Last accused person in Orchard Towers fatal fight gets life imprisonment for murder

Last accused person in Orchard Towers fatal fight gets life imprisonment for murder
Last accused person in Orchard Towers fatal fight gets life imprisonment for murder

SINGAPORE: The last accused person in the 2019 killing of a man during a fight at Orchard Towers was found guilty of murder on Thursday (Apr 25).

Tan Sen Yang, now 32, was sentenced to life imprisonment and 12 strokes of the cane by Justice Aedit Abdullah. The prosecution did not seek the death penalty.

Seven people, including Tan, were initially charged with murder with common intention over the death of 31-year-old Satheesh Noel Gobidass on the morning of Jul 2, 2019. He died of a stab wound to the neck.

Tan was the only one still facing the murder charge after six of the accused – Joel Tan Yun Sheng, Chan Jia Xing, Ang Da Yuan, Loo Boon Chong, Tan Hong Sheng and Natalie Siow Yu Zhen – had their charges reduced.

The conclusion of Tan’s trial means that all seven accused have been convicted and sentenced.

Tan appeared in court on Thursday in a purple prison jumpsuit and his head shaved. After he was sentenced, he asked to speak to five family members who were present, including his father.

Tan had answered his murder charge and was defended by a team of lawyers comprising Mr Teo Choo Kee, Mr Subir Singh Grewal and Mr Nichol Yeo.

During the trial, prosecutors showed closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage from Orchard Towers that showed Tan and his co-accused getting into a dispute with other patrons outside Naughty Girl Club, and a karambit knife in Tan’s hand.

CCTV cameras captured the fatal fight on the ground floor of the mall, with Tan seen punching Mr Satheesh. He admitted to holding the karambit knife while doing so.

Justice Aedit ruled that So intentionally inflicted a neck injury on Mr Satheesh that it was sufficient to cause death in the ordinary course of nature.

Acknowledging the “spirited defense” mounted by Tan’s lawyers, he still rejected each of their arguments.

Tan’s defense lawyers had tried to introduce doubt as to whether other members of his group were armed and could have inflicted the fatal injury.

In particular, another member of the group was seen in CCTV footage holding a black object. But the judge said he was satisfied this was not a weapon and was likely an e-cigarette instead.

Justice Aedit said it was theoretically possible that other members of the group had time after the fight to dispose of any weapons they could have been holding.

But weighed against the fact that Tan was armed and struck Mr Satheesh, the possibility that they could have inflicted the fatal injury was not sufficient to raise reasonable doubt, he found.

Another argument by the defense was that eight wounds were found on Mr Satheesh’s body, but CCTV footage only captured Tan punching the victim’s face three times.

The fight was a “dynamic” situation, with both Tan and Mr Satheesh moving vigorously, and one blow could have inflicted more than one cut, said the judge.

Justice Aedit also rejected the defense of diminished responsibility. The court previously heard that Tan suffered from alcohol use disorder, with a history of adjustment disorder and depressed mood.

But Tan was in control of his mental faculties at the time, said the judge, noting that he chose to return to Orchard Towers to participate in the fight.

Justice Aedit also said that Tan fled from the scene after hearing that police were arriving, which showed he understood that his actions were wrong.

The penalty for murder is the death penalty or life imprisonment.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Hay Hung Chun sought life imprisonment and at least 15 strokes of the cane for Tan. Defense lawyer Mr Teo asked the judge to consider life imprisonment and at least 12 strokes of the cane.

In sentencing, Justice Aedit agreed with the prosecution that the offender did not warrant the death sentence.

He also said that Tan’s prior convictions – including voluntarily causing injury in 2011 as well as affray and criminal intimidation in 2014 – were not material to sentencing, given the length of time that had passed and difference in severity with the present murder charge.

The Orchard Towers case attracted public attention after most of the suspects had their charges downgraded from murder. The Attorney-General’s Chambers refuted online comments about preferential treatment because of their race.

The law and order situation at Orchard Towers also came under scrutiny. The mall is undergoing a makeover and its nightlife outlets ceased operations in 2023 after the police stopped granting and renewing their licenses.

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