SINGAPORE — A Muay Thai instructor on trial for sexually assaulting a prospective client while giving her a massage at a gym has denied the offence, claiming that he was in a serious relationship at the time.
Tan Wai Luen, a co-founder of Encore Muay Thai gym, said in court that he had only touched the woman’s outer thigh. The 30-year-old is no longer with the gym, which has only female staff and clients because of the incident in 2016.
Encore, touted as Singapore’s first all-women Muay Thai gym, was founded a month before the incident and is located along Joo Chiat Road.
The trial came to a close on Wednesday (13 November), with the prosecution and Tan, who had discharged his lawyer midway through the trial, submitting on their cases ahead of the verdict.
The 33-year-old victim had testified earlier that she had gone for a trial Muay Thai class at the gym on 1 October 2016 after seeing an advertisement on Facebook for a free trial class and 'body analysis’.
She met Tan, who introduced himself as “Ivan” and the instructor for the trial class, at about 12.15pm at the gym. After the class, the woman discussed packages offered at the gym with Tan, who allegedly offered the woman a free Thai massage. He told her that he was the only one trained to do so.
The victim claimed she accepted the offer and proceeded to the massage table, where she undressed to her panties before lying face down on the massage table and covering herself with a towel.
Tan then massaged her using olive oil. At one point, he massaged her inner thighs near her private parts, making the victim feel uncomfortable. She moved her legs and assumed that the man realised her discomfort as he moved on to massage her calves.
Tan later resumed massaging the woman’s inner thighs and sexually assaulted her. The woman turned around and shouted “oi” at Tan, but he did not respond. The massage continued for about 10 to 15 minutes before the woman changed and left. As she was leaving, the woman realised that the door was locked from inside.
“That was when it dawned upon her that the entire ordeal was premeditated and the accused had deliberately locked the main door,” the prosecution said in its documents.
The next day, the woman sent texts to another co-founder of the gym, Vivian Chan Li Ping, telling her about the alleged incident. Chan testified in court that she confronted the man about the victim’s allegation and he denied giving the woman a Thai massage. Chan later reported the matter to the police.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Kavita Uthrapathy told the court that the victim had perceived Tan to be stronger and trained in Muay Thai. She had not escalated the matter at the point when she was allegedly sexually assaulted as she was in a state of shock.
Accused’s version of events
Tan, who is divorced with three children, said that on the day of the incident, the woman first initiated a conversation with him while the two were having a smoke break outside of the gym. Among her questions, the woman also asked Tan why there was a massage bed in the gym. Tan replied that the bed was used for sports therapy by another partner in the gym.
“During that time I was eager for every sales to be closed as Encore was newly launched so on the way back to Encore, I did say if the victim wants (sic) a Thai massage I don’t mind to offer (sic) her after the trial session,” he said in his closing submissions.
He later offered her a free Thai massage as the woman appeared reluctant to take up the package.
As Tan proceeded with the massage, he insisted that he did not touch the woman’s inner thigh area as he was not a professional therapist. He also massaged her shoulders, arms and legs.
He denied that the woman had shouted at him, pointing out that she would not have continued the massage for up to 15 minutes if he had indeed sexually assaulted her.
At the point in time he was dating another woman, hence it was “impossible” that he would commit such an act, he added.
Due to the case, he had been unable to find a job and support his three children, the eldest of whom has been diagnosed with a psychiatric condition.
“As a single parent, I don’t wish (for) my kids (to grow) up without their father, and (for me to be) ridiculously accused of sexual offences for the massage service given to the victim out of goodwill,” he said.
The verdict of the case has been set for 22 January next year.
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