Ferrari driver convicted of assault had 'depression' and 'PTSD', says psychiatrist

Wan Ting Koh
Reporter
Shi Ka Yee at the State Courts on 17 August 2017 (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)

The Ferrari driver convicted last year of assaulting a fellow driver along Telok Ayer Street was suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when she committed the offence.

These were the findings revealed by Mount Elizabeth psychiatrist Sim Li Ping, who took took the stand on Wednesday (21 February) during a pre-sentencing hearing for 73-year-old Shi Ka Yee. The hearing was held to help determine if Shi’s psychiatric conditions had any bearing on the offences which she committed in February 2014.

Wearing a black dress and colourful scarf, Shi appeared in court with a female companion.

A director of two architecture companies, Shi was convicted on one count of voluntarily causing hurt to 39-year-old Raphael Chong Yen Ping after the two got into a traffic dispute on 25 February 2014.

Chong had been waiting for a parking space along Telok Ayer Street when Shi pulled up beside him in a red Ferrari and asked Chong to move his car. Chong told her that there was enough space for her car to pass. Shi later exited her car and had a short verbal exchange with Chong, after which she punched him.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Dr Sim – who was called to the stand by Shi’s lawyer Irving Choh – provided two reports on Shi dated back to 5 July and 4 October 2017.

She testified to having diagnosed Shi with depression following their first meeting in September 2009. Shi has been taking a range of anti-depressants since then.

According to Dr Sim, the depression stemmed from Shi’s discovery of her then-husband’s affair with a Chinese woman.

“During the years of her marriage, she worked very hard and was disappointed to find out her ex-husband had an affair with a China woman. She felt depressed, insulted, and felt taken advantage of,” said the psychiatrist.

“She didn’t mind supporting (her husband) but the money she gave to him was used to support his mistress and his mistress’ son,” she said, adding that to this day, Shi’s ex-husband was still asking for her assets.

When asked by Choh if Shi’s depressed state of mind could have affected the way she reacted to Chong, Dr Sim said that a depressed person could be triggered into acting on reflex, or acting without thinking of the consequences.

Shi felt that Chong had taken advantage of her, which may have caused her to act in the way she did, said the psychiatrist.

“She felt shocked that a person driving a BMW could be so rude… how can he say that to a woman, and he was half her age. She felt insulted and taken advantage of. The man had demeaned her,” said Dr Sim, referring to how Chong had allegedly insulted Shi.

Shi, who has a daughter, was also suffering from PTSD, which arose from her experience of twice being assaulted by men, The first time was in 1966, while Shi was a university student in Hong Kong, and second occurred while she was in the United States in 1970.

Asked by Choh how Shi would fare in jail, Dr Sim said, “I think it would be disastrous to incarcerate her.” She added that treatment and a fine would be more beneficial to Shi.

The prosecution, however, maintained that Shi’s actions were unrelated to her psychiatric conditions.

“Shi’s actions were borne out of her naturally impulsive and irritable character and not psychiatric illness,” said Deputy Public Prosecutor Zhou Wenzhao.

Citing an assessment tool commonly used to diagnose depression, the DPP pointed out that six out of the nine qualifying criteria – among which is a diminished interest in daily pursuits – were not present in Shi.

DPP Zhou noted that Shi was still picking up new hobbies, including weekly yoga sessions; had taken up dancing; and was exercising in the years after being diagnosed with depression.

In reply, Dr Sim said that the assessment tool was only a “guideline” and that psychiatrists had to look at the bigger picture when assessing patients.

It was also revealed during the hearing that Shi had been admitted to Mount Elizabeth Hospital on 15 July 2016 as she was feeling “distressed and distraught”. Dr Sim told the court that Shi had not bathed for a week and experienced insomnia before she was admitted.

The prosecution also pointed out that the assaults on Shi had taken place some 50 years before the incident, and that Shi did not fulfil the criteria for being diagnosed with PTSD.

In response, Dr Sim stressed that the bigger “contributing factor” to Shi’s actions were her depression rather than the PTSD.

Shi also faces six separate charges for offences committed in 2015 and 2016. These relate to a dispute over a rain tree that grew from her home in Astrid Hill, and another incident in which she blocked off a few lanes in Orchard Road with her car.

The hearing was scheduled to resume later on Wednedsay with an Institute of Mental Health psychiatrist taking the stand.

Related story:

Ferrari driver, 72, found guilty of punching man in road incident