A freelance event planner stalked a woman for 1.5km before donning gloves, covering her mouth and molesting her at Havelock Road – all because he felt the urge to touch her buttocks.
For his offence, 38-year-old Benjamin Tan Jook Min, who owns the business “Fishcake Happy Meal”, was on Tuesday (2 May) jailed 27 months and given four strokes of the cane in the State Courts. He pleaded guilty to using criminal force with the intent to outrage the modesty of a 27-year-old woman.
Investigations showed that the incident occurred opposite the Holiday Inn at Havelock Road on 2 August last year, as the victim was walking home from work in the early hours of the morning.
While the victim was walking in the direction of the SPC Petrol Kiosk along Havelock Road, Tan spotted her from across the road and decided to follow her as he felt a “temptation and urge to touch her on her buttocks”, according to court documents.
The woman had no idea that she was being followed. At one point, the victim stopped to look at her phone, and Tan hid behind an advertisement board near a bus stop to avoid detection.
The court heard that it was at this point that Tan made his decision to molest the victim. He thought to himself it was “now or never” and put on a pair of work gloves that he had in his backpack.
He then ran towards the victim’s back and used his gloved left hand to cover her mouth. The woman started screaming and struggling. Tan then pulled the woman backwards and she fell to the ground.
Tan then bent over the woman, straddled her right thigh and forcefully used his right hand to go under her shorts and touch her inner thigh near her private parts, according to court documents. However Tan was not able to proceed further as the woman kept struggling. She also hit him in the face with her clutch bag.
After being hit, Tan let go of the woman and ran in the direction of Chin Swee Road and the woman immediately called the police.
After the incident, Tan took the longer route home to avoid people as well as CCTV cameras. He also took the lift at the opposite of his unit to the 18th floor and climbed the stairs to his home – on the 20th floor – in order to avoid detection. He also threw away the cap and gloves he was wearing during the incident.
However, CCTV footage had captured Tan as he was following the victim.
Police managed to establish Tan’s identity and visited his home on 4 August last year. Tan pretended no one was home by switching off all the lights and remaining silent when the police knocked on the door. He eventually let the police in and was arrested.
The prosecution, represented by Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Sruthi Boppana, asked for 30 months’ jail and six strokes of the cane. She cited several aggravating factors, including how Tan had not voluntarily surrendered himself, but cooperated only after he “realised his game was up”. The victim also sustained bruises and scratches from her struggle, said the DPP.
The defence, however, asked for the mandatory minimum jail term of 24 months and two strokes of the cane.
Tan’s lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam said in mitigation that Tan was feeling “euphoric” from a successful work event the previous night when he decided to follow the victim. Tan also showed genuine remorse by readily admitting his wrong and not dragging on court proceedings, said Thuraisingam.
District Judge Imran Abdul Hamid noted that Tan’s offence was premeditated and that he had tried to evade the police.
For voluntarily causing or attempting to cause a person hurt, wrongful restraint in order to facilitate or commit and offence, Tan could have been jailed up to 10 years and caned.