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May 20, 2003

Deaf mute's death: Attacker escapes gallows

From: Straits Times, Singapore - May 20, 2003

Intention was not to kill so Court of Appeal overturns murder conviction - former crane operator gets 10 years' jail

By Elena Chong

A 28-YEAR-OLD man who bludgeoned a deaf mute to death in a fit of rage, has escaped the gallows and a lifetime in jail.

In a rare decision, the Court of Appeal overturned the High Court's conviction that former crane operator Tan Chun Seng was guilty of murder.

Instead, it convicted him of the culpable homicide of general worker Krishnan Sengal Rajah and sentenced him yesterday to 10 years' jail.

It based its decision on fresh arguments submitted on Monday.

Lawyer Subhas Anandan argued then that Tan had been involved in a 'sudden fight' with Mr Krishnan, who had pushed him. He had no intention of killing the 44-year-old but just wanted to teach him a lesson.

The court agreed.

At his trial in February, Tan's defence was that he had been provoked by Mr Krishnan, but that argument was thrown out by the court.

Mr Subhas, who did not represent Tan then, pointed out that only one of his blows landed on Mr Krishnan's head, and it caused his death.

The fight happened at the junction of Dunlop Street and Perak Road on June 30, 2001, where an angry Tan had accosted Mr Krishnan.

He had followed the deaf mute and his friend after the latter hit the window of his recently-bought car and challenged him to get out.

When Tan lost sight of the friend, he confronted Mr Krishnan instead, abusing him verbally and demanding an explanation for his friend's actions.

Mr Krishnan pushed him on the chest, causing him to fall, then kept on walking. Tan grabbed a pole and attacked him from behind.

Mr Krishnan, a father of two children aged 16 and 15, died from a broken skull.

Tan, who is 1.64m tall and weighs about 60kg, had told the police that he continued hitting the 1.7m-tall, 90kg Mr Krishnan even after he went down because he was afraid the larger man would get up and overpower him.

He later found out that the man was a deaf mute.

Deputy Public Prosecutor David Chew conceded the attack was not pre-meditated but argued that Mr Krishnan had been walking away when he was attacked.

Yesterday, he asked for life imprisonment or 10 years and 12 strokes of the cane to be imposed.

Chief Justice Yong Pung How, Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin and Justice M.P.H. Rubin gave Tan 10 years and backdated the sentence to his arrest on April 16 last year.

About 10 members of Tan's family, including his estranged wife and three-year-old daughter, were in court for the hearing.

Tan's mother, housewife Tng Choo Gek, 47, said that justice had prevailed.

Tan's cousin, renovation contractor Seah Boon Leng, 39, expressed his condolences to Mr Krishnan's family for what had happened.

Asked for her comments, his wife, Madam Neelachi Singaram, 46, also a deaf mute, referred The Straits Times to Mr Krishnan's younger brother, Mr S.R.J. Selvaraju, 36, who said: 'I was very shocked at the revised sentence at first, but I was told that his intention was not to kill my brother. I just have to accept the facts.'

Copyright @ 2003 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.