SINGAPORE — In an attempt to detain a man who had been harassing his family for over two years, a 24-year-old man and his stepfather kept him pinned on the floor and later sought help from neighbours to tie him up.
Neither of them expected 26-year-old Shawn Ignatius Rodrigues to die from his injuries at the scene, the State Courts heard on Monday (17 February).
Ryan Xavier Tay Seet Choong, 24, and his stepfather Lawrence Lim Peck Beng, 58, are accused of causing grievous hurt to Rodrigues, who died from traumatic asphyxia with head injury after he was found trussed up with raffia string by police officers on 9 July 2016.
More details of Rodrigues’ alleged harassment of the family emerged in court as the lead investigating officer of the case read out statements taken from both Tay and Lim after Rodrigues’ death.
Tay had met Rodrigues after joining Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea as an altar boy at 10 years old. Rodrigues was already a part of the altar boys then as a senior member of the group. Tay said in his statement that he became close friends with Rodrigues and protected him from other boys, who bullied him as he was “retarded” and “slow” when communicating with others.
At an earlier session, the court had heard that an Institute of Mental Health (IMH) psychiatrist had noted in her report that Rodrigues presented “oddities in speech and demeanour”. These were suggestive of Asperger’s syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
“I felt he developed a special liking (for me) and wanted to see me every day,” said Tay in his statement. However, Rodrigues’ attention soon became unwelcome after he began “sounding feminine”. Suspecting Rodrigues might be gay, Tay confronted Rodrigues, who allegedly responded, “Not like I’m going to marry you anyway”.
Shortly after, Rodrigues was banned as an altar boy for five years after he was caught stealing coins from the church well. However, he continued attending weekly masses. Shortly after Rodrigues was reinstated as an altar boy, he attempted to get close to Tay, following him after mass and using Tay’s childhood photo as his WhatsApp picture, said Tay.
Tay eventually left the church in 2014 as he did not want to be associated with Rodrigues. Other boys had began to think the two were gay. Rodrigues had also started to harass Tay and his mother through repeated phone calls and by loitering at the void deck of Tay’s flat in Yishun.
As a result of Rodrigues’ alleged harassment, the family filed 50 police reports against him. According to Lim, the family had shared their problems in Meet-The-People sessions and taken the issue to the Magistrate’s Court – to no avail.
“Shawn continued to harass us... It seems to me that justice was not served, if something was done this may not have happened,” noted Lim in his statement.
According to Lim, the family had made a police report stating that Rodrigues had molested his wife by pulling her shoulder and arm. Rodrigues had also allegedly assaulted an elderly female neighbour of the family.
Unable to deal with the harassment, the family had reacted in violence to Rodrigues on several occasions.
In early 2016, after Rodrigues had knocked on the family’s flat door for one minute non-stop, Lim said he had sprayed insecticide on Rodrigues’ face “out of frustration”. Rodrigues, who was wearing spectacles, had not retaliated.
Tay recalled in his statement that on three earlier occasions, he had hit Rodrigues after the latter had followed him, and repeatedly asked for his new phone number and grabbed at his bag or hand.
The alleged stalking got so bad that Tay started skipping school as Rodrigues would follow him to the bus stop, according to his statement.
Harassed family five times the day he died
Things came to a head on 9 July 2016 after Rodrigues harassed the family at their Yishun flat five times. Starting from 8.45am that day, Rodrigues had allegedly banged on the door and shouted for Tay.
On the last occasion, at 7.40pm, Rodrigues had again called for Tay, and Lim, who was in the living room tidying up, responded by shouting at Rodrigues, asking him why he wanted to see his stepson. Lim opened the gate to the flat in an attempt to engage Rodrigues. However, Tay, who had woken up by then, appeared, causing Rodrigues to flee.
Tay gave chase, resulting in a scuffle between himself and Rodrigues near a lift and staircase landing. “I wanted to teach him a lesson and detained him to hand him to the police,” said Tay.
During the fight, both fell down a staircase with Rodrigues landing on top of Tay. Tay then rolled Rodrigues over, locked him in a prone position and punched his head at least three times. He also stomped on his shoulder twice and placed his knee on Rodrigues’ back to prevent Rodrigues from getting up. Lim also assisted his stepson by grabbing and locking Rodrigues’ feet.
Tay also tore up a notebook Rodrigues had been carrying in a plastic bag, and threw the remnants down the staircase landing. By then, Rodrigues was bleeding from his nose, and Tay turned his face to the side so that the older man would not drown in his blood.
Even though Lim and Tay shouted for help from neighbours, no one responded until a Malay family and a Chinese woman exited the lift at the floor they were on. Neighbours assisted the two men in binding Rodrigues’ ankles and hand and calling the police.
The scuffle had lasted about 20 minutes until the police arrived. Tay and Lim left for their unit and only learned that Rodrigues had died when a police officer visited the flat. Tay was then arrested.
He maintained in his statement that although he did use excessive force on Rodrigues by stamping and pushing him, his intention had been to detain Rodrigues and hand him over the the police.
Likewise, Lim said in his statement that he simply wanted to hand Rodrigues over to the police as the family’s efforts to keep him away from the family had not come to fruition. “I did not want him to escape this time round, and did not except him to die in process… the objective was to restrain him until the police arrived,” said Lim.
“Though saddened by the events, my family’s daily life has improved so much, there is no (longer any) need to worry about disturbance or harassment in the neighbourhood,” Lim recorded in his statement.
The trial continues.
Stay in the know on-the-go: Join Yahoo Singapore's Telegram channel at http://t.me/YahooSingapore
Other Singapore stories: