Public Prosecutor v Lim Poh Lye and Another

JudgeChao Hick Tin JA
Judgment Date15 July 2005
Neutral Citation[2005] SGCA 31
Docket NumberCriminal Appeal No 2 of 2005
Date15 July 2005
Published date18 July 2005
Plaintiff CounselLawrence Ang (Principal Senior State Counsel), Francis Ng and Jason Chan (Deputy Public Prosecutors)
Citation[2005] SGCA 31
Defendant CounselIsmail Hamid and Alan Moh (Ismail Hamid and Co),Loo Ngan Chor and Julian Tay Wei Loong (Lee and Lee) (assigned)
CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
Subject MatterWhether injury inflicted accidentally,s 34 Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed),Accused intending to inflict injury found on victim,Accused not aware injury sufficient in course of nature to cause victim's death,Knives brought by accused to frighten victim but eventually used to injure victim,Section 300(c) Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed),Murder,Criminal Law,Complicity,Whether use of knives in furtherance of common intention to rob,Offences,Common intention,Interpretation of s 300(c) Penal Code

15 July 2005

Chao Hick Tin JA (delivering the judgment of the court):

1 This is an appeal by the Public Prosecutor against an order of acquittal made by Choo Han Teck J at the conclusion of a trial, at which a charge of murder under s 302, read with s 34, of the Penal Code (“the PC”) (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed), was preferred against the two respondents, Lim Poh Lye (“Lim”) and Tony Koh Zhan Quan (“Koh”). Instead, the judge convicted the respondents on a lesser charge of robbery with hurt punishable under s 394 of the PC, with Lim being sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane and Koh, 15 years’ imprisonment and 20 strokes of the cane.

2 The original charge of murder preferred against the respondents read:

That you, (1) Lim Poh Lye (2) Tony Koh Zhan Quan, on or about the 2nd day of April 2004, between 11.00 am and 1.47 pm, in Singapore, together with one Ng Kim Soon and in furtherance of the common intention of you all, committed murder by causing the death of one Bock Tuan Thong, male/56 years old, and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under section 302 read with section 34 of the Penal Code, Chapter 224.

The facts

3 The facts giving rise to the charge brought against the respondents are largely undisputed. Sometime from mid to end March 2004, the respondents and one other person, Ng Kim Soon (“Ng”), planned to rob a second-hand car dealer, Bock Thuan Thong (“Bock”), who eventually died at their hands, giving rise to the murder charge. Ng left the country soon after the crime had been committed and is presently still at large. Koh also left Singapore for Malaysia with Ng but he later surrendered to the Malaysian police and was repatriated to Singapore. Lim remained in Singapore all the while and surrendered himself to the police a few days after the crime.

4 The plan hatched by the trio was that they would, on 2 April 2004, abduct the deceased and force him to sign cheques of up to $600,000. A knife would be used to frighten Bock if he should prove to be difficult. Koh would also bring some chemical to be applied to the deceased’s eyes to prevent him from recognising them afterwards. After the cheques had been obtained from Bock, the latter would be drugged with Diazepam (valium).

5 On the appointed day, the trio met up at a coffee shop. They purchased a bottle of Coca Cola and dropped a tablet of valium into the bottle. Koh handed to Lim a small knife. In addition, Koh had also brought along two big knives in a sling bag which he was carrying. Ng, who was acquainted with Bock, had, pursuant to the plan, made an arrangement to meet Bock at the Automobile Megamart at Ubi (“the Auto Mart”).

6 The trio proceeded to the Auto Mart in Koh’s car. When the deceased arrived and saw Ng, he alighted from his car. But he was quickly bundled by Lim and Koh into the backseat of his car, a Mercedez Benz bearing registration number SBU 6920. They then drove off in the Mercedez Benz, with Ng as the driver. The car belonged to Bock’s brother, as Bock’s own car was under repair. Lim was seated behind the driver’s seat and Koh behind the front passenger seat. Bock was sandwiched between the two.

7 In the car, notwithstanding Bock’s denial, Koh managed to find Bock’s cheque book in the bag which Bock was carrying. Ng then stopped the car and changed places with Koh, who then took over as the driver. Ng wrote out several cheques and made Bock sign them, one of which was for the sum of $10,000. However, instead of just writing “$10,000”, Bock wrote “one ten thousand dollars” in Chinese characters. Bock was asked to correct that. Koh drove to a spot near to the MacPherson branch of the United Overseas Bank (“UOB”), where Ng alighted. Koh drove the car off and turned into Siang Kuang Avenue and waited there.

8 At the UOB branch, Ng sought to encash the $10,000 cheque. However, the bank officer wanted to verify with Bock, the account holder. As Ng was then holding Bock’s handphone, Ng managed to contact Koh to ask him to come round to pick up Bock’s handphone. When the bank officer eventually called, Koh did not answer it, his explanation being, as he said at the trial, that he was angry with Ng for not adhering to the original plan of writing a cheque for $100,000.

9 Back at the car, which was stationary at Siang Kuang Avenue, Bock tried to escape. The first attempt was made by him when Koh was waiting for the bank officer to call. Bock was caught and brought back into the car and beaten. Koh then drove the car into Jalan Wangi, a one way crescent road. At a certain location, when Koh stopped the car, Bock made his second attempt to escape. Bock tried to draw attention by shouting for help and waving his hands. This was witnessed by several persons who also saw Lim and Koh assaulting Bock. Two persons (Yuen Siew Kwan and his daughter, Audrey) were in a car behind the car Koh was driving. They saw Bock struggling to get out of the car and Lim kicking and punching him in an effort to prevent his escape. They also saw Koh getting out of the driver’s seat and going into the rear nearside of the car to punch and push Bock back into the car. They also witnessed Koh slamming the car door repeatedly against Bock’s leg. However, they did not see any knife being used. As Bock was getting increasingly difficult to handle, Ng was asked to come back from the bank.

10 Before long, Ng came back to the car without having had the $10,000 cheque encashed. He took over the driving of the car and Koh returned to the back seat of the car.

11 The trio drove from Jalan Wangi into MacPherson Road, Upper Aljunied Road and Upper Serangoon Road and, throughout the journey, Bock put up a violent struggle. At a traffic light junction below the Woodsville Flyover, one Daniel Sin, a member of the public, who was driving next to the trio’s vehicle saw the man sitting behind the driver repeatedly punching the man sitting in the middle of the backseat, with the man sitting behind the front passenger seat holding down the victim. At a certain point, Sin saw the man on the right of Bock placing his hand on the driver’s seat headrest and when he removed his hand, bloodstains were seen on the headrest. When the traffic lights at the junction changed, Sin followed the trio’s car along Boon Keng Road up to the point where the trio turned into Block 6A, a multi-storey car park. Sin then went on his own way.

12 At level B4 of the car park, Bock was brought out of the car by the trio and placed in the boot of the car. At that stage, it would appear that Bock did not put up any struggle. Moreover, along the way to deck B4, Koh had put the chemical into Bock’s eyelids with the intention of blinding him so that he would not be able to identify Lim and Koh. There was no evidence whether the chemical did cause any permanent injury to Bock’s eyes, as the police did not investigate that aspect, being essentially concerned, which they must, with the apprehension of the culprits to the killing.

13 The trio left Bock in the trunk of the car, and Koh returned to his own car, a Hyundai which was parked at the other end of the car park. Ng requested that Koh drive him back to the MacPherson branch of UOB as he had left his identity card there. His presence at the UOB branch on this second occasion was recorded by the bank’s video camera. After dropping Ng, Koh and Lim proceeded, as instructed by Ng, to Mount Vernon where they burnt various articles taken from Bock. We should mention that a bundle of $11,000 in cash which was in Bock’s back trouser pocket was not discovered by the trio. Soon, Ng joined them, having come by taxi. Subsequently, Ng and Koh fled in Koh’s car to Malaysia to avoid arrest. However, Lim stayed behind and surrendered to the police on 5 April 2004. On the trip to Malaysia, Koh was accompanied by a lady friend, Yeo Seok Leng (“Yeo”), who thought that they were just visiting relatives in Kuala Lumpur. The next day, Koh and Ng went their separate ways. On some pretext, Koh also left Yeo to go to Ipoh. Later, Yeo learnt that Koh was wanted by the Singapore police. She returned to Singapore on 1 May 2004. Before long, Koh surrendered to the Malaysian police on 20 May 2004 and was brought back to Singapore on 22 May 2004.

Cause of death

14 The forensic pathologist, Dr Clarence Tan, who performed an autopsy on Bock, found a whole host of bruises or injuries on Bock’s head and body, including seven stab wounds to the legs of Bock, five on the right leg and two on the left. Dr Tan was of the opinion that stab wound No 2, which penetrated a major blood vessel, the right femoral vein, had caused uncontrolled and continuous bleeding which caused death. The depth of that stab wound was about eight to ten centimetres. Dr Tan also opined that stab wound No 1 “would have contributed to the effects of haemorrhage”. The head injury, in his view, would also have compromised the cerebral integrity and “contributed to the mechanism of death”.

Murder under s 300(c) generally

15 Section 300 of the PC provides that culpable homicide would amount to murder in the following instances:

(a) if the act by which the death is caused is done with the intention of causing death;

(b) if it is done with the intention of causing such bodily injury as the offender knows to be likely to cause the death of the person to whom the harm is caused;

(c) if it is done with the intention of causing bodily injury to any person, and the bodily injury intended to be inflicted is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death; or

(d) if the person committing the act knows that it is so imminently dangerous that it must in all probability cause death, or such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, and commits such act without any excuse for incurring the risk of causing death, or such injury as aforesaid.

16 At the trial below, and now on appeal, the Prosecution submitted that both the respondents are guilty of murder under s 300(c) read with s 34...

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