Teens who robbed prostitutes at HDB flat were inspired by Crimewatch episode

·Senior Reporter
John Karan Karunakaran, 18, and Theophileous Jebaraj, 16, each pleaded guilty to one charge of armed robbery at night. (Photo: Getty Images)
John Karan Karunakaran, 18, and Theophileous Jebaraj, 16, each pleaded guilty to one charge of armed robbery at night. (Photo: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Three teenagers in need of quick cash decided to rob illegal sex workers armed with a fruit knife, a court heard.

Their inspiration? An episode of the popular television programme Crimewatch.

The trio, now aged 14, 16 and 18, made off with $200 in total from two prostitutes. They also robbed $112 from a man at knifepoint.

At the State Courts on Friday (28 June), two of the perpetrators - John Karan Karunakaran, 18, and Theophileous Jebaraj, 16 - each pleaded guilty to one charge of armed robbery at night involving $100.

The youngest culprit, who cannot be named due to his age, also pleaded guilty to his crime at the Youth Courts in May.

All three have yet to be sentenced.

Recalled watching television show

On 3 September last year, the trio met at night and discussed getting money.

John was undergoing probation at the time while Theophileous was serving an 18-month sentence at the Singapore Boys’ Home pursuant to a juvenile rehabilitation order imposed by the Youth Court. Their offences were not elaborated in court.

Theophileous had been released on time leave on 2 September, but absconded. He suggested that they commit robbery as a fast way to get cash, the court heard.

“Theophileous recalled watching a television show Crimewatch which had showcased a robbery of illegal sex workers in Singapore,” Deputy Public Prosecutor Tay Jia En told Community Court judge May Mesenas.

“The accused persons were then inspired to rob illegal sex workers as they were of the view that this was a “safer” way of committing robbery,” she added.

John volunteered to find the sex workers online, while Theophileous suggested that they get knives. John and the 14-year-old then volunteered to each bring knives to commit the robbery.

At about 10.30pm on 5 September, the trio robbed $112 from a man at a HDB block along Woodlands Ring Road. Theophileous pointed a fruit knife at the victim during the robbery.

About an hour later, the teenagers knocked on the door of a fourth floor flat at a HDB block along Woodlands Street 13.

Two illegal sex workers from China, both aged 35, were renting out the apartment. They were on social visit passes. The Chinese women let the trio in, thinking they were customers.

Inside a room, Theophileous pointed a fruit knife at one of the women and demanded money. He then searched the cupboards and drawers in the room for valuables and pocketed $100.

Theophileous came out of the room and told his accomplices to search for valuables. They made off with another $100.

Four days later, one of the women made a police report about the robbery at Bukit Timah East Neighbourhood Police Centre.

John and Theophileous are expected to be sentenced on 18 July, pending reports on their suitability for reformative training.

Reformative training is a rehabilitative sentencing option for offenders below 21 who are unsuitable for probation. Offenders will spend between 18 months and three years at a Reformative Training Centre, where they will have to follow a strict regimen that includes foot drills and counselling.

The punishment for robbery committed between 7pm and 7am is a jail term of between three years and 14 years, with at least 12 strokes of the cane.

If an offender commits robbery while armed with a weapon, he faces additional caning of at least 12 strokes.

Under the law, when a crime is committed jointly by several people, each person is liable for it as if it was committed by just that person.

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