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Judicial CP - September 2006

Corpun file 18372


Straits Times, Singapore, 14 September 2006

NUS student gets jail and cane for burglary

AN UNDERGRADUATE was yesterday sentenced to 7 years in jail and 24 strokes of the cane for burglary.

So Weng Kei, 27, admitted four counts of housebreaking and theft at various flats in Choa Chu Kang between June 9 and 13 this year.

Nine other charges - including two of using another person's identity card - were taken into consideration.

The loot in the four charges he admitted amounted to a total of $3,570.

So chose flats with open kitchen windows, striking usually very early in the morning.

Once he had identified his target, he would climb onto the parapet and get in and out through the window.

He was convicted of similar offences in 1998 and jailed for eight years.

Pleading for leniency, his lawyer, Mr Chia Foon Yeow, yesterday said that after So's release from prison in 2004, he obtained a place to study arts and social science at the National University of Singapore.

He completed two years of study but found out in May this year his father did not have enough money in his Central Provident Fund account to pay his tuition fees.

In a state of depression, he went back to crime and was arrested on July 13.

He has been remanded since because he could not post the $20,000 bail.

Copyright 2006 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.

Corpun file 18373


Straits Times, Singapore, 18 September 2006

From teen burglar .. to NUS undergrad .. to burglar again

He blew second chance after finding out dad's CPF money to pay his fees was drying up -- he was afraid he would have to drop out

By Khushwant Singh

From teen burglar... NUS undergrad... burglar again.

AN UNDERGRADUATE who could have been the poster boy for the bad-boy-turned-good story has blown it.

So Weng Kei's past as a convicted burglar was known to no one on the National University of Singapore (NUS) campus.

Now it is no secret. He returned to burglary just as he was starting his third and final year - and got caught.

The 27-year-old is now looking at 7 years in jail and 24 strokes of the cane for breaking into 11 homes - the same crime for which he was jailed in 1998, when he pulled off 117 burglaries.

He sat for his O- and A-level examinations while serving the eight-year jail term for those break-ins.

Upon his release in 2004, he went to study economics at NUS. He seemed to have turned the corner.

His mother, who wanted to be known only as Madam Tan, told The Straits Times that the family was strapped for cash.

Her husband, the family's sole breadwinner, had been paying So's varsity fees with the money in his Central Provident Fund (CPF) account, but he is also supporting a 20-year-old son who is in a polytechnic. Another son, 23, has just completed national service and is looking for a job.

She said in Mandarin: 'My husband works almost every day, even Sundays, to make ends meet.'

Tearfully, she told the story of her eldest son who strayed although he had what it took to do well in school: He was among the rare few who broke into the Express stream at Dunearn Secondary after having been in the then monolingual stream in Primary 8.

He got sucked into gambling, and began breaking into homes at the age of 15 to cover his losses.

His studies suffered and he failed English at his O levels.

While waiting to be called up for national service, he stole out of greed. His $950 salary as a bank clerk was not enough for him.

He was 19 when he was jailed. While at Changi Prison and later, Tanah Merah Prison, he studied and earned his O- and A-level certificates.

His General Paper teacher at the prison school, Mr Victor Kheng, in a testimonial in court last week, noted the immense effort So put in to pass the A levels.

Mr Kheng wrote: 'It is no mean feat to do well at A levels and this is much more so in prison. Weng Kei proved be determined and purposeful.'

Released for good behaviour in February 2004 after five years and three months, So entered NUS that August, working two nights a week at Insead as a night auditor to help his family.

His lawyer, Mr Chia Foon Yeow, painted a picture of a lonely, friendless young man: He lost touch with his friends during his prison term; and in that time, his brothers grew up and apart from him.

He was also a loner on campus. A second-year classmate, who wanted to be known only as Sandra, said he made them feel like he did not want their company.

So also had problems with girlfriends, who found him too possessive.

His last girlfriend dumped him in May, around the time he found out that his father's CPF money was drying up.

Ineligible for university assistance, he was afraid he would have to drop out.

The tall, muscular young man turned to burglary again and was arrested in July.

Said his mother: 'He had hoped to continue his studies at NUS after serving his first sentence, but he now knows he has thrown away any chance of this happening.'

Copyright 2006 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Regn No. 198402868E |

blob Follow-up: 24 March 2007 - Burglar has 24 strokes halved, jailed 3 more years

Corpun file 18429


Straits Times, Singapore, 30 September 2006

Reformed addict

By Esther Teo


HE HAS slept on the hard concrete floor of carparks, showered with biting cold fire-hose water and eaten scraps off hawker centre tables.

A riot of tattoos snaking from his neck to his feet chronicle the colourful life of former hardcore drug addict Kelvin Soh, 41. Drugs took over his life when he was 11 and checked him in and out of jail for the next 24 years.

He grew up in a one-room flat in Redhill, an area notorious for gang and drug activities in the 1970s. When he was nine months old, his mother ran off, leaving him with his gangster father.

He was 11 and in primary school when, out of curiosity, he stole from his father's heroin stash, ran to a nearby coffee shop toilet and replicated the melting and inhaling motions he had seen at home countless times before.

'I overdosed and vomited terribly. But after an hour, the high feeling kicked in. I can still remember the high. No drug addict ever forgets,' he says in Mandarin.


By 13, he was stealing to pay for his addiction. He was convicted of housebreaking, possession of weapons and drugs, expelled from school, and went on to spend the next 20 years mainly behind bars.

The longest time he stayed out of jail: seven months.


Most embarrassingly, in 1987, he and his father were assigned to the same cell at Sembawang Drug Rehabilitation Centre. For six months, they avoided conversation. 'It was extremely awkward as I had to relieve myself in front of him,' he relates.

His lowest point came in 1998 when he was sentenced to 5 years' jail and three strokes of the cane - his harshest ever - for recalcitrant drug offences.

When he was back in his cell feeling sorry for himself and with his buttocks blistered after his caning, a prison warden passed him a Bible.

Mr Soh was struck by a line in the Book of Hebrews: 'Do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked. For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.'

'It spoke directly to me,' he says.


Copyright 2006 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.

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