Lahad Datu CID officer Inspector Abdul Mutalib Harun said the incident occurred about 1pm on March 6, 2013 when a team from the CID Forensics Unit was about to enter a five-foot deep pit to retrieve the bodies.
About the same time, he said an army officer shouted, “All police retreat quickly”, ordering the 15 CID officers and 75 personnel to take cover.
“As the forensics unit was about to enter the pit, repeated gunshots on automatic mode came from the front.
“At that juncture, a team of army personnel advanced to the front and retaliated,” he said when testifying in the trial of 30 individuals linked to the armed intrusion at the village in February 2013.
Abdul Mutalib told the court that a team of VAT69 commandos also came to assist the CID team during the shootout.
While the CID team was taking cover behind 15 police vehicles, the CID inspector said he heard a voice from among the soldiers shouting, “Six enemies on the right”.
To a question by Deputy Public Prosecutor Mohd Dusuki Mokhtar, the witness said gunshots not only came from the front direction but also from the right side of where the policemen were positioned, and they (gunshots) were also on automatic mode.
Abdul Mutalib said the shootout went on for about 45 minutes, but the armed forces told the CID team to remain taking cover.
“About two hours later (after the shootout), we were told by several army officers that the situation was already under control.
“However, then-Sabah CID deputy chief, ACP Mohd Shariff Abd Wahid instructed the CID team to leave Kampung Tanduo,” he said, adding that they failed to retrieve the bodies.
Abdul Mutalib said six armoured vehicles escorted the CID team out to the main road about 5km from the village, while two armed forces helicopters hovered above them.
Earlier, the witness told the court that then-Sabah police commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib had instructed him to guide a team comprising several units from the CID led by Mohd Shariff into Kampung Tanduo to retrieve the corpses.
He said when he and the CID team arrived at the village about 11am that day, about 200 men of the Malaysian Armed Forces waited for their arrival at the village border.
He told the court that the CID team parked their vehicles at a house, some 100 metres from the pit containing the corpses.
At the house, there was a body of a recently-deceased person which was taken into one of the police trucks, he said.
“ACP Mohd Shariff and I approached a pile of dead oil palm fronds and I saw several wooden planks exposed among the pile of fronds from where emanated a strong stench.
“I saw ACP Mohd Shariff instructing the police bomb disposal unit to remove the pile of fronds, one by one, to ensure there were no weapons or explosives there,” he said, adding that the rest of the CID team and the army moved back to a safe distance while the bomb disposal unit carried out Mohd Shariff’s instructions.
Abdul Mutalib said about 1pm, an officer from the bomb disposal unit told Mohd Shariff the pit was free from dangerous weapons and explosives and that there were nine bodies of the intruders, in full army unifoms and boots, that were in a state of decomposition.
Describing the state of the corpses, the witness said some of the deceased had sustained fractured skulls.
He said a foul stench emanated from the maggot-infested corpses from which green fluids oozed.
In the dock are 27 Filipinos and three local residents who are facing one to multiple charges of being members of a terrorist group, waging war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, recruiting members for a terrorist group or wilfully harbouring individuals they knew to be members of a terrorist group.
They allegedly committed the offences between Feb 12 and April 10, 2013.
The hearing before Justice Stephen Chung continues tomorrow at the Sabah Prisons Department.