Boon Tat Street death: Man who stabbed his son-in-law thrice gets jail

Boon Tat Street death: Man who stabbed his son-in-law thrice gets jail

Tan Nam Seng
Tan Nam Seng arriving at the State Courts on July 12, 2017. (Photo: Robin Choo/TODAY)

SINGAPORE: An elderly man who stabbed his son-in-law thrice in broad daylight during a busy lunch hour and stood over him as he died was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years' jail on Monday (Sep 21).

The judge said this was a "vicious and brazen killing" but noted the accused's major depressive disorder at the time, as well as his "fast-deteriorating" health, which the judge said weighed heavily on his mind.

Tan Nam Seng, 72, pleaded guilty last month to a charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder by stabbing 38-year-old Spencer Tuppani near Boon Tat Street three years ago.

Tan's actions came after Mr Tuppani made several business moves that Tan perceived as a ploy to cheat him of his company. They also lived in the same household, even after Tan's daughter discovered Mr Tuppani's affair with another woman and the couple was quarrelling frequently.

READ: Boon Tat Street death: Man admits to stabbing son-in-law over mistreatment of daughter and business takeover

On the day of the incident - Jul 10, 2017 - Tan saw his son-in-law eating at a coffee shop at 121 Telok Ayer Street.

Tan retrieved a knife from the company's office at Cecil Court before approaching the younger man, who was with three friends.

The accused told Mr Tuppani "you are too much" in Hokkien, before stabbing him three times in quick succession and following the victim as he stumbled away and collapsed in front of an F&B outlet.

Tan stood over his son-in-law and stopped others from helping him, telling them to "let him die" and that "I wish to kill him". Before the police arrived, Tan kicked the younger man's face twice, before calling his daughter.

He said to her: "I can't sleep at night. I have done it. I have killed him. Don't cry. I am old already. I am not scared (of) going to jail."

His daughter cried over the phone and told her father not to do anything, but Tan replied: "What's done cannot be undone."

The victim was found with three stab wounds and died of one of them, which perforated a heart artery.

PROSECUTION PUSHED FOR JAIL, CITING VIOLENT AND PUBLIC KILLING

The prosecution asked for 12 years' jail, saying that while Tan was suffering from major depressive disorder, there were "crucial" aggravating factors including the fact that it was "a revenge tragedy".

Tan exacted revenge on his son-in-law, in a "brutal, public and unprovoked killing" in broad daylight, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Lim Jian Yi.

The act was committed in "a very public place in the middle of the central business district", with a clear reaction from the public of shock and alarm.

Another aggravating factor was Tan's "cold and callous behaviour after the stabbing, preventing help from being rendered".

Mr Lim said Tan acted "quite rationally" in this case, and must be personally deterred "from taking things into his own hands in the future".

"There's also a general deterrence value, that the public knows you cannot take things into your own hands, even if there is a slight against your family, even if there is a commercial dispute," said Mr Lim.

He added that it is unknown whether the victim was going to cheat Tan of his business, and even if he was going to, "killing him is not the answer".

He argued for the court to give little weight to letters tendered to the court from Tan's grandchildren, asking for a lenient sentence.

"The fact is - for one thing, these three children are but three of the five children of Spencer," said Mr Lim. "Spencer has two children with another family, none of whom have said they've forgiven the accused."

DEFENCE LISTS ACCUSED'S GRIEVANCES WITH SON-IN-LAW

Defence lawyer Wee Pan Lee asked for seven-and-a-half years' jail. He said Tan is a divorcee who received only primary school education, beginning work as a coolie for a transport contractor in his early teens. 

He worked his way up to become a ferry clerk and later started his own shipping and transport cargo company at the age of 27.

At its peak, the group of companies employed more than a thousand people, and Tan intended to groom Mr Tuppani to run the business with his daughters after retirement.

However, when Mr Tuppani handled the sale of the business, Tan and his eldest daughter each received only S$450,000 instead of the S$1 million Tan said Mr Tuppani had promised. They also were not given the shares in the new company promised by Mr Tuppani, said the defence.

Over the years, Mr Tuppani hired his parents as employees and used company funds to pay for his younger brother's overseas education.

"He used company funds to fund his own lavish lifestyle ... for expensive cars, luxury watches and the upkeep of (his) mistresses," said Mr Wee.

Tan later discovered his daughter's marital woes with Mr Tuppani, who had been "involved in a string of extramarital affairs". Tan's daughter kept it from her father so as not to aggrieve him. She had conceived a fourth child in 2015 but "was forced to terminate this pregnancy by Spencer", claimed Mr Wee.

Tan began to realise that Mr Tuppani would not honour his word to return company shares to him and his daughter, and realised his son-in-law had been surreptitiously recording arguments with his daughter to use in divorce proceedings, going against his word to Tan not to fight over custody.

Mr Tuppani also suspended Tan's other daughter from the company and used vulgarities against Tan's ex-wife in an argument.

"It dawned upon the accused that he had fallen victim to Spencer’s ploy and it was planned all along to keep (the) shares and balance of cash for himself, and the constant reassurances and promises were lies and were all part of Spencer’s ploy to destroy the family," said Mr Wee.

Mr Wee said his client had no previous convictions, was not a violent person and had good relationships with his family and employees.

He also had a good relationship with Mr Tuppani before the incident, and was not just his father-in-law but his mentor, treating him like his own son and letting Mr Tuppani's mother stay in Tan's home.

Tan also suffered multiple health issues during the three years of his remand, contracting tuberculosis, suffering two heart attacks and undergoing bypass surgery.

Mr Wee said Tan's life expectancy is only about eight to nine years, and sentencing him to jail for longer than this is effectively a life imprisonment sentence.

"VICIOUS AND BRAZEN KILLING"

"Objectively, to a right-minded person, this was a vicious and brazen killing carried out in broad daylight on an unsuspecting victim having a meal in a coffee shop in the CBD," said Justice Dedar Singh Gill.

However, medical evidence has established that Tan had major depressive disorder and was experiencing an episode at the time, said the judge.

He was also in a pervasive dysphoric state and was worried about the well-being of his daughters. This state of mind adversely affected his impulse control and judgment and significantly impaired his mental responsibility for the act, the judge added.

After the sentence was passed, Tan's daughter and grandchildren gathered around the dock to speak to him.

Tan's daughter declined to comment when approached by CNA.

For culpable homicide not amounting to murder, Tan could have been jailed for life. He cannot be caned as he is above 50.

Source: CNA/ll

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