SINGAPORE: A man on trial along with his stepfather for beating a church member to death told the police about years of harassment in statements revealed in court on Monday (Feb 17).
Ryan Xavier Tay Seet Choong, 24, is contesting a charge of voluntarily causing grievous hurt to Shawn Ignatius Rodrigues, 26, by stomping on his shoulder, punching his face and head and pressing his knee on his back on Jul 9, 2016, at a staircase outside his Yishun flat.
The alleged assault, which was aided by his stepfather 58-year-old Lawrence Lim Peck Beng, lasted about 20 minutes and resulted in Mr Rodrigues' death by traumatic asphyxia with head injury.
The court heard Tay's and Lim's accounts of what happened that day as well as in the years before, in statements they gave to the police.
Tay, who was a full-time national serviceman at the time of the offence, said in his statement that he met Mr Rodrigues at a Catholic church when he was 10, and that they were both altar boys.
"Shawn and I became close friends, because I helped him a lot," he said. "Although he was senior, he was bullied ... because he was retarded."
He explained that Mr Rodrigues was slow.
VICTIM DEVELOPED SPECIAL LIKING FOR TAY
He said he felt that Mr Rodrigues developed "a special liking" for him, and wanted to see him every day, but this made Tay uneasy.
"When I was in Secondary 3, I realised that when he spoke to me, he sounded feminine, and I suspected he could be gay," said Tay. "I confronted him, asking if he was gay. He said 'Not that I'm going to marry you anyway'. Since then I assumed he's gay."
He said Mr Rodrigues was momentarily banned from being an altar boy after he was caught stealing coins, but was reinstated when the priest was replaced.
After this, he expected Mr Rodrigues to change. As Tay was on probation for theft, he had to change his church duties to align with his probation conditions, so he approached Mr Rodrigues after a period of not talking to him.
However, this made Mr Rodrigues attempt to get close to him again, said Tay.
He started following Tay, and Tay realised that Mr Rodrigues used a childhood photo of Tay as his WhatsApp photo. When asked to change it, Mr Rodrigues refused, said Tay.
"I was disgusted with him and ignored him," said Tay. "I left the church as I did not want to be associated with him. The other boys felt I was gay with Shawn. I was not happy with this as I was not gay."
He said Mr Rodrigues began to appear in front of his flat, along the corridor, to talk to him.
However, he would not engage in conversation when approached.
Tay said there were about 50 police reports lodged against Mr Rodrigues for harassing his family, and for nuisance calls he made. His stepfather Lim said this was over about two years, increasing in frequency in 2015.
I WANT TO WHACK HIM: TAY TOLD MOTHER
On the day of the incident on Jul 9, 2016, Mr Rodrigues allegedly harassed the family five times, turning up on their doorstep and shouting for Tay.
On one of these occasions, Tay's mother asked him to call the police, and Tay told her "I want to whack him", said Tay.
On the fifth occasion, Lim went to the gate, while Tay was sleeping in his room. Tay's mother had gone out to walk their dogs.
"I shouted at him: Why do you want to see Ryan?" said Lim in his police statement.
Tay woke up and joined his stepfather at the gate, but when Mr Rodrigues saw him, he started to run away, said Lim.
Tay gave chase, with his stepfather watching at the gate. He caught up with Mr Rodrigues at the end of the corridor near the lift lobby, and began scuffling with Mr Rodrigues.
"I couldn't stand him," wrote Tay in his police statement. He said he had found out that Mr Rodrigues had allegedly assaulted an elderly female neighbour, and he had also molested Tay's mother.
He said he wanted to detain Mr Rodrigues in order to hand him over to the police.
He described in his statement how he pushed Mr Rodrigues to the floor and saw blood from his nose on the floor. His stepfather then joined him and sat on Mr Rodrigues' buttocks and held his legs while Mr Rodrigues struggled violently.
Tay shouted for neighbours to call the police, "but no one came to our aid", he said.
Eventually some neighbours came out of the lift and Tay and Lim asked for help. Lim said he asked for rope, and one neighbour returned with white rope, while another brought raffia string.
Lim said in his statement that neighbours tied Mr Rodrigues' legs and hands together with the ropes.
About five minutes after Mr Rodrigues stopped struggling, the police arrived, said Lim. Everyone returned to their flats, and the police later told Lim and Tay that Mr Rodrigues had died.
ACCUSED MEN SAY THEY DID NOT INTEND VICTIM'S DEATH
Both men said in their statements that they did not intend for Mr Rodrigues to die, and that they merely wanted to detain him and hand him over to the police.
"The issue of Shawn harassing my family has been dragging for some time," said Tay. "I was worried while in camp ... because my mother was molested ... (there was) no update from police. It seems he was free in the neighbourhood."
"I did not expect Shawn to die," said Tay. "I admit that I had used excessive force on Shawn when I pushed his head down. But if I did not do this, he could've overpowered us because he's bigger in size ... I do not know what's wrong with him."
"For about two years, Shawn has been harassing my family, and we have been lodging police reports," said Lim. He added that they even raised the matter to their Member of Parliament, and took it up with a magistrate's court.
Despite all this, Mr Rodrigues continued harassing them, claimed Lim, and molested Lim's wife.
"To me it seemed justice had not been served, and if something had been done, this would not (have) happen," he said in his statement. He added that while it was unfortunate that Mr Rodrigues died, his family life improved afterwards, and "there is peace in the neighbourhood".
PREVIOUS ASSAULTS ON VICTIM
Tay also admitted in his statement that he had assaulted Mr Rodrigues on three previous occasions in 2015. On the first occasion, Mr Rodrigues was purportedly waiting for him at the void deck of his block, and repeatedly prevented him from taking the lift up.
Mr Rodrigues kept asking Tay for his new phone number, which Tay had changed because of the harassment. When he was trying to go home after a smoke, Mr Rodrigues grabbed him, and Tay kicked his stomach before running home, said Tay.
On a second occasion, Tay was heading out to walk his dog when he saw Mr Rodrigues outside his flat. He took a wooden stick for gardening along with him, and when Mr Rodrigues confronted him and asked for his phone number, Tay threw the stick at him.
On another occasion, Tay punched Mr Rodrigues' stomach when he saw the latter waiting for him.
"I shouted at him to stop bothering me and my family, I then returned home," said Tay.
Lim also admitted to once spraying insecticide in Mr Rodrigues' face when the latter knocked on the door "non-stop for about a minute".
"He just stood outside the door and let me spray on him," said Lim.
The trial continues in the afternoon. Tay is represented by lawyer Peter Low from Peter Low & Choo, and Lim by Mr Ang Sin Teck from Belinda Ang Tang & Partners.
If found guilty of voluntarily causing grievous hurt, Tay could be jailed for up to 10 years and fined or caned.
His stepfather faces the same penalties if convicted of abetting him.