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Man on trial for murdering elderly father had schizophrenia, choked him in front of paramedics

SINGAPORE — When paramedics arrived at a Bedok North flat in 2015, they found 75-year-old Tan Ah Hin on the ground with a slow and weak heartbeat.

Man on trial for murdering elderly father had schizophrenia, choked him in front of paramedics

Tan Kok Meng, 46, strangled his father in their Bedok North flat in 2015 as helpless paramedics watched.

  • Tan Kok Meng allegedly strangled his 75-year-old father on Nov 13, 2015
  • His mother will testify that Tan was “not his usual self” leading up to that day
  • Prosecutors and his lawyers agreed he suffered from schizophrenia then
  • If he is acquitted for that reason, the prosecution will apply for him to be kept in safe custody

 

SINGAPORE — When paramedics arrived at a Bedok North flat in 2015, they found 75-year-old Tan Ah Hin on the ground with a slow and weak heartbeat. 

His son, Tan Kok Meng, was covered in dried blood, and later strangled the older man for a minute or two as the helpless paramedics watched. 

The older Tan later died in hospital. 

Tan Kok Meng, 46, began standing trial in the High Court on Tuesday (Aug 11) for killing his father. He faces a murder charge, which carries the death penalty or life imprisonment.

He is accused of strangling his father and inflicting multiple blows on the older man’s face on Nov 13, 2015.

Both the prosecution and the younger Tan’s defence lawyers agreed that he was suffering from schizophrenia at that time.

To convict someone of a criminal offence, the court must establish that he had the intention to commit it and took physical actions that led to it.

If Justice Valerie Thean finds that Tan had caused the death of his father — which is the prosecution’s case — but acquits him because he was of unsound mind, prosecutors will apply for Tan to be kept in safe custody.

This is pending an order from a government minister for him to be confined to a psychiatric institution, prison or other suitable places at the President’s discretion under the Criminal Procedure Code.

Prosecutors will call upon 48 witnesses to prove Tan had strangled and assaulted his father.

These include paramedics at the scene when the older man was still alive as well as the family’s relatives and neighbours.

Two forensic psychiatrists from the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), who examined Tan and diagnosed him with schizophrenia, will also give testimony.

Dr Cheow Enquan, an associate consultant at IMH, wrote in a 2018 psychiatric report that the man had also been in a state of acute drug intoxication after taking methamphetamine, a controlled drug. 

He will testify that the younger Tan was likely experiencing “severe psychiatric symptoms with disorganised behaviour” due to his mental disorder, which was worsened by drug use.

‘NOT HIS USUAL SELF’ 

At the time of the offence, Tan was unemployed and lived with his parents.

When his mother — identified only as Madam Toh — returned home around 5.15pm on Nov 13, 2015, she found her husband lying face up on the ground. She had left him alone in their flat with Tan.

Tan was sitting on a sofa near his father and did not respond when she asked him what happened.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Daphne Lim told the court that Mdm Toh will testify that her son was “not his usual self” that day.

As he looked dazed in the days prior to the incident and paced their flat, she did not want him to leave, hiding the home keys from him and asking her husband to do likewise.

DPP Lim said Mdm Toh will also testify to seeing her husband “breathing heavily” with a pool of blood under his head, before she left to get help.

One of two neighbours who came over saw the older Tan lying on the ground gasping for air, while the other saw the younger man’s hands and legs covered in dried blood.

Mdm Toh, who had returned by now, shouted at her son and asked why he had killed his father, DPP Lim said.

“At that juncture, the accused walked towards the deceased, sat on his abdomen and placed his hands on the deceased’s upper chest, just below the deceased’s throat.

“Mdm Toh then pulled the accused away from the deceased,” added DPP Lim.

STRAINED RELATIONSHIP WITH FATHER 

Ms Zaneta Lee, one of three paramedics who arrived shortly afterwards, testified in court on Tuesday.

Ms Lee, who was a qualified medic then and is now a nursing student, said that she asked the younger Tan if he was okay as he appeared dazed. 

He was “staring at a distance” at his father, she said.

When the paramedics checked the older man, his heartbeat was slow and weak, and he was making “snoring-like sounds”.

She assessed that he had a severe head injury, as the back of his head was soft to the touch, and both his eyes were swollen and bruised.

Inferring that his airway was obstructed, she inserted a device into his mouth.

At that point, the younger Tan suddenly stood up and told the paramedics in Mandarin and with hand gestures to move away.

They complied as he was glaring at them and “fixated on the deceased”, Ms Lee said.

He then strangled his father for “approximately one to two minutes”. Ms Lee shouted at him to move away — to no avail.

He continued strangling his father while mumbling “I want him to die” in Mandarin.

DPP Lim asked Ms Lee why she and her colleagues did not pull him away.

In response, Ms Lee said they did not know if he had weapons or what he could do to them.

The police arrived soon afterwards and arrested the man. 

Tan told the officers that he had had a “strained relationship” with his father for some time and that he had hit his father with his bare hands that day.

He also told an investigating officer that his father had called him a “good for nothing”, before he punched the older man in the face repeatedly.

On March 21, 2016, he was certified to be of unsound mind and incapable of defending himself in court.

He was confined at the Changi Medical Complex, before being certified capable to give his defence last year.

Tan is represented by Mr Favian Kang of Peter Low & Choo LLC and Mr Nichol Yeo from Solitaire LLP.

The trial continues on Wednesday. 

Related topics

murder schizophrenia court crime

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