid Joanna over a thousand dollars a month so she would not see other men. However, drama between her friends and the friends of Jutting’s previous ‘girlfriend’ led to Jutting calling off their relationship in the second week of October 2014.


Shortly after this, Jutting went awol from his office in Hong Kong. Before leaving, he set up an out-of-office email reply which read, quote, “I am out of the office. Indefinitely. For urgent enquiries, or indeed any enquiries, please contact someone who is not an insane psychopath. For escalation please contact God, though suspect the devil will have custody [Last line only really worked if I had followed through],” end quote.


The, on October 25, Jutting met Sumarti Ningsih. Sumarti accepted his offer to pay her a large sum of money for sex and went with him to his apartment. She was then held captive and sadistically tortured and sexually abused for three unimaginably painful and horrific days.

Jutting filmed many of his vile acts and spoke of turning his fantasies into reality.


He told Hong Kong–based psychiatrist Dr. Chow that he had given her opportunities to leave but she “appeared terrified” and didn’t go. On the third day, he said he wrapped a towel around her neck and decided to see if she ‘accepted death.’ The murderer claimed he was horrified afterward but that didn’t hold him back from stuffing her body into a suitcase and making a detailed plan to find and torture another woman.


A week later, on Halloween night, he met Seneng in a bar, just as he had met Sumarti, and offered her money to go with him to his apartment. Security footage from an elevator captured them going up to the apartment around midnight. However, unlike Sumarti, Seneng had the opportunity to fight back. This saved Seneng from the torture Jutting had in mind but being much heavier, she was overpowered. When Jutting got hold of the knife, she didn’t stand a chance.


Dr. Chow, who gave expert testimony for the prosecution at trial, agreed that the accused was under the influence of drugs and alcohol, but that he understood the nature of his actions and was aware of the consequences of the killings.


Dr Chow pointed to the recordings Jutting made and said, quote, “Given all of his calm and rational judgments immediately before and after the killings, it shows he was able to make his own decisions,” end quote. The psychiatrist disagreed with the defense’s medical experts and said the defendant only exhibited narcissistic traits, not extreme narcissism and that, quote, “Despite the presence of abnormality, it didn’t substantially impair his mental responsibility.”


The doctor read part of her report to the court in which she described Jutting as cold and callous, especially with girlfriends and superficially charming. He was a man with no long-term close friends, who spoke only to his brother.


The defense called her testimony ‘absurd.’


Before the jury started their deliberations, Deputy High Court Judge Michael Stuart-Moore 

reminded them of the question they had to answer; whether the defendant was of “abnormal mind” at the time of the killings. “Yes he was impaired,” said the judge, “everyone agrees, but was he substantially impaired?” 


The judge then quoted something the defendant had said in one of the videos filmed after he had killed, “How many life sentences can one serve?” 


On 8 November 2016, the nine jurors returned their verdict. They didn’t buy the defense’s argument of diminished responsibility and unanimously found Jutting guilty of two counts of murder.


The convicted murderer showed no emotion when the verdict was read.


In his sentencing remarks, Judge Michael Stuart-Moore described Jutting as the “archetypal sexual predator” who represented an extreme danger to women, especially women in the sex industry. 


The high court judge called his crimes, quote, “Sickening in the extreme and beyond a normal person’s imagination” end quote. He said they were among the most horrifying cases Hong Kong had seen and that there were insufficient superlatives to describe what Jutting had done.


He commented on the murderer’s privileged upbringing and the material advantages he had in life. The judge rejected the feeble apology Jutting had given and highlighted the defendant’s lack of remorse after the killings.


Rurik Jutting was given the mandatory life sentence for each murder plus a concurrent sentence of three years and eight months for preventing the lawful burial of a body.


Jutting’s lawyers said they would file an application for their client to serve his sentence in Britain. On hearing this, the judge said he would warn British authorities about the convict and caution them about his “superficial charm.”


Until then, Jutting would serve his time in Hong Kong’s maximum-security Stanley Prison.


In December 2017, the convicted double murderer tried to have his convictions quashed on grounds of legal errors by the trial judge. His lawyer claimed the judge didn’t address the true meaning of abnormality of mind.


In February 2018, Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal rejected the appeal commenting that it had no merit whatsoever.


At the time of recording, Jutting is still behind bars in Hong Kong. His parents have since visited him on separate occasions.


So, what do I think? Please remember, like always, these are only my personal thoughts and I have no background in law or law enforcement.


Firstly, I think the jury without a doubt made the correct decision. I’m sure that if Jutting had been able to get away with killing Sumarti and Seneng, he would have killed again.


I don’t for a second believe he met the requirements for diminished responsibility. My personal belief is that he probably tried to plan his way out of being held responsible for murder just as he had planned to rape and torture the two women.


This is a man who studied law at one of the best universities in the world. He would have known the defenses for murder and that diminished responsibility was really his only hope, given his circumstances. 


The case was reported widely in Hong Kong, where murder and violent crime is almost unheard of in comparison to cities in the UK and US of similar sizes.


But, like many cities worldwide, the gap in wealth between the city’s rich and poor is huge.


Something that sets Hong Kong apart is its heavy reliance on foreign domestic workers. Low-skilled workers, mostly from the Philippines and Indonesia are given visas to live and work in Hong Kong, often as maids in private homes.


These workers are protected by law and there are minimum wages in place but there are many illegal workers like Seneng. Not being legally able to work in Hong Kong makes finding work difficult and leaves people vulnerable to being exploited and/or treated badly. 


The case was also covered by a number of British newspapers; some national and others from the area the killer was from.


But the killings of the two Indonesian women barely made the news in Indonesia.


Sadly, this is likely because the women were from poor families and were involved in the sex industry. 


The majority of sex workers in Hong are from poorer Southeast Asian countries and parts of Africa and many of them are in the country illegally, putting them in a very vulnerable position.


But, like Sumarti and Seneng, many of the women are working to support children and families back home.


After losing his daughter, Seneng’s then 56-year-old father said daily life had become financially, as well as emotionally difficult, and after Sumarti’s death, her son wasn’t able to attend school.


Some Indonesian helpers’ groups campaigned to raise funds for the families and a civil lawsuit was filed against the killer on the families’ behalf. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find the outcome of this.


Thank you for listening to Turned Up Dead. All sources for this episode can be found at turnedupdead.com. 


Remember, if you listen carefully, even the words of liars will tell you the truth.