We’re back again with another bone-chilling true crime story. This time, it takes place during pre-independence Malaya and follows the unsolved murder of a Malay elite of the time, Maarof Zakaria.
Maarof Zakaria’s tragic story shocked the nation as he was a well respected Malay man during a time of British rule.
He was born in 1904 at Seri Menanti, Negeri Sembilan and grew up to become a lawyer and later went on to focus on uplifting the economic development of the Malay community back then.
Unfortunately Maarof was suspiciously murdered at a young age of 43 years old, leaving behind his wife and kids. Scroll further to uncover the facts of this cold case.
1.Maarof Zakaria’s Vision to Empower Malays
Maarof Zakaria, a prominent Malay lawyer, held the distinction of being the founder of the Malay National Bank – a groundbreaking institution established to empower Malays in then British Malaya.
The two other banks in British Malaya at the time were the British-owned Standard Chartered Bank and the Chinese-owned Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC). Both of these banks refused to lend to Malays, forcing them to work with loan sharks who charged exorbitant interest rates.
Thus, Maarof Zakaria worked to rectify this issue by establishing the Malay National Bank in 1947, which provided numerous services to Malays and served to build the Malay economy. It was known that the British were not pleased with the opening of this bank.
2. Near Miss at Taman Seputeh
As Maarof’s efforts gained momentum, opposition and unease emerged from various people. An assassination attempt on his life occurred just 3 months before the bank’s opening, hinting at the resistance he encountered.
In a chilling foreshadowing to his murder, a mafia-style assassination attempt was launched at Maarof’s newly bought residence in Taman Seputeh, Jalan Klang Lama.
Maarof was not at home at the time, and his son, (now deceased, famous Malayan actor in the 50s) Datuk Mustapha along with his uncle were painting their new house.
“I was finishing the final work on the ground floor when I heard a gunshot,” Datuk Mustapha stated.
He said the sound of the gunshot was so loud and he noticed 3 men running towards the house and firing 3 gunshots.
The two bolted and took refuge in a nearby bush. They believed the men thought it was Maarof Zakaria who was at home and targeted to kill him but Maarof was still in central Kuala Lumpur at the time.
Eventually the 3 men left and although Mustapha and his uncle survived, they were severely traumatized from the attempted murder incident.
3. The Shocking Demise
On 4th December of 1947, Maarof suddenly went missing after reportedly being enroute to visiting his mother in Seremban from his house in Kampung Baru. Police searched for him for 3 days till they shockingly found his lifeless body hanging on a tree in a jungle along the Batu 13 Kuala Lumpur – Bentong highway on the 7th of December.
Maarof Zakaria was believed to have been assassinated three months before the bank’s official launch at the age of 43 years old.
4. Mysterious Motives
The absence of robbery as a motive, with valuable possessions like his Rolex watch untouched, gave rise to speculations of an ulterior motive behind Maarof’s murder. The identity of those responsible remained shrouded in darkness.
Authorities also found it odd that Maarof’s body and car ended up in Bentong when he was on the way to Seremban. Even more weird, the victim’s car’s rear and spare tires were missing from the scene…
5. A Road to Remember
Jalan Maarof, a road named in his honour, stands as a testament to Maarof Zakaria’s enduring legacy. A short stretch of road in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, it serves as a reminder of the visionary who sought to uplift his community and challenge the oppressive forces of his time.
Below is a photo of his son, Datuk Mustapha (now deceased) sitting by his late father’s grave.
And that brings us to the end of this sad story. Who do you think murdered Maarof? Could it have been British colonials who were displeased at his newly opened Malay bank or could there have been other jealous parties involved?
Perhaps just like his late son, Datuk Mustapha Maarof who died not knowing the story of his father’s murder, we too shall never know the truth behind this case.
May Maarof and his son rest in peace.