SINGAPORE — Amid an argument with his wife, a man picked up a kitten that came to him for attention and flung it against a cupboard, causing its head to bleed.
Rico Wong Wei Wei then picked up the injured kitten and threatened his wife, before flinging it down in front of her. Later, assuming that the kitten had died, he threw it into the rubbish chute from his 11th-floor flat.
Animal cruelty was not the only charge Wong, 30, pleaded guilty to on Thursday (22 October). The father of two, who was unemployed then, also admitted to robbing a 17-year-old student of his phone and savings, and of threatening his wife, who had taken out a protection order against him.
Another three charges of a similar nature were taken into consideration for his sentencing.
Wong was sentenced to three years, six months and 10 weeks’ jail, with six strokes of the cane. He was also banned from owning pets for a year.
His lawyer, Jonathan Wong, raised his “difficult” past in mitigation, but the prosecution said that Wong’s past offences showed only the escalation of his life of crime.
Wong was convicted of snatch theft in 2006 and mischief – causing damage of more than $500 – in 2009. He was sentenced to reformative training stints for both these offences, but Wong committed snatch theft again in 2016 and was jailed 14 months.
“Despite an increasingly heavy sentence, the accused still proceeded to commit crime in blatant disregard of the law. He was fully aware of the illegality of his actions,” said Deputy Public Prosecutor Daniel Ling, who called for a heavier sentence to be imposed on Wong.
Threatened, extorted money and mobile phone from teenager
On 25 June last year at about 3pm, Wong was on the upper deck of a double decker bus and saw the 17-year-old victim using his phone.
As he had a black Karambit knife in his pocket, Wong formed a plan to rob him by showing the victim the knife and demanding for the phone.
He carried out his plan and demanded for the phone. When the victim asked if he could give money instead, Wong said that he wanted $1,000 in cash instead.
The victim agreed and they alighted at Block 101 Yishun Avenue 5. Wong demanded for the phone, and the victim complied. The pair then proceeded to a nearby POSB ATM where Wong forced the victim to withdraw $500 in cash.
While Wong said he wanted $1,000, the victim informed him that his withdrawal limit was $500. Wong then said that he would not return the victim’s phone.
The victim promised to give Wong the remaining $500 the next day, however Wong refused, and kept both the phone and cash. Wong wanted the phone to be reformatted and accompanied the victim to his house to retrieve his Apple ID and password. He waited at the void deck while the victim retrieved his data and gave it to him.
Wong then returned the victim his SIM card and left. Wong later sold the phone to a second-hand mobile phone shop for $720.
DPP Ling pointed out that the victim was a teen who was in early years of his life.
“The victim is not a business man, he is a young student who has a credit limit of $500, the accused extorted the entire sum and proceeded to take handphone and $500 which he did not return and took everything from him,” noted the DPP.
Fight with wife led to kitten’s death
On 4 May last year, at around 3am, Wong had a fight with his wife over financial issues. His wife, 27, had taken out a personal protection order against Wong on 22 January 2018.
While in his room, Wong’s two-month-old grey kitten, which he had picked up from Woodlands, came towards him. Annoyed, Wong lost his temper. He picked up the kitten and threw it against a cupboard in the living room. The kitten’s head started bleeding.
He then picked up the kitten and told his wife, “Look at this because of you”. He then flung the kitten on the floor in front of his wife, causing its blood to splatter. He then said, “if I can do this, you I don't care”, causing the woman to feel fearful.
Around 15 minutes later, the kitten stopped moving. Later that day, the accused threw the kitten in a rubbish bag before disposing it in the rubbish chute.
On the animal cruelty charge, NParks prosecutor Mohamad Packer said that the even if the kitten was not dead from Wong’s violent behaviour, it would have died from being thrown in the rubbish chute.
Wong’s lawyer Jonathan Wong noted that his client had not procured the kitten for the purpose of abuse.
“Regrettably, or ironically, he had rescued the kitten to look after together with his family. It was only in moment of anger that he allowed his temper to get the best of him,” he said.
He added that his client was “profoundly remorseful” and “painfully aware” of what the sentence would mean for himself in terms of time away from family and his inability to provide for them.
Wong has two young children, the older of whom is starting Primary 1 next year. His wife has since reconciled with him and was present in court.
“What led to these present offences was the financial stresses and difficulties that accumulated despite his best efforts,” said his lawyer.
“There is no excuse, we only highlight this as an explanation to give context that led to him feeling desperate to the extent that he impulsively decided that the only way to find money to pay outstanding, mounting rental payment due to HDB was to commit the offence.”
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