Construction worker who stabbed roommate over COVID-19-related call to his wife gets jail

Construction worker who stabbed roommate over COVID-19-related call to his wife gets jail

File photo of a man holding a knife
Photo illustration of a man holding a knife. (File photo: AFP)

SINGAPORE: A construction worker talking loudly to his wife on the phone, trying to allay her concerns that he had chosen to remain in Singapore despite the COVID-19 outbreak, irked a dormitory roommate who picked up a knife and stabbed him.

For his act, 49-year-old China national Zhang Chijun was jailed for six months on Friday (Jul 17).

He pleaded guilty to one count of voluntarily causing hurt by an instrument likely to cause death.

The court heard that Zhang shared a dormitory room with the victim, 48-year-old China national Chen Huabing.

They were both construction workers staying in makeshift temporary living quarters in 31A Tanah Merah Coast Road and occupied bunk beds opposite each other in a room shared with eight others.

Mr Chen regularly called his wife, who was in China, at night from his bed.

On the night of May 7, when the "circuit breaker" period was in force prohibiting non-essential outings, Zhang and Mr Chen were both in their shared room, lying on their respective beds.

"The victim was on the phone with his wife, who was upset that he had chosen to remain in Singapore despite the increasing spread of COVID-19 in Singapore," said Deputy Public Prosecutor Grace Teo.

The victim raised his voice while trying to appease his wife, but this annoyed Zhang, as he was trying to sleep.

At about 11.30pm, Zhang told Mr Chen to lower his voice as he continued speaking to his wife.

Mr Chen replied that he was trying to assuage his wife's concerns, but Zhang retorted that Mr Chen should be considerate towards the others in the room who were trying to sleep.

The lights had been switched off in the room, but some light filtered in from the corridor outside.

Mr Chen stood up and walked towards Zhang, intending to switch the lights on. Zhang stood up, retrieved a kitchen knife with a 19cm-long blade from his bedside cabinet, and thrust it forcefully in the direction of the victim.

Mr Chen raised his hand to block the blow but was unsuccessful and was stabbed in his forearm.

He shouted and another roommate switched on the lights to see Zhang holding a knife and Mr Chen bleeding from his arm.

The two men were separated and dormitory security alerted. Zhang was arrested and Mr Chen taken to hospital with a 4cm-long gaping laceration over his forearm.

About 80 per cent of a muscle had been cut, a medical report stated.

Mr Chen was discharged on May 11 and given about two months of hospitalisation leave.

A review on May 26 found that the victim's wound appeared "well".

The prosecutor sought at least six months' jail, noting that a kitchen knife had been used in an attack that was "disproportionate and unprovoked".

Zhang had stabbed the victim in the dark and could have hurt him at a more vulnerable part of his body, and the attack took place in a confined space where at least one other person in the room could also have been injured.

However, the prosecutor also noted that Zhang had no previous convictions and that he had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.

For voluntarily causing hurt by means of an instrument likely to cause death, Zhang could have been jailed for up to seven years, fined, caned, or given any combination of these punishments.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article said that the two men lived in a Samsung dormitory. This information was included in court documents. Samsung has since clarified that it was not its facility. 

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Source: CNA/ll(cy)

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