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Voyeur suspect from top UK varsity accused of ‘master plan’ to abscond; alleged victims want him named publicly

SINGAPORE — Lawyers sparred in court on Tuesday (Jan 14) over whether a 22-year-old student from a top British university, who has been charged with taking obscene videos of at least a dozen female victims in Singapore, is a flight risk.

Voyeur suspect from top UK varsity accused of ‘master plan’ to abscond; alleged victims want him named publicly

A lawyer representing the 22-year-old, who stands accused of indecently filming at least 12 female victims, said he was contemplating suicide when he referred to "not coming back".

SINGAPORE — Lawyers sparred in court on Tuesday (Jan 14) over whether a 22-year-old student from a top British university, who has been charged with taking obscene videos of at least a dozen female victims in Singapore, is a flight risk.

Tuesday's hearing was convened after the prosecutors sought to present new evidence — text messages between the accused and one of his alleged victims — to the judge who had allowed the accused to leave the country in a hearing on Friday last week. 

The tussle over whether the man can leave Singapore to resume his studies came as most of his alleged victims backed a bid to have a court gag order lifted so he can be named publicly. The gag order is to protect the victims’ identities but most are willing to forego that right, prosecutors told the court. 

Prosecutors argued on Tuesday that the man had told his friend over text messages that he was going to flee the country armed with a “master plan” to seek “asylum” overseas.

But his lawyer Kalidass Murugaiyan told District Judge Adam Nakhoda that he had, in fact, been planning to commit suicide.

“I trust you enough to tell you this. I honestly might not come back,” the accused man told his friend in a text message in October last year, when the judge first allowed him to leave Singapore to continue his studies abroad.

On Friday last week, his second application to return to Britain to continue his studies was granted, but prosecutors this time opposed the move.

They said then that they would file a criminal motion in the High Court to seek to overturn the judge’s decision. In the meantime, the man is not permitted to leave Singapore.

On Jan 3, the accused man was slapped with 18 more charges on top of the two he was facing in October last year.

Prosecutors said last week that his family was wealthy enough to let him live comfortably abroad should he abscond.

The man has claimed trial to 19 counts of insulting the modesty of his alleged female victims, including one who was 15 years old. He also faces one count of possessing an obscene film.

APPLICATION FOR LIFTING OF GAG ORDER 

Some of the videos he allegedly filmed in places such as toilets and a hotel room are circulating online, and some include both the faces and private parts of the alleged victims.

None of them can be named due to a gag order to protect their identities, which extended to his name as they could be identified through it. The university he attends cannot be named either.

Deputy Public Prosecutors (DPPs) Foo Shi Hao and Tan Zhi Hao asked the court to lift the gag order, saying that 10 of his alleged victims wanted his identity to be published as “they feel he should not be allowed to hide behind a gag order”.

Of the remaining two, one of them has “expressed some reservations”, while the other — a 16-year-old minor — was not consulted at her family’s request.

Mr Kalidass, in objecting to the gag order being lifted, said there was a “complete risk” of his alleged victims being identified as they are “intimately known to each other”. The media is barred from stating specifics about their relationships.

In light of the new evidence, District Judge Nakhoda will give his decision on Thursday as to whether the accused can leave Singapore, and if the gag order should be lifted.

FRIEND SAID SHE FELT ‘VERY BETRAYED’

DPPs Foo and Tan revealed the text messages as new evidence in a bid to prevent the man from leaving Singapore. The friend whom the accused had contacted was one of his alleged victims.

At the time, she did not know she had allegedly been filmed, as the prosecutors said that investigations had been ongoing and not all of the alleged victims had been identified.

She submitted copies of the text messages to the police after reading news reports about it from last week.

The prosecution called her his “trusted friend” of about six years. She has since sworn an affidavit, in which she described feeling “very betrayed” after watching the indecent video taken of her.

She also wrote that she felt that her “purity has been taken away” and she “has been preyed upon and taken advantage of”. “I wish for this case to be concluded soon so I can put this episode of my life behind me,” she added.

When she asked the accused if he would get asylum abroad in one of their text messages last October, he replied: “Well, that’s in the master plan.”

DPP Foo told the court: “He goes on to elaborate on the pros and cons of the 'master plan'. This demonstrates he has carefully thought of the details.”

Some of the other messages he sent his friend included: “Stay for certain destruction, but there is that element of certainty. Or leave, and everything is uncertain, but potentially adverting [sic] this problem.”

Another read: “Honestly, after the first mistake, there is little incentive in this world not to continue to try to run… which is kind of bad all around, I don’t think people want to live like this. But surrendering just means you die sooner.”

DPP Foo said: “While he was previously allowed to leave uncontested, we have now vigorously opposed his departure. If he is allowed to leave Singapore, he will have one more chance to execute his 'master plan'. It may well be his last chance to avoid ‘certain destruction’.”

‘I NEED TO DIE’

On the other hand, Mr Kalidass argued that his client had been alluding to killing himself, having been in “deep anguish” and ranting to his friend in the text messages.

He had made multiple references to death and called the Samaritans of Singapore, according to Mr Kalidass. He also told his university housemate: “I need to die. Abatement by death closes this. It doesn’t matter if I’m innocent or guilty or whatever.”

In response, DPP Foo questioned why the accused man repeatedly used “asylum” if he only wanted to commit suicide.

He had told his friend: “I could stay here but that would be certain, at least metaphorical, death.” When his friend asked if that meant death for his future, he replied: “Yeah, pretty much.”

If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health-related issues, here are some helplines:

  • Samaritans of Singapore (24-hour hotline): 1800-221-4444

  • Community Health Assessment Team: 6493 6500/01 or click on the webchat icon at chat.mentalhealth.sg

  • Singapore Association for Mental Health helpline: 1800-283-7019

 

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voyeurism upskirt flight risk court crime

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