Yishun fatal assault: Victim had 'obsessive preoccupation' with alleged attacker, court told

Photo of a hooded criminal stalking in the shadows of a dark street alley.  The hooded man is a silhouette and hiding in the dark.  The man is a criminal waiting to ambush victims.  The concrete walls provide copyspace.The photo depicts crime.
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SINGAPORE — A man with language developmental issues who struggled to form relationships throughout his life had thought of his alleged attacker as a good friend, the State Courts heard on Thursday (13 February).

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Susan Zachariah also told the court that full-time National Serviceman Shawn Ignatius Rodrigues, 26, displayed an obsessive preoccupation with his former church mate Ryan Xavier Tay Seet Choong, 24.

Dr Zachariah, of the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), assessed Rodrigues on 7 July 2016, two days before he died. The Community Court had advised Rodrigues to attend counselling sessions when he continued to harass Tay and his family even after they filed a protection order against him.

Alongside Dr Zachariah’s testimony, further details in the IMH psychiatric report on Rodrigues were read out in court on Thursday (13 February) during the trial of Tay and his stepfather Lawrence Lim Peck Beng, 58, who are accused of causing grievous hurt to Rodrigues. Tay had known Rodrigues since December 2014 as both were altar boys in the same church.

Tay and Lim are accused of assaulting Rodrigues, who was found with his ankles and hands bound with raffia string by police officers on 9 July 2016. Rodrigues died from his injuries at the scene.

In her report, Dr Zachariah noted that Rodrigues presented “oddities in speech and demeanour” which were suggestive of Asperger’s syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Those with Asperger’s have difficulty interacting with others and tend to be loners. They lack the instinct and skill to express thoughts and feelings, and they might not recognise verbal and non-verbal cues or understand social norms, said the psychiatrist.

“In the course of the interview he kept mentioning that he wants to talk to Ryan his friend, meet up with Ryan and talk to his friend, there was a certain preoccupation he wanted to go and see Ryan and wanted to meet up with him,” she said.

“I felt that he had obsessive thoughts preoccupied with meeting his friend Ryan,” she added.

Rodrigues had completed his studies in micro and nanotechnology in Republic Polytechnic before serving National Service with the Republic of Singapore Air Force.

More than 50 police reports

Tay’s lawyer Peter Low revealed in court on Thursday that Tay’s family had lodged more than 50 police reports against Rodrigues in an effort to keep him away. Tay’s mother also made a report alleging that Rodrigues had molested her.

According to earlier media reports, Tay’s neighbours testified that Rodrigues had been loitering around the block from 2014. The neighbours had also helped Tay tie Rodrigues up on the day he died.

Rodrigues’ alleged harassment of the family - even after they filed a protection order - prompted the Community Court to advise him to attend counselling sessions at the Centre for Psychotherapy (CFP).

Rodrigues was later referred to IMH where Dr Zachariah, who retired last year, assessed him. Asked to explain her assessment of Rodrigues, she said that Rodrigues speech was “pedantic” and lacked fluency, displaying some features of Asperger’s syndrome during her 40 minute interview.

The assessment was not a conclusive diagnosis. She referred Rodrigues to IMH’s Adult Neurodevelopmental Service. However, Rodrigues died before he could attend any follow-up.

During the interview, Rodrigues had told Dr Zachariah that he was asked not to communicate with Tay after a March 2015 incident.

When the psychiatrist asked him about the incident however, Rodrigues did not want to elaborate and was “not forthcoming” about the issue.

‘Why do you keep going there’: psychotherapist

A Clinical Director and psychotherapist from the CFP had also seen Rodrigues and his parents in 10 counselling sessions after the referral by the court counsellor came on 4 May 2016. Rodrigues was asked to attend the sessions as he had been “surveilling and contacting” Tay and his family. Dr Nisha Rani’s last session with Rodrigues was on the morning before he died.

During his sessions with Dr Rani, Rodrigues said that he had been banned for a short time from his church but did not specify why. He said that Tay had distorted a message sent by Rodrigues and posted it on Facebook.

Rodrigues also became obsessed with talking to Tay and repeated that he wanted the latter to “confess and tell the truth”. He also believed that Tay was being controlled by Lim and Tay’s mother in an attempt to “bury the truth”. When asked by the psychotherapist, Rodrigues refused to reveal this “truth” for fear of badmouthing Tay.

Dr Rani speculated that Rodrigues suffered from erotomania, which was an obsession and a belief that a person loved him. However, Rodrigues denied having a crush on Tay, and his body language had been in line with the denial, stated Dr Rani.

Rodrigues had also told Dr Rani about the escalating violence inflicted on him by Tay’s family and friends. In August 2015, Tay’s friends assaulted him to the extent that he lost two front teeth. Tay’s mother also sprayed him in the face with foam on one occasion. On another, Tay beat him until he bled.

Rani had advised Rodrigues to stop visiting the family. However, in his last session with Rani, Rodrigues revealed that he had gone to the block opposite Tay’s every single day of that week. This prompted the psychotherapist to tell him that he could get tied up and killed.

“I told him that next time, they might actually tie you up and kill you, why do you keep going there, I wanted to scare him actually ...I wanted him to see that it was getting worse, not better,” she said.

The trial continues next Monday.

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