Man slapped mentally impaired job seeker at coffee shop, causing broken skull

Amir Hussain
Senior Reporter
Thomas Lee Zhi Xiong, 38, pleaded guilty to two charges of causing hurt and one count of mischief. (Photo: Getty)

SINGAPORE — A man’s slap to a job seeker at a coffee shop in Sengkang was so hard that it caused the victim to fall backwards and hit his head on the ground, a court heard.

The 50-year-old victim, who has mental impairment for years, had bleeding in the brain and a broken skull and has to stay in a nursing home as a result of the assault.

At the State Courts on Friday (10 January), the 38-year-old assailant Thomas Lee Zhi Xiong was jailed for six months and four weeks.

He pleaded guilty to two charges of causing hurt and one count of mischief relating to three separate incidents.

Another charge of using abusive words was considered in sentencing.

Hit victim and called IMH

Lee worked as a consultant for a group which operates coffee shops. On 24 January 2018, the victim went to the coffee shop at Blk 279 Sengkang East Avenue to ask Lee for a job. The victim had head injury in childhood complicated by developmental delay and also has mental impairment. He had previously worked odd jobs for one of the stall tenants there.

The victim was following Lee and tugging lightly at his shirt when Lee turned around, swung his hand and gave the victim a hard slap. The victim fell backwards and hit the ground with a loud bang. Lee then scolded the victim and went away to smoke.

Some coffee shop patrons went to help the unconscious victim and wanted to call for an ambulance. But Lee told them not to do so and said he would call the Institute of Mental Health to take the victim away. Lee also told his staff to move the victim aside so as not to affect business at the coffee shop.

Later, Lee called the IMH hotline and the police to say, “One mental disorder person here causing trouble”. Someone told the victim’s mother about the incident and she came by to help the victim home.

At home, the victim bled from the nose, vomited and could not control his bladder. His mother took him to a clinic, where a doctor called for an ambulance. The victim was warded for 26 days before being transferred to a nursing home on 19 February and has remained there to date. He requires help in daily living due to poor balance and safety awareness, and his condition is unlikely to improve.

Lee later told police he wanted the victim “to remember the lesson better through pain”, Deputy Public Prosecutor Andrew Low told the court.

Slapped cook’s face

A few months later, on 16 June 2018, Lee went to a roasted meat stall at the coffee shop and demanded to know who had burnt some meat.

A cook admitted to his mistake and stood still quietly as Lee berated him, uttering expletives in Hokkien.

Lee then suddenly swung his right hand and slapped the cook on his left cheek, causing the latter to hit against the corner of a steel cupboard and suffer a cut on his left cheek just below his eye.

The cook called the police and was given two days of medical leave.

Kicked Cisco officer’s bike

On 22 January 2018, Lee also kicked a parking enforcement officer’s motorbike. The officer from Certis Cisco Security was preparing to issue a parking ticket to Lee when the latter came out of the coffee shop and said, “summon summon, keep summoning, siao eh,” while pointing his fingers towards the officer.

The same officer had given Lee summons on previous occasions at the same location. Lee went up to the officer’s motorcycle and kicked it, causing it to fall. He then walked back to his car and challenged the officer to call the police, which he did.

When police officers arrived, Lee claimed that his leg had suddenly cramped and jerked.

In mitigation, Lee’s lawyers Cory Wong and Josephus Tan of Invictus Law said their client has a short temper and was abused as a child. In pleading for leniency, they also noted that Lee was remorseful and his wife gave birth to their third child on Wednesday.

The maximum punishment for causing hurt, before the latest amendments to the Penal Code took effect on 1 January, was two years’ jail and a $5,000 fine. The maximum penalty for the offence now is up to three years’ jail and a $5,000 fine.

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