Running club Seletar Hash House Harriers apologises for Woodleigh MRT flour scare

Running club Seletar Hash House Harriers apologises for Woodleigh MRT flour scare
Commuters at Woodleigh MRT station, on April 18, 2017. Photo: Robin Choo/TODAY
Police investigations go on as group vows to be more mindful when planning future runs
Published: 6:16 PM, April 19, 2017
Updated: 12:06 AM, April 20, 2017

SINGAPORE — The three men who marked a running route through Woodleigh MRT station with flour on Tuesday should not have done so in the premises, their running group acknowledged, a day after their actions set off a full-scale security scare.

In a statement on Wednesday (April 19), the Seletar Hash House Harriers said that the three members — aged 53, 69 and 70 — had stepped forward “immediately” to identify themselves and cooperate with the authorities when they learnt about the investigations at the station. The 69-year-old man, Mr Tay Yong Kwang, was later arrested for causing public alarm and has been released on police bail as investigations continue, TODAY understands. The other two are helping the police with the case.

The group said: “In retrospect, they should not have placed any markings in the station, and should have used directional signs instead outside of the station ... They are sorry that their actions caused public alarm and inconvenience.”

It added that the incident has emphasised to the group the seriousness of a security threat in Singapore. “We pledge to be more mindful when planning future runs. We will be reminding all our members to be more careful in future.”

On Tuesday, the three men marked a trail at “three to four” points in the station for a run planned that evening.

The trio decided to use the MRT underpass for members to go from Bidadari towards Woodleigh Close because it was “the safest route to cross Upper Serangoon Road”.

The group, a registered society which has been around since 1980, said that flour, chalk and tissue paper are typically used to mark out running trails, depending on the area in which the run is held.

Paper is used sparingly in built-up areas, and the policy is to remove the paper within 24 hours of every run and avoid littering. Flour and chalk, it added, are organic, non-pollutive and can be washed away easily.

Hash chapters, as legally constituted societies, engage regularly with the authorities, including the National Parks Board, to ensure that they adhere to guidelines in the marking and clearing of running trails, the group said. There are around eight to nine registered hash chapters in Singapore. The Seletar chapter has about 100 members, from professionals to taxi drivers to retirees.

It holds cross-country runs for its members every Tuesday evening.

On Tuesday, it was a 58-year-old cleaner who discovered what looked like suspicious white substance left by the group’s members at the MRT station, and she informed the employees there.

The station was closed for about three hours as several police and Singapore Civil Defence Force vehicles and personnel, including Hazardous Materials Control specialists, were sent to investigate the case.

On April 2, Hougang MRT station, which also sits on the North-East Line, was closed for more than an hour after a suitcase was left unattended there.

It was later found to contain household items, and was left behind by a 39-year-old man who went off to run an errand after placing it there. He was arrested for causing public alarm and has been released on police bail while investigations continue.