SINGAPORE: A 31-year-old businessman who held his father in a chokehold till he lost consciousness and died was on Thursday (Jun 8) convicted of causing his death by a rash act.
This is the second time Mark Tan Peng Liat’s charge has been reduced. He was initially accused of murder, but it was amended to the lesser charge of culpable homicide. The conviction on the latest charge is an acknowledgement that he never intended to kill his 67-year-old father Tan Kok Keng, or had knowledge that wrapping his arm around the elderly man’s neck would result in his death.
The court heard during a nine-day trial that there is “no doubt” Tan’s intention was to restrain his father, who had assaulted him after they got into an argument. The elder Tan had on Feb 10, 2015, called his son home and accused him of stealing his money.
Tan had indeed admitted to making several withdrawals from a joint back account he held with his father and sister.
During the argument, the elder Tan punched his son and in response, Tan put his father in a chokehold.
When the elder man stopped struggling, Tan released him, only to be assaulted again.
The men ended up in a scuffle on the floor and Tan held his father in a chokehold again until he stopped moving. He left him lying on the floor and walked out of his house to find his aunt outside.
His father’s maid had rushed to her house for help when she saw the father and son fighting.
When the trio went back into the house, the elder Tan was motionless on the floor with his mouth hanging open. Tan called for an ambulance and paramedics rushed his father to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
An autopsy report stated that the cause of death was “manual compression of the neck with contributory cause of hypertensive heart disease”.
Tan’s lawyer, Mr Derek Kang, argued that it is possible the older man had suffered a heart attack, brought on by a pre-existing heart condition which was “triggered” due to the stress of the confrontation with his son.
But District Judge Eddy Tham said this possibility is “speculative at best”. He pointed to the fact that 31 injuries consistent with a struggle were found on the father’s body, including evidence that “a significant amount of force” had been applied to the neck region, which cut off oxygen supply to the brain.
Judge Tham agreed Tan had caused his father’s death, but said prosecutors had not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Tan knew that putting his father in a chokehold, with the aim of restraining him, would cause his death.
The element of knowledge is essential to bring about a conviction for culpable homicide.
Instead, Judge Tham opted to convict Tan of a reduced charge of causing death by doing a rash act, which carries a maximum jail term of five years and a fine.
Had Tan been convicted of culpable homicide, he would have faced up to 10 years’ jail and caning.
Judge Tham will hear sentencing submissions from the prosecution and the defence on Jul 11.