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www.corpun.com   :  Archive   :  2008   :  SG Judicial Jul 2008

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SINGAPORE
Judicial CP - July 2008



Corpun file 20335

masthead

The Straits Times, Singapore, 3 July 2008

Stabbing spree: Poly student jailed for 16 yrs

Indian national who knifed ex-girlfriend's dad and 2 maids also gets 16 strokes


END OF A PROMISING CAREER: 'By committing the offences...you have brought tragedy onto yourself and your widowed mother, and destroyed everything.' -- JUSTICE KAN TING CHIU to Batla (above)


ATTACKED: After Batla's girlfriend broke up with him, he sneaked into her house and stabbed her father Manik Shahani (above) and two maids - Ms Mistri (below left) and Ms Shaw (below right). -- ST FILE PHOTO

By Khushwant Singh

HIS lawyer had already made the pitch to the court to show leniency.

But Navin Jatin Batla, convicted of attempted murder, stood up yesterday before he was sentenced and asked to be allowed to say his piece.

Fighting to hold back tears, the 23-year-old polytechnic student said in a shaky voice that he was not going to deny or justify his offences.

'Doing so will be a bigger crime,' he said.

'I've no idea why I did it but I did it. I can't come to terms with it and every day has been a living hell and my punishment will help me atone for my misdeeds.'

The Indian national asked for a lenient sentence. 'If not for myself, then for my mother as she has sacrificed everything, including selling her house to pay my legal costs.'

Batla's mother sat anxiously in court, her hands clasped in front of her as if in prayer.

But her only son's plea held little weight with the judge, who sentenced him to 16 years' imprisonment and 16 strokes of the cane for stabbing his ex-girlfriend's father and two maids in June 2006. All three survived the attack.

Justice Kan Ting Chiu told Batla that he had wrecked what appeared to be a promising career. 'You came here to do a course in marine engineering sponsored by a major shipping company in India. By committing the offences... you have brought tragedy onto yourself and your widowed mother, and destroyed everything,' the judge said.

Batla sobbed quietly in the dock, his head bowed.

Things were looking bright when he arrived here in October 2005 to study at the Singapore Polytechnic.

A month later, he met Ms Mumta Manik Shahani, a web designer who was 15 years older than him, at the One Night Stand pub in Clarke Quay.

Two weeks later, they became intimate and he would often sneak into her house in Dalvey Estate off Stevens Road to spend the night.

Her father soon found out and convinced Ms Shahani to stop seeing Batla.

After the break-up, the distraught young man sneaked into Ms Shahani's house and embarked on his stabbing spree.

Asking for leniency, Batla's lawyer, Mr B.J. Lean, said that his client loved Ms Shahani and her 10-year-old son, and wanted to marry her.

'The break-up sent him deep into depression and made him commit these crimes,' Mr Lean said.

The lawyer also produced a report from a psychologist in Mumbai, who had treated Batla since 1997.

Dr Dilip M. Panikker said Batla had hostile feelings towards his alcoholic father, who often assaulted his mother until his death in 1995.

By going to confront Mr Shahani, Batla was expressing his hostility to father figures, the psychiatrist said.

Batla's mother, Mrs Pooja Batla, 51, told reporters after her son was led away to prison that she accepted the sentence as her son had done wrong.

She had flown down regularly from Mumbai to visit Batla in prison since he was arrested in June 2006.

'It's been a long wait and now this part is over and I can only look forward to his release,' she said.

Copyright © 2007 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd.




Corpun file 20359

masthead

The Straits Times, Singapore, 7 July 2008

I want to kill ex-girlfriend, and 5 people I hate: Jilted soldier

By Khushwant Singh and Jermyn Chow

 Left: Dave Teo
In a statement that was read out in court, Teo (left) said he was 'going crazy' after his girlfriend wanted to end the relationship. He was jailed a total of nine years and two months and ordered to be caned 18 times. -- PHOTO: ZAO BAO
Left: Dave Teo
Lawyer Mr K. Mathialahan said that Teo (left) was suffering from depression after his girlfriend of four years broke up with him in April last year.

AWOL National Serviceman Dave Teo Ming told an army buddy, a pimp, that he had taken the rifle and bullets from camp to kill his ex-girlfriend.

The 20-year-old also said he was going to use it in a robbery.

Then, he told his officer that he was going to use the rifle to kill five people who he hated.

'Fortunately, nothing disastrous occurred but a deterrent sentence was necessary to deter like-minded offenders,' said Deputy Public Prosecutor Peter Koy in the High Court on Monday.

Teo was jailed a total of nine years and two months and ordered to be caned 18 times.

Teo had pleaded guilty to having the rifle and eight bullets with him in a public toilet in Cathay CineLeisure at 8pm on Sept 3 last year.

He also admitted to carrying a 40cm-long knife on April 14 last year near his ex-girlfriend's home.

In mitigation, his lawyer, Mr K. Mathialahan, asked the court to send Teo for reformative training in view of Teo's age and mental condition.

The lawyer said that Teo was suffering from depression after his girlfriend of four years broke up with him in April last year.

'He was under a lot of emotional pressure and was very confused,' said Mr Mathialahan.

Teo told his lawyer and a psychiatrist that he had no intentions of killing his girlfriend but wanted to use the rifle to threaten her to make up with him.

Arguing that the court should give more weight to what Teo had said before his arrest, DPP Koy pointed out that people will say all sorts of things to earn leniency after they are caught.

Officers' Mess
Dave Teo could have got away by jumping from the second floor parapet of the Officers Mess. -- ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

Copyright © 2007 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd.



blob RELATED VIDEO CLIP

"Army Corporal Teo and friend charged" -- video news report (2 minutes 7 seconds) from ten months earlier (6 Sep 2007) when Teo was arrested and first charged in court. Reflects the tense atmosphere when it was learned that a soldier had gone missing with a gun, something hardly imaginable in Singapore. The reporter mentions that Teo and his accomplice risk being sentenced to caning (which they both now have been).


HERE IS THE CLIP:

IMPORTANT: Copyright in this video material rests with the original copyright holders. This brief excerpt is reproduced under the "fair use" doctrine EXTERNAL LINK: opens in new window for private, non-profit, historical research and education purposes only. It must not be redistributed or republished in any commercial context.



Corpun file 20357

masthead

The Straits Times, Singapore, 8 July 2008

NSF found with rifle in mall

He told 3 tales to 3 people

Teo's reasons for stealing rifle changed from killing ex-girlfriend to robbery to murder spree

By Khushwant Singh

Dave Teo
CRIME OF PASSION: A bad break-up in March last year with a girl he had been dating for over three years seems to have sparked off Teo's actions. -- ST FILE PHOTO

THE soldier who stole a loaded rifle from Mandai camp told three people three different versions of why he did it.

First, Dave Teo Ming spoke to an army buddy, Mr Ong Chee Wee, on the phone and told him that he had taken it to kill his ex-girlfriend.

He later told a pimp that he planned to use it in a robbery.

Then, the 20-year-old called his officer and said that he would use it to shoot himself.

But, later in the conversation, he told the officer that he wanted to shoot five people he hated.

During interviews with a psychiatrist after his arrest, he came up with more reasons.

He first said that he had stolen the rifle to get his unit into trouble because he had not been paid his salary for a few months.

His final version to his psychiatrist: He wanted to use the rifle to make his ex-girlfriend 'go off with him' for several days.

He wanted to persuade her to get back with him. If she refused, he would have shot himself, his lawyer K. Mathilahan told the court.

But, whatever the reason for Teo's actions, Deputy Public Prosecutor Peter Koy called on the court to impose a 'severe sentence'.

A strong signal had to be sent to ensure that the 'flagrant abuse of life-threatening weapons and ammunition cannot be condoned'.

Teo had tarnished the reputation of the armed forces, said the prosecutor. Instead of doing his duty as a soldier to protect the community, he became a threat.

'Instead of upholding the Oath of Allegiance, the accused broke every paragraph of it,' said DPP Koy.

Justice Tay Yong Kwang packed Teo off to jail for nine years and two months and ordered him to be caned 18 times.

He could have been jailed for up to 14 years and 10 years for the unlawful possession of the rifle and bullets respectively.

Yesterday's sentencing by the High Court capped a dramatic incident in September last year when Teo's escape with the rifle sparked a massive manhunt.

He was caught about 20 hours later in a public toilet on the third floor of Cathay CineLeisure Orchard. The rifle was loaded with eight rounds in the magazine.

In between, he had a packed day, getting his blazer back from an army friend, going to a disco, having sex, staking out his ex-girlfriend's home and borrowing money from a friend.

One of the people he met, pimp Ong Boon Jun, 22, had earlier been sentenced to 6½ years' jail and given six strokes of the cane - for being with his friend while the latter had the weapon, yet doing nothing about it.

The thing that seemed to have sparked Teo's actions was a bad break-up in March last year with a girl he had dated for over three years.

The couple broke up over the telephone when he was training overseas in Taiwan for about a month.

When Teo got back, he went to the then-18-year-old Miss Crystal Liew's home with a knife that he then hid behind a pipe at the staircase.

He knocked at her door but her mother told him to leave. He refused and she called the police, who asked him to leave.

Four months later and a month before he would have finished his national service, he stole the rifle and went to her house with it.

After three hours of waiting, he called her house. Her maid told him that she was sleeping. He left and returned to a Geylang hotel room, had breakfast and had sex with a Thai prostitute.

His lawyer K. Mathialahan said that Teo came from a broken home and was an abused child. His father was often in jail and his mother was a gambler who beat him and then abandoned him. He had also lost his brother in a traffic accident.


To buddy Ong Chee Wee

Teo went to collect the black blazer Mr Ong had borrowed from him. Later, in a Geylang hotel, Teo called Mr Ong and said he would 'give the first bullet' to his ex-girlfriend.


To pimp Ong Boon Jun

Ong Boon JunOng met Teo in a Geylang hotel room and saw the rifle. Teo told the pimp that he would use it to commit robbery.



To Lieutenant Choo Yong Sheng

Lieut. Choo Yong Sheng Teo told his officer, Lieutenant Choo, that he felt like dying and wanted to use the rifle to shoot himself.

He told him not to inform his grandparents about his actions as he did not want them to worry.

Teo warned the officer that if the police tried to catch or shoot him, he would not hesitate to shoot back.

Teo later said he hated five people and wanted to shoot them dead.

He also poured his heart out over the break-up with his girlfriend, his grandmother's illness and his massive debts.

Teo hung up after saying that he could be tracked if he spoke too long to Lt Choo.

Copyright © 2007 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd.



Corpun file 20358

masthead

The Straits Times, Singapore, 8 July 2008

Judge tells soldier who took rifle out of camp:

'My heart hurts for you'

Dave Teo What he did: While performing guard duty at the Mandai Hill Camp on Sept 2 last year, Dave Teo Ming, 20, took a rifle and five rounds of ammunition he had been issued with and fled. He later retrieved another three bullets from his home.

He was caught 20 hours later with the rifle and bullets at a public toilet on the third level of Cathay Orchard CineLeisure.

In an unrelated offence, Teo had a 40cm-long knife with him on April 14 last year when he was at the staircase of a condominium block where his ex-girlfriend lived.

What he got:

9 years and 2 months' jail

18 strokes of the cane


Justice Tay Yong Kwang says:

Justice Tay'MY HEART hurts for you that so young a man will have to spend some of the best years of his life in prison and have to undergo so many strokes of the cane, but I trust that you understand a deterrent sentence is unavoidable in the circumstances.

Dave, you have had a very hard life. I hope that this unfortunate and traumatic wrong turn in your life will make you much more mature and a whole lot wiser and that you will spend the next few years reconstructing your young life.

I hope that you will pursue your studies, listen to good advice from counsellors and learn many skills while in prison and that, upon your release, you will have a life full of meaning and purpose to honour the memory of your grandmother and your beloved younger brother.

It has been written, 'To everything there is a season'. There was a time when you loved, there came a time when you hated. There was a time when you felt you wanted to kill, now is the time for you to heal. There was a time you were broken down, now is the time to build yourself up. There was a time when you were at war in your being, now is the time to restore peace within.'

Copyright © 2007 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd.



blob RELATED VIDEO CLIP

"Crime Files: Dave Teo convicted", Straits Times video report (2 minutes 7 seconds), 7 July 2008, on the above court case and the story behind it.


HERE IS THE CLIP:

IMPORTANT: Copyright in this video material rests with the original copyright holders. This brief excerpt is reproduced under the "fair use" doctrine EXTERNAL LINK: opens in new window for private, non-profit, historical research and education purposes only. It must not be redistributed or republished in any commercial context.



Corpun file 20338

masthead

Today, Singapore, 8 July 2008

News Comment

Culpable, just being in his company

Is the law under which Ong Boon Jun was charged too broadly worded?

By Thomas Koshy

YESTERDAY, Corporal Dave Teo Ming was sentenced to nine years and two months in jail and 18 strokes of the cane. Now, it is worth revisiting the fate meted out earlier to his companion and the legislation involved.

Six-and-a-half years in prison was the punishment that Ong Boon Jun got at his sentencing in February. He was convicted under Section 7 of the Arms Offences Act, for being in Teo's company for a few hours after the latter had stolen an SAR-21 rifle from an SAF camp. Section 7 makes it an offence to be "in the company of another person who is unlawfully carrying, or is in unlawful possession of any arm".

Ong, a pimp, had gone to Teo's room at the Champagne Hotel to spend time with a Thai prostitute hired by Teo, while the latter went out. When he arrived, Ong was shocked to find Teo in possession of the rifle. Although Teo later told Ong the rifle was for a robbery, Ong was apparently not involved in Teo's plans.

When Section 7 of the Arms Offences Act was enacted in 1973, the Minister explained that it provided "for joint liability on accomplices".

Was Ong an accomplice to Teo? He went to Teo's room to be with the Thai girl and then later had breakfast with Teo. One might argue that the corporal's unlawful possession of the stolen rifle was quite unconnected to Ong's presence. And further argue that Ong was in no way an accomplice to Teo's plans to commit robbery.

It is surprising to suggest that simply being in the same room with, and in the presence of, the unlawfully armed Teo, made Ong culpable.

Consider, for example, if Ong had spent the time trying to convince Teo to turn himself in. In such a situation, Ong may have been "in the company" of Teo, but convicting him under Section 7 would be grossly unfair.

The problem is that Section 7 is so broadly worded, that it may capture those whose conduct is not culpable. Indeed, it does not even require that the person charged must know that he is "in the company" of an armed person — only that the circumstances are such, that it can be reasonably presumed that he knew.

With such breadth, Section 7 must require the court to read in an unwritten requirement of a guilty mind on the part of the person charged.

In what way did Ong have a guilty mind? Ong's culpability was not that he was in some way in cahoots with Teo, but rather, that after he discovered the alarming situation of Teo being in unlawful possession of a rifle with intention to commit robbery, he did not report Teo to the authorities. That much is evident from the copious criticism the court rained on Ong for his nonchalance.

But instead of being charged with his failure to report Teo, Ong was charged with being in his company, and oddly enough, his failure to report Teo was characterised as an aggravating factor.

One would have thought that if Ong did commit the offence of being "in the company of" Teo, his failure to report Teo would have been a necessary part of that offence rather than an aggravating factor. It is difficult to imagine how Ong could have been reprehensibly "in the company of" Teo, but still reported him to the authorities.

It would have made sense to simply charge Ong with a failure to report Teo, for which the punishment is much less: A maximum of six months in prison. The lesser punishment would be justified, given that Ong was not a part of Teo's criminal enterprise.

To put things in perspective, consider this: Even a failure to report information which may help avert the commission by another person of a terrorist bombing offence is only punishable with a maximum of five years in prison under the Terrorism (Suppression of Bombings) Act 2007.

Ong's appeal for a reduction in his six-and-a-half year sentence was dismissed.

The writer is a non-practising lawyer. These are his personal views.

Press cutting

Copyright MediaCorp Press Ltd. All rights reserved.



Corpun file 20375

masthead

The New Paper, 9 July 2008

Court documents, psychiatrist say he was:
TRAUMATISED as a child
SELF-DESTRUCTIVE doing National Service

NSF who went AWOL with rifle sentenced to nine years and two months' jail, 18 strokes

Judge says his heart hurts for him, recites verse encouraging him to 'build himself up'

By Chong Shin Yen

(extracts)

HE stole out of an army camp, armed with an assault rifle and with murder on his mind.

Dave Teo

His main target: His former girlfriend whom he wanted to punish for dumping him.

He said he also wanted to kill five people whom he hated and planned to use the weapon in a robbery.

But national serviceman Dave Teo Ming, 20, was apprehended without harming anyone after a 20-hour manhunt on 3 Sep last year.

Yesterday, Justice Tay Yong Kwang sentenced Teo to nine years and two months in jail and 18 strokes of the cane for having a rifle, eight bullets and a knife.

He said Teo had committed a very grave offence by taking a rifle and ammunition out of camp for his 'own purposes' - 'especially so in this age of increased security concerns everywhere'.

[...]

Court documents painted Teo as a troubled man with a painful childhood. And when he was dumped by his girlfriend of four years, he snapped.

Madam Tan Ah Hoon
Teo's grandmother, Madam Tan Ah Hoon, who died last year, with a 5 Sep 2007 news report about him.

His father was in and out of prison for various offences. At the time of Teo's arrest, his father was in jail for drug trafficking.

His mother was a gambler who would cane him and his younger brother whenever she lost money.

Sometimes she beat them for no apparent reason.

Teo told a psychiatrist that they were not 'normal beatings'.

He said: 'The cane anyhow whack, whack until I got bruises.'

His paternal grandparents and aunt also remembered how traumatised he was as a child.

They said his mother would even throw chairs at him.

When he was 7, his parents divorced.

His mother walked out on them, taking his younger sister with her.

Teo and his brother were left in the care of his grandparents.

A Straits Times report on 25 Mar 2001, about Teo's younger brother, then 12, who died in a traffic accident.

The beatings did not stop. His uncle, who lived with them, would punch and slap him if he misbehaved.

When Teo was 14, his 12-year-old brother was killed in a road accident near Bedok bus interchange.

Teo's lawyer, Mr K Mathialahan, said the two boys were close and the sudden death was a great blow.

Mr Mathialahan said: 'He missed his brother so much that while he was serving NS, he pasted a photograph of his brother in his cupboard at the camp so that he could always look at him.'

Teo began to 'spiral downwards with disciplinary problems'.

The court was told that he was filled with anger and 'hated everybody'. He became depressed and isolated himself from the family.

He played truant, and dropped out of school in Secondary 3.

TROUBLED IN LOVE

Two years later, at 16, he found love.

Miss Crystal Liew, who was 14, was his schoolmate. But Teo was highly possessive and would be jealous when she went out with her friends. He would call her and demand that she go home immediately.

SAR-21 rifle
File photo of the SAR-21 rifle.

He was sometimes abusive towards her, both verbally and physically.

Early last year, Teo was posted for a short stint to Taiwan for his national service.

The couple quarrelled constantly and when she wanted out in April, Teo became withdrawn and irritable.

He vented his anger in camp by kicking the cupboard and being rude to his superiors.

When he returned to Singapore, he began stalking Miss Liew, hanging out at her condominium and outside her school, hoping she would change her mind.

He even went Awol (Absent without official leave) from his camp to look for her.

On one occasion, he took a knife along, saying that he would use it to threaten Miss Liew should she refuse to continue their relationship.

Even when he was rebuffed, he refused to leave and ended up spending the night at the stairwell of her condominium.

He was eventually caught and sent to the detention barracks.

Teo, who used to enjoy wearing branded clothes, no longer cared about his appearance. He started drinking to overcome his insomnia and became reclusive.

His psychiatric report stated: 'He became self-destructive and recalls exercising till the point of exhaustion and then denying himself water.'

Then, he hatched a plan to sneak out of Mandai Hill camp with a Sar-21 assault rifle. He told his campmate that he wanted to kill Miss Liew.

Teo was arrested the day after he left his camp.

Yesterday, he pleaded guilty to having the rifle and eight bullets with him in a toilet in Cathay CineLeisure at 8pm on 3 Sep last year.

He also admitted to carrying a 40cm-long knife on 14 Apr last year near Miss Liew's home in Simei.

Teo's grandmother, who suffered from liver cancer, died late last year, while Teo was in remand.

Other than his mother, who turned up briefly but left before he was sentenced, no family members were in court yesterday.

Teo could have been jailed up to 14 years for the firearm charge, 10 years for the ammunition charge and three years for the knife charge.

Copyright © 2005 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.

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