Man who started six-vehicle blaze at Boon Lay carpark because he 'felt bored' jailed 30 months

Wan Ting Koh
·Senior Reporter
SCDF officers fighting the fire outside Boon Lay Shopping Centre on Wednesday (17 October) morning. (PHOTO: Kesh Kanth / Facebook)
SCDF officers fighting the fire outside Boon Lay Shopping Centre on Wednesday (17 October) morning. (PHOTO: Kesh Kanth / Facebook)

SINGAPORE — Feeling bored, a man set a motorcycle seat on fire and watched as the blaze spread to other vehicles at an open air carpark in Boon Lay Place.

Loh Hsien Aik, 33, saw that the fire was starting to spread to another motorcycle and a BMW car but did not call for assistance.

The unemployed man was sentenced to two and a half years’ jail on Wednesday (10 July) after he pleaded guilty to one count of committing mischief by fire. Another similar charge taken into consideration for his sentencing.

His lawyer, Anand Shankar Tiwari told the court that Loh had gone to the open air carpark to smoke a cigarette but decided to set the motorcycle seat on fire out of boredom.

Urge to set something on fire

At about 12.49am on 17 October last year, Loh was walking around the vicinity of Boon Lay Shopping Centre after consuming several cans of beer.

He came across a motorcycle in the open air carpark. Feeling bored and driven by the urge to set something on fire, Loh set alight the motorcycle’s seat with his lighter.

Loh then walked slightly away but found that the fire had spread to the vehicles – another motorcycle and a BMW car – adjacent to the one he set fire to. He then lingered to watch the fire but did not contact the authorities for assistance.

A member of the public who was having dinner at a nearby coffee shop spotted the fire and called the police at about 12.59am.

When firefighters arrived at the scene, they found that a total of five motorcycles and the car had been caught in the blaze.

Of the vehicles affected, all but one motorcycle was ruined beyond repair. The remaining motorcycle had its side charred. The total damage caused amounted to $103,244.81, while insurance payouts for the damage covered only $34,237.68.

Loh was arrested the next day.

Accused did not act in malice: Defence

Calling for Loh to be jailed between 30 and 36 months, Deputy Public Prosecutor Suhas Malhotra said that less than a third of the cost in damages was recovered through insurance claims.

The primary sentencing consideration here was the large scale of the fire and the extensive damage caused, said the DPP.

Loh had also failed to call for help or put out the fire when the flames were still small, the prosecution added.

Meanwhile, Loh’s lawyer sought two to six months’ jail for his client. Tiwari said that Loh had not gone to the carpark with the intent to set fire to its vehicles.

“(It was that Loh) felt bored and wanted to commit a pure act of vandalism that he set fire to the motorcycle seat,” said Tiwari, adding that the act was done in a “spur of the moment”.

Loh had not known the owners of the vehicles and did not act in malice, the lawyer added.

In sentencing Loh, District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan called the defence’s proposed sentence “manifestly inadequate” considering the extent of damage caused.

For committing mischief by fire, Loh could have been jailed up to seven years and fined.

Related story:

Fire damages 5 motorcycles, 1 car outside Boon Lay Shopping Centre