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'No foul play' in death of Changi Prison inmate who died of Covid-19 pneumonia, coroner finds

SINGAPORE — A 71-year-old criminal who was serving a preventive detention term in Changi Prison died late last year after contracting pneumonia due to Covid-19, a coroner’s court heard on Friday (July 29).

The coroner did not find any foul play in the death of 71-year-old Tan Pwee Sin (pictured), who died from pneumonia caused by Covid-19.
The coroner did not find any foul play in the death of 71-year-old Tan Pwee Sin (pictured), who died from pneumonia caused by Covid-19.

SINGAPORE — A 71-year-old criminal who was serving a preventive detention term in Changi Prison died late last year after contracting pneumonia due to Covid-19, a coroner’s court heard on Friday (July 29).

Tan Pwee Sin had also refused to be vaccinated against the coronavirus despite attempts to persuade him otherwise, Coroner Christopher Goh noted.

The coroner found no foul play in the inmate’s death based on the evidence uncovered.

Pneumonia, which is a form of acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs, is a known and serious complication of Covid-19.

At the time of his death, Tan had served about four years out of his seven-year preventive detention term, which he was given in September 2017 for killing his neighbour’s cat. A judge then found that he was prone to volatile emotions and violence.

Preventive detention is meted out to hardened criminals and they will not be eligible for early release due to good behaviour. Tan received the minimum term of seven years.

He had been in and out in jail since 1983, before being jailed for life in 1996 for culpable homicide after killing a 79-year-old neighbour with a metal bar.

He was later granted remission and released in 2010.

He then quarrelled with his neighbour in 2017 about feeding the other man’s Russian Blue cats without permission. When one of the neighbour's felines began mating with one of his own cats, he fatally slashed its abdomen with a carving knife.

On Friday, an investigation officer from the Singapore Police Force was the sole witness present at the hour-long coroner’s inquiry into Tan’s death.

She told the court that her attempts to locate any next-of-kin or friends failed.

Coroner Goh noted that Tan had reported feeling ill from constipation on Nov 25 last year but had no symptoms of Covid-19. As part of prison procedure for sick inmates, he was given a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.

The results came back as positive two days later and he was placed in quarantine as a precaution. He exhibited only mild symptoms and had no fever at the time.

On the morning of Nov 29, he was found unresponsive in his cell at the quarantine centre. He had also developed a fever.

The nurse on duty then called for an ambulance and he was taken to Changi General Hospital, where a chest X-ray showed that he had Covid-19 pneumonia. He was admitted to the intensive care unit but did not improve, eventually dying on Dec 19.

A forensic pathologist certified his cause of death to be Covid-19 pneumonia.

Coroner Goh noted that Tan also suffered from tuberculosis in the past but this did not appear to have contributed to his death.

Related topics

court coroner's inquiry death Covid-19 pneumonia Changi Prison inmate

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