Priests, helpers at Novena Church sued over alleged exorcism

Singapore - The Novena Church, two priests and seven helpers are being sued for an alleged act of exorcism, in an incident believed to have taken place two years ago.

Fifty-year old Amutha Valli Krishnan, an athlete in the 1980s, claimed that attempts to exorcise her later led to chronic post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

A writ of summons was served last Thursday.

In the writ, Amutha Valli claimed that on 10 August 2004, she went to Novena Church to pray with her son, daughter and a close friend.

But she fainted.

She is alleging that two priests from the church, Father Simon Tan and Father Jacob Ong, claimed she had been possessed by a spirit, and then performed an act of exorcism, helped by seven others.

The ritual is said to have lasted two-and-a-half hours, during which time Amutha claimed she had resisted furiously.

She claimed she was strangled, pinned down and verbally abused.

When contacted, Father Tan claimed Amutha Valli did not faint in church.

In fact, he said, she had walked in asking for help, saying she was possessed.

Father Tan also denied any act of exorcism.

He said he, Father Ong and another seven helpers only performed prayers over her.

Amutha Valli's claims against the defendants include trespass, assault, false imprisonment and negligence.

She is also asking for damages for loss of income and injuries.

Her husband, Suppiah Jeyabal, said, "Before, she was an athlete and ... a very tough person, you know, who (liked) to exercise; she must run, exercise. She also used to coach children - a very tough and active person. But now she's more like a vegetable."

A medical report by Changi General Hospital psychiatrist states Amutha Valli's symptoms are a direct result of the traumatic incident she experienced at the church.

It says currently her symptoms are persistent, severe and extremely disabling.

According to the report, this has affected her ability to cope with self-care, demands at home and relationships with family.

The doctor added she would require long-term treatment and follow-up, and is unlikely to fully recover from her symptoms.

Amutha Valli's lawyer said it is still too early to comment, but he believed this is the first such case in Singapore.

The lawyer for the defendants says his clients deny liability and will file their defence by September 16.

The civil suit is estimated to cost at least a million dollars.