SINGAPORE: A former psychology lecturer at the National University of Singapore (NUS) was found guilty on Monday (Jul 22) of molesting five 13-year-old boys at a school camp 20 years ago.
He had done so on the pretext of massaging them, powdering them or helping them during a shower.
Chan Cheng, now 59, was convicted after a trial of five charges of molesting the boys over three days in June 1999. Another seven charges of molesting four other boys were stood down.
District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan said he was satisfied that all the prosecution witnesses were credible in their evidence, despite some minor discrepancies, and found that the prosecution had proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Chan was the camp consultant during a life-skills camp held between Jun 28 and Jun 30 that year at Guillemard Camp in Old Airport Road by an unidentified school for its secondary school students.
VICTIMS SLEPT IN SAME BUNK AS CHAN
The five victims had been assigned to sleep in the same bunk as Chan, when they were molested during the night.
Over the course of the trial, all five victims gave evidence, along with fellow students who had witnessed the molestation.
One of the victims testified that at about 12.45am on the first night of the camp, he was sitting on the upper bunk of a bed when Chan went to him and asked whether he could sleep.
He then began massaging the teenager's left thigh before molesting him. Feeling uneasy, the victim pushed the man's hand away.
Another student in the bunk corroborated this evidence, saying that he saw Chan massaging the victim's thighs upwards to his privates before molesting him. This student told the court that he was "shocked" at what he saw.
Another victim testified that he was similarly lying on the upper bunk the first night of the camp when Chan went to him and asked if he was feeling tired.
The victim replied that his legs were "a bit painful", and Chan began massaging his legs, moving up to his thighs and privates. Yet another student witnessed this, saying that Chan had placed his hand on the victim's thigh in a "gripping" motion and moving his hand onto his private parts.
Chan also used the same ruse for a third victim, this time placing his hand into the boy's shorts. The boy felt "embarrassed and scared", the court heard.
The fourth victim had returned to his bunk after taking a shower on the second day of the camp when Chan asked if he had used powder and called him to follow him to his bed.
At Chan's bed, the older man told the boy to lift up his shirt before rubbing powder onto his armpits. He then asked the boy to pull the band of his shorts forward. When the teen did so, Chan put powder on his hand and placed his hand into the boy's shorts, molesting him.
The boy was "stunned" at the time, according to court documents.
The last victim was showering in the bathroom with another boy on the first night of the camp with Chan supervising them, when he asked Chan for help to open his soap bottle.
Chan opened the bottle for him and asked why he was wearing his underwear. The boy said he was shy and was uncomfortable being naked.
Chan told him to take off his underwear, and he did so. Chan then asked the boy to lift up his hands before molesting the boy and asking him to soap the areas of his body he had touched.
EXPOSED AND ARRESTED, BUT HE FLED TO MALAYSIA FOR 17 YEARS
Chan's actions came to light on the second night of the camp when a student leader saw Chan molesting a boy in the bunk. The next morning, the student leader informed the camp commander, who immediately interviewed the victim seen by the student leader.
This boy revealed that Chan had touched some other boys, and the investigation deepened. The principal and other school leaders were notified and a police report lodged.
Chan was arrested on Nov 27, 1999, and served charges. He was told to attend court two days later and released on bail.
However, he fled to Malaysia before he was charged in court, remaining there for 17 years before he was extradited to Singapore in December 2016. Court documents did not specify how he was caught.
Chan had claimed in his defence that he did not touch the private parts of any student at any time.
He said the victims had framed him because they were unhappy with the harsh, regimental style of the camp. In particular, he said he had conducted a harsh punishment session for all campers on the first night.
He is out on bail of S$60,000 and will return to court next Monday (Jul 29) to be sentenced. For each count of molestation, he could be jailed for up to two years and fined. He cannot be caned as he is above the age of 50.