Death of man in attack at Sengkang coffee shop ruled 'unlawful killing'

File photo of State Courts. Yahoo Singapore

The death of a 53-year-old man after he was attacked at a coffee shop in Sengkang in 2015 was a case of “unlawful killing”, State Coroner (SC) Marvin Bay said on Wednesday (29 March).

Tay Eng Soon died after he was punched twice in the face by Lim Keow Chye, 49, on 8 July 2015 at a coffee shop in Block 303, Anchorvale Link.

The court heard that Tay, who was working as a catering safety officer, was having a meal with his wife and two other friends when the incident happened. Lim was also at the coffee shop drinking beer with his elder sister and three other men.

SC Bay said in the State Courts that there was “forensic and documentary evidence of a direct and causal link between Mr Lim’s actions and Mr Tay’s collapse and subsequent demise.

“Mr Lim has inflicted injuries which subsequently proved fatal in the cause of his violent physical assault on 8 July 2015, and has therefore perpetrated the unlawful killing of Mr Tay Eng Soon.”

Police investigations revealed that Lim had an ongoing dispute with Tay and his wife over donations which Tay’s wife had collected for a temple in Thailand.

The investigating officer, ASP Arun Guruswamy, who took the stand, said that the donations were meant to help with funerals of the less fortunate in Thailand.

The dispute was about how the funds contributed by Lim’s mother had been used. Tay’s wife denied any improper dealings with the funds, claiming that she had received a receipt from the Thai temple for the donations.

A CCTV recording of the attack, which was played in court, showed Lim approaching Tay and grabbing him by the neck before landing two punches to his head at about 10.11 pm. Tay appeared disorientated and collapsed to the ground a while later.

One of Tay’s friends tried to protect Tay by pulling Lim away. But Lim returned about a minute later and kicked Tay in the stomach while he was lying on the ground. After the attack, Lim was seen walking away from the coffee shop.

An ambulance was called and a paramedic who attended to Tay found him unresponsive. He was rushed to Tan Tock Seng Hospital and was pronounced dead at 12.46 am on 9 July 2015.

Associate Consultant Forensic Pathologist Lee Chin Thye, who gave evidence in court, said that the cause of death was due to a traumatic brain injury. When asked by SC Bay if Tay could have died from the injuries inflicted during his collapse, Dr Lee said that the victim’s death was likely due to the attack. 

According to the autopsy report, Tay sustained bruises on his forehead, around his left and right eyes, upper lip and a laceration on his lower lip.

The current whereabouts of Lim remain unknown. Efforts to arrest him were unsuccessful as he fled Singapore shortly after the incident and is suspected to be in Malaysia. Singapore police have enlisted the assistance of the Royal Malaysia Police to find Lim.

– Additional reporting Wan Ting Koh.