Public Prosecutor v Tsang Yuk Chung

JudgeChan Sek Keong J
Judgment Date20 September 1988
Neutral Citation[1988] SGHC 76
Citation[1988] SGHC 76
Defendant CounselThomas Chan (Thomas Chan & Co)
Published date19 September 2003
Plaintiff CounselLee Seiu Kin (Deputy Public Prosecutor)
Date20 September 1988
Docket NumberCriminal Case No 31 of 1986
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Subject MatterMurder,Intention,Criminal Law,ss 300 & 302 Penal Code (Cap 103, 1970 Ed),Offences,Injury intended sufficient in ordinary course of nature to cause death,Whether there was grave and sudden provocation of sudden fight

The accused, Tsang Yuk Chung, was charged as follows:

That you Tsang Yuk Chung on or about 15 October 1985 at about 11.20am at the pantry/gallery room on board the vessel `Kilmun` berthed alongside berth J6, Jurong Port, Singapore, did commit murder by causing the death of one Leung Sang, and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under s 302 of the Penal Code (Cap 103, 1970 Ed).

At the end of a seven-day trial we convicted him on the said charge.
We now give our reasons.

The evidence adduced by the prosecution was as follows.
At about 11.25 am on 15 October 1985, one Yong Ah Watt (PW4) was working on board the vessel `Kilmun`. He was repairing a water cooler which was situated in the, passage way of the poop deck. Next to but on the other side of the passage way was the pantry. The door of the pantry was a short distance away. At that time, the pantry door was open. The galley was next to and on the other side of the pantry. It was very quiet at that time as the ship`s engine was not on. As Yong felt hungry, he looked at his watch and saw that it was 11.30am. Then he beard a loud voice shouting for help (`kow mian` in Cantonese). The shout came from the galley. Yong then proceeded to the pantry. As he was about to enter the pantry, he saw the accused walking out of the door. The accused walked past Yong on the left. Yong also saw the junior steward (later identified as Sum Wai Mun) who was standing near the centre of the door. Yong heard the second cook, Leung Sang, telling Sum to send for help. He was able to speak clearly. Leung Sang was covering his stomach with his hands. Blood was coming out on the left side. He was then standing near a serving table at the far end of the pantry next to the crew mess. Yong saw Sum running up the staircase which was just outside the door of the pantry.

When the accused left the pantry, he turned left and walked along the passage way leading to his cabin.
Yong followed the accused at a short distance. The accused then turned right followed by Yong, who was about 25 feet away. Yong saw the accused opening the door of his cabin with his left hand. Yong also saw the accused holding something with a round handle in his right hand. After the accused had entered his cabin and closed the door, Yong then went to telephone for an ambulance. After that, he came back to the pantry and found Leung Sang sitting on the floor against the wall in front of the galley. He was dead. There were also many crew members, including the captain, in the pantry.

Yong, who had joined the ship about ten days before the incident, also testified that he had heard Leung Sang and the accused quarrelling on two or three occasions.
They had arguments on trivial things: each had complaints to make about the other concerning their work.

Lee Hoi Mun (PW3), also testified that he was a fitter on board the vessel since July 1985.
He knew both the accused and the deceased. He had seen them quarrel on two occasions over their work. Their first quarrel started in September 1985 on where the meat should be kept. The second quarrel which was more serious was also about food. The quarrel started when the deceased was in the pantry while the accused was in the crew mess. The deceased came into the crew mess. He wanted to fight the accused and Lee had to restrain him from doing so.

On the day of the incident, Lee had woken up at about 10 am as he was on medical leave.
He went into the pantry to make some toast. The accused was then making salad. He told Lee not to dirty the place. Lee also heard the accused telling him not to restrain him the next time he wanted to fight and that this time he wanted to kill someone. Lee thought that the accused was joking. After Lee had eaten his breakfast in the crew mess, he went back to his room to sleep.

Corporal G Muniandi (PW6) was the first policeman who boarded the vessel.
He arrived at about 11.40am and was taken to the pantry by the captain. He saw the deceased in a sitting position next to the door to the galley. He told the captain not to remove anything. The ambulance officer arrived at about 11.50 am. She checked the body and pronounced Leung Sang dead. After questioning the captain and the chief steward, Corporal Muniandi was led to the accused`s cabin. He knocked at the door and said, `Police here, open the door.` The accused opened the door and stepped backwards. Corporal Muniandi went into the cabin. He questioned the accused who replied, `I want no trouble. I follow you.` His voice was clear. The accused was steady and relaxed but smelt of beer. Corporal Muniandi took the accused`s seaman`s book from inside a drawer of the table next to the bed. The book confirmed the accused`s identity. By that time another police constable had arrived with handcuffs. Corporal Muniandi took the handcuffs and put them on the accused`s hands behind his back. Subsequently Corporal Muniandi and another police sergeant (Sergeant Mohideen) searched the accused`s cabin but found nothing incriminating. There was a beer can on the table in the cabin. Corporal Muniandi also saw the knife which he had earlier found in the drawer. Subsequent investigations showed that this knife had not been used in the stabbing.

At about 12.10pm, the accused was taken to the lock-up in the `police post near to where the vessel was berthed.
He was there until 2.03pm when he was escorted by two policemen to Changi Prison Hospital for a medical examination. Upon their arrival, the policemen were made to wait for about an hour and was then told that the accused should be examined at Changi Hospital. They then escorted the accused to Changi Hospital, arriving at about 3.57pm. The accused was examined at 4.05pm. At about 4.35pm the accused was escorted to PSA Police Headquarters. They arrived at 5.02pm and the accused was sent to the lock-up.

The medical examination did not reveal any injuries on the accused.
His blood was taken for alcohol analysis. No ethanol or methanol was detected in his blood.

Dr Clarence Tan (PW1), a forensic pathologist, had on 15 October 1985 examined the body of the deceased on board the vessel.
The following day he performed an autopsy on the deceased. He testified that the deceased had died of a single stab wound at the right side of the anterior abdominal wall region. The wound measured 6.5cm by 2.8cm when lax but 7cm with the margins of the wound approximated together. The lower edge of the wound was split and showed fish-tailing. This meant that the knife did not go straight into or out the body but had moved during its passage through the body. He could not tell whether the fish-tailing was caused by the movement of the blade against the body or the movement of the body against the knife. The wound was 10-12cm deep. It had cut through a part of the large intestine, the small intestine, the root of the mesentery (which is the layer of fatty tissue that connects the small intestine to the back of the abdomen from whence it gets its blood supply). The knife also-penetrated the aorta running along the spinal column, entering it and exiting on the other side and terminating in the muscle lying next to the spinal column. Dr Tan was of the opinion that only moderate force was required to cause the wound as there was nothing to resist the passage of the knife into that region of the stomach. He also testified that it would be virtually impossible to save a person who had suffered this kind of injury.

From the position of the wound and the angle of entry of the knife, Dr Tan opened that if the two persons had faced each other directly, the assailant would have been holding the knife with his left hand in order to thrust it into the body.
If he were holding the knife in his right hand, he would have to stand at an angle to the victim. If it was neither of these two positions, then the assailant would have to stand behind the victim. Dr Tan ruled out the third possibility because of the horizontal position of the track of the wound.

There was no other or defensive wound on the deceased.
When cross-examined, Dr Tan agreed that the lack of a defensive wound did not necessarily mean that the victim had been taken by surprise as it was possible that the victim could have been stabbed whilst the assailant and the victim were struggling with the knife. However, Dr Tan did not commit himself to a definite view as to whether the knife wound could have been caused during a struggle. In re-examination, he was also non-committal as regards this possibility since it depended on the relative position of the assailant and the victim during the struggle.

At about 6.15pm on the same day, the accused gave a statement under s 122(6) of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68).
The statement was taken down by Inspector Lee (PW11) through the interpretation of one Wong Shue Hong. The accused challenged the admissibility of this statement on the ground that it was not made voluntarily by the accused.

In the trial-within-a-trial which followed, the accused alleged that he had been stripped naked and left in that condition in his cell for about an hour before he was taken out of the cell for his statement to be taken.
He also alleged that both his hands were handcuffed throughout the time he was giving his statement and that he gave it because he was frightened. He admitted that although he had not been threatened by anyone he felt frightened. We did not believe the accused`s testimony that he was left naked in his cell for about an hour or that both his hands were handcuffed in front when he was giving his statement. He gave conflicting versions as to when and how these events had occurred. We believed the evidence of the prosecution witnesses on these events. In any case, having regard to the whole of his testimony on this issue, we were of the view that these incidents, even if they occurred, did not detract from the voluntariness of his statement. The accused was not subject to any inducement,...

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