It’s fascinating to consider why some murder cases have gotten so much attention. In the case of Indonesia, the love of sinetron, or broadcast soap operas, maybe the explanation. Because that’s where the drama takes place. The Mirna murder case and the Jessica trial have elements in common with conventional soap operas: the women involved are young and attractive, they are wealthy, and there is a lot of drama.
Another peculiar thing about this famous instance is the location. The murder’s location further adds to the “glamour” of the case. Unlike most murders, which take place in forests or at home, this one took place in a posh cafe in one of Indonesia’s most posh malls. I mean, what are the chances of someone dying while drinking coffee?
On January 6, 2016, Jessica Kumala Wongso brought her friends, including victim Mirna Salihin, to Cafe Olivier in the Grand Indonesia mall (in Central Jakarta) for drinks. Jessica arrived considerably earlier than expected, purchased beverages for everyone, including Mirna’s Vietnamese iced coffee, and sat at a table that was hidden from the monitoring cameras. Jessica allegedly placed some shopping bags on the table after the beverages were brought to the table to hide them from the security cameras and other people’s eyes.
Mirna and another friend (Hani) arrived at Cafe Olivier a little later, and Jessica urged Mirna to try the Vietnamese iced coffee she had ordered about an hour before. Mirna claimed that the iced coffee tasted awful when she took a sip. Her companion Hani had a sip of the coffee and agreed that it had an odd flavour. Jessica, on the other hand, did not take a sip of coffee. Mirna passed out shortly after that. She was taken to a local hospital by ambulance, but she died an hour later after removing the zip on the coffee.
Mirna’s stomach was found to be bleeding, according to the autopsy report. Mirna’s Vietnamese iced coffee and her stomach were both determined to contain cyanide, according to Indonesian authorities.
Jessica was arrested on January 30, 2016, and charged with the deliberate murder of her companion. Investigators took weeks to make this decision because they couldn’t find direct evidence that Jessica put cyanide in Mirna’s coffee. Despite Jessica’s suspicious behaviour, the case was rendered much more contentious by the fact that this crucial piece was never discovered. The popular perception, on the other hand, was unanimous: Jessica was the murderer.
The issue was hotly disputed and discussed on social media, and it was constantly reported in the national media, making it one of the most talked-about subjects among the youth. The motivation for the murder, in particular, sparked a lot of speculation: was Jessica jealous because her lesbian partner Mirna married Arief Soemarko in November 2015? Is it possible that Mirna’s husband, Arief, was the one who killed his wife? Or did a former business partner of Mirna’s father murder his daughter in retaliation?
Despite the absence of direct witnesses or video surveillance footage showing Jessica putting cyanide in Mirna’s coffee, the Jakarta District Court is convinced that Jessica is the murderer and has sentenced her to 20 years in prison, as the prosecution demanded. Its decision is based on Jessica’s suspicious behaviour on and around January 6, 2016, as well as Jessica’s tumultuous past in Australia.
Jessica is a former Australian permanent resident. She moved to Australia with her family after graduating from high school in 2008 and attended Billy Blue College in Sydney. Jessica stayed in Australia for seven years before returning to Jakarta in late 2015 to look for work.
Jessica met Mirna at Billy Blue College, and the two became fast friends. Jessica became enraged with Mirna, according to the authorities, since the latter did not approve of Jessica’s Australian lover Patrick O’Connor.
After Jessica and Patrick broke up, she began to exhibit troubling signs of mental illness, prompting her ex-boyfriend to file a restraining order against her in 2015. She retaliated by threatening to kill herself. She had previously been involved in an alcohol-related accident in which she crashed her automobile into a nursing home. All of these things indicate that someone is mentally ill. It resulted in a 20-year prison sentence when combined with her suspicious behaviour in Cafe Olivier.