Jail, cane for man who confessed to fatal 2001 robbery

Jail, cane for man who confessed to fatal 2001 robbery
Reuters file photo
District court sentences him to 10 years’ jail and 12 strokes of the cane
Published: 1:26 PM, March 20, 2017
Updated: 11:37 PM, March 20, 2017

SINGAPORE — For over a decade, a fatal robbery in Bukit Batok West in 2001 remained unsolved. The culprit, who was not identified by the authorities, continued to lead a life of crime and was even jailed thrice for other offences.

During this period, the offender kept hearing voices in his head condemning him for taking a woman’s life over S$30.

In November 2013, Gunasegaran Ramasamy finally decided he had had enough, and turned himself in to the police. On Monday (March 20), the 32-year-old was sentenced to 10 years’ jail and 12 strokes of the cane for the crime he committed on Oct 2, 2001.

It is the maximum sentence that a district court can impose for the offence. Gunasegaran was initially charged with murder, but the prosecution reduced the charge to causing hurt during robbery, taking into account that he had surrendered himself.

The court was told that Gunasegaran, then 16, was living with his sister at Block 205 along Bukit Batok Street 21, and she had given him S$5 to buy instant noodles.

He was under a home detention scheme for prior offences of housebreaking and theft by night, and took this chance to look for victims to rob. Before leaving home, he took a knife measuring about 27cm from the kitchen, wrapped it in a newspaper and tucked it into his pants.

He walked to Block 172 along Bukit Batok West Avenue 8 and spotted Soh San at the void deck.

The 28-year-old manager with a telco was returning home from work. Gunasegaran followed her to the lift lobby and pressed the lift button. Right after that, he rubbed his knuckle against the button to remove his fingerprint. They both entered the lift later and he stood behind her. As the lift was going up to the fifth floor, Gunasegaran took out the knife and demanded money. His victim screamed for help and was stabbed in the arm during a struggle.

She gave him S$30 but he tried to snatch her purse. When she resisted, Gunasegaran stabbed her repeatedly on her arm and body. Bleeding profusely, she shouted at him to stop and eventually collapsed onto him.

Later, a neighbour found Soh’s body wedged between the lift door and the lift landing, metres away from her home. The victim suffered nine stab wounds — four were on her chest and abdomen — and died from her injuries.

After the robbery, Gunasegaran asked his friends to arrange for him to leave Singapore, but a few months later, he told them that he did not have to flee because the police had not nabbed him. However, between 2002 and 2011, he was jailed thrice for offences such as robbery, theft, housebreaking and causing grievous hurt.

On Monday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Bhajanvir Singh said that Gunasegaran had a violent nature and a propensity to commit offences related to property, and these dated back to 1998 when he was sent to a juvenile home for theft.

As for the robbery in the lift, he said that “the attack was brutal” and Gunasegaran “did not hesitate to use extreme violence”.

Defence lawyer Ng Shi Yang, who represented Gunasegaran through the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, said that his client was truly remorseful, and had been haunted by his crime through the years. Gunasegaran was in a heightened state of anxiety, frequently hearing voices in his head condemning him.

Mr Ng said: “This is not a case where the accused was caught — he had a choice, and he came forward. It would have remained a cold case if he did not do so, but he surrendered because his crime plagued his conscience for over 10 years.”