SINGAPORE: One of three Britons accused of gang-raping a Malaysian woman in Singapore last year gave the police three different accounts of the incident in as many days, the High Court heard on Thursday (Aug 3), the third day of the trial.
In a police statement on Sep 11, 2016, Tam Thanh Khong denied he had raped the 22-year-old woman at Carlton Hotel a day earlier. On Sep 12 he changed his tune, saying they had had consensual sex. In a third statement on Sep 13, Khong, 22, said his friend Richard, also known as Ahn Viet Trinh, had let him in to his hotel room and told him to have sex with the woman, who was drunk and asleep in his bed.
When asked why he had lied in his first statement, Khong said he was scared and “worried about my family and four-year-old (daughter)” in London, where he lives.
“I don’t want my parents to have a son who will get sentenced to jail. I don’t want my (daughter) to grow up with no dad,” he said. In the Sep 13 statement, Khong said: “Having sex is not wrong … she knew exactly what she was doing and with (whom), and she was totally happy about it … this is not rape.” He also told the police that two other men - Vu Thai Son and Michael Le - had also had sex with the woman.
Besides Khong, Vu and Le, both 24, are also on trial for raping the woman that night. Khong and Vu face an additional charge each for sexually assaulting her.
The men, British citizens of Vietnamese descent, had arrived in Singapore on Sep 9 last year for Khong’s brother’s bachelor party. A group of about nine friends headed to nightclub Zouk on Sep 10, where Ahn met the woman. At her suggestion, Ahn took her back to his room at Carlton Hotel, where they had sex before she fell asleep, drunk.
CCTV footage showed that at about 4am, Ahn let Khong into his room, leaving Khong alone with the sleeping woman. Prosecutors allege Khong raped the woman and sexually assaulted her. “(The victim) did not consent to sexual intercourse. (She) was not even awake at this time,” Deputy Public Prosecutor G Kannan told the court at the opening of the trial on Tuesday.
Khong left the room 25 minutes later.
“Like clockwork”, Vu entered the room shortly after 4.25am where he, too, raped and sexually assaulted the victim, DPP Kannan said. Vu left the room at about 4.50am and within a minute, Le was seen entering the room.
“He undressed, got into bed with the victim and raped her. The woman suddenly woke up (while she was being raped) and confronted Le,” DPP Kannan said. After a “heated exchange”, the prosecutor said, Le left the room.
When Ahn returned to the room 15 minutes later at 5.20am, the victim, suspecting that he was involved in what had happened to her, confronted him before leaving the hotel over an hour later, DPP Kannan said. She subsequently went to the police.
The victim is expected to testify against the trio on Friday.
LAWYERS RAISE QUESTIONS ABOUT HOW FINAL SUSPECT FLED SINGAPORE
Ahn, 24, who was placed under investigation along with Khong, Vu and Le, had absconded, the High Court heard. His whereabouts are unknown, although he is suspected to be in Britain.
In court on Thursday, the trio’s lawyers wondered how Ahn had left the country when his passport had been seized by the police, and whether the police had done enough to try and track him down.
Assistant Superintendent Then Lee Yong testified she had tried to trace Ahn’s whereabouts by contacting the British High Commission and the Vietnamese embassy to check if he had applied for a new passport. She had also asked Khong and Le, and Ahn’s lawyer, whether they knew where he was, and had provided his details to the Police Intelligence Department.
ASP Then said Ahn was also placed on an immigration stop list, and a police gazette was issued against him in an effort to track him down. A check with the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority showed he had not left Singapore, ASP Then said.
It was the victim who provided the police with a lead on Ahn’s whereabouts. She showed ASP Then Ahn’s Instagram account, on which Ahn, presumably, had posted a selfie of himself against the backdrop of Kuala Lumpur’s iconic Petronas Towers.
Defence lawyers Shashi Nathan, Kalidass Murugaiyan and Ramesh Tiwary – for Khong, Vu and Le, respectively – questioned why the police had not reached out to their counterparts in Malaysia, or in Britain, where Ahn was attending university, for help to locate him.
“What steps did the police take … bearing in mind you had some information, however credible, that he was in Kuala Lumpur?” Mr Nathan asked. “Did that not heighten your concerns that maybe he had done a runner?”
The lawyer also pointed out that the police had not been in touch with Ahn between September, when they seized his passport, until early December, when they tried to locate him but could not.
The trial continues.