A 72-year-old man was sentenced to four years’ jail at the High court on Tuesday (27 March) for fatally slashing his flatmate with a kitchen knife.
Tan Kim Hock had earlier pleaded guilty to one charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder for the deadly attack on 62-year-old Fan Fook Heng in June 2016.
The pair had an uneasy relationship since they became co-tenants of a single-bedroom flat in 2012, said Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Jason Nim.
Tan, then a part-time cleaner, had been living alone in the HDB rental flat on Bendemeer Road since his mother died in 1991. By 2012 though, prevailing HDB regulations required Tan to take in a co-tenant.
Tan’s neighbour introduced him to Fan, who worked as a welder. The duo agreed to be co-tenants the unit. Their quarrels began soon after and even escalated into an exchange of blows on one occasion.
The fatal encounter took place on the night of 27 June 2016. At around midnight, Tan was washing his coffee cup in the kitchen while Fan rested on his mattress in the living room.
The noise from the washing bothered Fan. He grabbed Tan’s cup, slammed it on the kitchen sink, hit the water tap violently with his hand, then returned to the living room.
Tan tried to explain to Fan that he was not making noise on purpose. Fan replied that he would beat Tan up if the sound did not stop making noise.
Tan returned to the kitchen to continue washing his cup. Fan then got up from his mattress, slammed the cup on the kitchen sink again, and punched Tan in the face, cutting his lip.
While Tan cleaned his wound at the kitchen sink, Fan went back to the kitchen to smoke a cigarette by the window.
He ignored Tan, who got progressively angrier about being hit. Tan finally took a kitchen knife with a 17cm blade and lunged at Fan.
A struggle ensued, during which Fan blocked Tan’s attacks with his left arm, sustaining multiple slashes, some of which cut his arteries. Tan also obtained a cut on his right palm.
Fan ran to the living room, pursued by Tan. Fan also attempted to throw a chair but Tan got to him before that.
Tan only stopped his assault when his flatmate collapsed. Fan then crawled across a pool of his own blood, trying to reach for a panic button at the front door of the flat. Tan refused to help press the button.
Realising that Fan was too weak to hurt him, Tan placed the knife in the kitchen sink and went to his neighbour’s house to ask her to call for an ambulance.
Ten minutes later, with no ambulance at the scene, Tan called the police. When officers arrived, Tan admitted to what he had done and led the police to the kitchen knife.
Fan had to be admitted to the intensive care unit at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. His left arm was also amputated below the elbow in an attempt to save his life but Fan died of his injuries on 29 June.
The attack was “calculated to exact revenge”, said DPP Nim, who asked for a jail term of four and a half years. While Tan was provoked, he should not have engaged in “violent vigilante justice”, he added.
Nim noted that Tan’s response to Fan’s actions was “persistent, and relentless” in its brutality. The use of a weapon was another aggravating factor, he added.
Defense counsel Christopher Bridges argued that there was a history of bad blood between his client and the deceased, adding that Tan had tolerated Fan for four years.
Tan was also a decade older than his former flatmate, making him more susceptible to being a victim. Bridges argued that a sentence of three and a half years to four years would be more appropriate.
Justice Chan Seng Onn, who called it an “unfortunate case”, noted that the pair had an uneasy relationship and that the punch that night “might have been the straw that broke the camel’s back”.
Tan’s four-year jail term has been backdated to 29 June 2016 when he was placed in remand.
For culpable homicide not amounting to murder, he could have been jailed up to 10 years. He will not be caned as he is above 50 years old.