Former NUS lecturer found guilty of molesting 5 boys during school camp in 1999

Chan Cheng, 58, fled to Malaysia before he could be charged over the incidents, which took place during a June 1999 school camp. (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)

SINGAPORE — A former National University of Singapore (NUS) professor was found guilty of molesting five teenage boys – 20 years after committing the offences.

Chan Cheng, 58, fled to Malaysia before he could be charged for the incidents, which took place during a June 1999 school camp. He was extradited to Singapore on 7 December 2016.

Another seven charges of molest, involving four other victims, were stood down for Chan’s trial.

At the State courts on Monday (22 June), District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan said he was “satisfied” with the evidence produced by the prosecution witnesses during Chan’s trial.

“I note that there are some discrepancies in the evidence but I found those to be not material nor significant such that they affect credibility of witness,” said the judge.

Deputy Public Prosecutor James Chew asked for Chan to be denied bail, given that he had stayed on the run for 17 years. Chan’s lawyer, Ramesh Tiwary, claimed that his client had no reason to abscond again as he had initially returned to be with his mother, who is still alive and well.

Bail was eventually granted for Chan under the condition that he report to an investigation officer daily until his sentencing on 29 July.

Accused shared bunk with victims

Then a psychology professor, Chan had organised the camp with the victims’ secondary school to teach the students life skills. He acted as the camp’s consultant and shared the same bunk as the five 13-year-old boys he molested.

The camp was held from 28 to 30 June 1999 at Guillemard Camp along Old Airport Road.

On the first night, one of the Secondary 1 boys was taking a shower under Chan’s supervision. The boy, now aged 33, sought help from Chan to open a soap bottle. After Chan helped him, he asked the boy why he was in his underwear.

When the boy said he was shy, Chan instructed him to remove his underwear before stroking the boy’s body from armpit down to his private parts. He then slid his hand to the boy’s chest and told the boy to soap those areas of his body.

Later that night, at about 12.45am, as one of the boys was talking to his friend in the upper bunk bed, Chan approached him and asked if he could sleep. He later massaged the boy’s thigh and shifted his hand to the boy’s private parts.

The boy swiped Chan’s hand away after a few seconds and his friend witnessed the entire encounter.

During the camp, Chan also molested another boy after asking if he was tired. When that boy said that his legs were a bit painful, Chan massaged his legs but later touched his groin. The boy’s friend corroborated his account.

Shortly after, at about 1.45am, Chan asked another boy to lie on his bed. Chan then massaged the boy’s leg and slid his hand to the boy’s groin area. Chan molested the boy over his shorts a few times before repeating the act inside the boy’s shorts.

When the boy tried to get up, Chan held the boy down, telling him to relax. He then continued massaging the boy’s thigh.

Later that morning, Chan molested a fifth boy under the pretext of applying powder to the boy’s body. He rubbed powder onto the boy’s armpits before asking the boy to pull his shorts forward. When the boy complied, Chan applied powder to the boy’s groin, rubbing his penis in the process.

Chan’s was caught in the act by a student leader. On the second night of the camp, the student leader went to look for Chan after midnight as they were due for a debriefing session.

The student leader witnessed Chan sitting beside one of the boys at the bunk and touching his groin in a circular motion. Unsure of what to do, the student leader simply asked Chan about the debrief and left.

The student leader informed the school’s discipline master, who was also the camp commander, the next morning. When the discipline master interviewed the boy who was seen being molested, Chan’s offences against the other boys also came to light.

The discipline master then interviewed other boys and informed the school’s principal about what happened. The boys were eventually taken to make a police report.

Chan was arrested on 27 November that year. He was released on bail and required to attend court two days later but fled to Malaysia instead.

Accused a well-known researcher

Yahoo News Singapore previously reported that Chan was last seen in NUS on 23 November that year. His contract with NUS was eventually terminated after he left the country.

Chan, who was well-known for his research on juvenile delinquents and child psychology, joined NUS’ Department of Social Work and Psychology in 1987 as a senior tutor and became a lecturer in 1992.

During the trial, Chan denied touching the boys and claimed that he had conducted a harsh punishment session on the first night of camp along with a formal reflections activity after midnight.

Related story:

'I didn't think about right or wrong': Witness testifies in 1999 molest case involving ex-NUS prof