SINGAPORE: A former Muay Thai instructor was found guilty on Wednesday (Jan 22) of sexually assaulting a woman who had gone to his gym for a trial class.
Tan Wai Luen, 30, was convicted of one count of sexual penetration of the 33-year-old victim.
The offence occurred at the Encore Muay Thai gym, which Tan co-founded, at 452A Joo Chiat Road on the afternoon of Oct 1, 2016.
The judge found the victim to be "forthright" and her evidence "unshaken" during cross-examination, containing "a ring of truth".
She found Tan, who is no longer at the now all-women gym, lacking in credibility and providing contradicting accounts.
The victim testified during the trial that she had gone for the free trial class after seeing an advertisement on Facebook.
At the gym, Tan introduced himself to the victim as Ivan, the instructor for the trial class.
The victim went through the trial class with three other women who were the gym's customers.
VICTIM LEFT ALONE WITH ACCUSED, OFFERED FREE MASSAGE
The three other women left the gym at about 2.45pm, leaving Tan and the victim alone in the premises.
After the class, the victim changed back to her regular clothes and sat with Tan as he discussed gym packages with her.
He then offered her a free Thai massage, saying he was the only one at the gym trained in that.
The victim accepted the offer and followed Tan's directions, proceeding to a massage table in the gym, closing the curtains and removing her clothes except her panties.
She lay face down on the table and covered herself with a towel, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Kavita Uthrapathy.
Tan proceeded to massage the woman using olive oil. When he massaged her inner thighs near her private parts, the woman felt uncomfortable and indicated so by moving her legs around.
He moved to massage her thighs, but later resumed massaging her inner thighs before sexually assaulting her with his finger.
The woman turned around to look at Tan and shouted: "Oi!"
Tan removed his finger, but did not apologise or say anything to her.
The victim later put on her clothes and left the gym. As she was leaving, she realised that the main door was locked from the inside.
VICTIM INFORMS GYM CO-FOUNDER, WHO FILES POLICE REPORT
It then dawned on her that the entire ordeal was premeditated, said the prosecutor.
She sent text messages to the female co-founder of the gym, Ms Vivian Chan, a day later saying that Tan had sexually assaulted her during a Thai massage.
Ms Chan made a police report before the victim could do so.
She testified during the trial that Thai massages were not offered at the gym, and that she was the only one qualified to perform sports therapy massages on gym clients.
District Judge Ong Chin Rhu on Wednesday said the key issue in the trial was whether Tan had inserted his finger into the victim during the massage.
It was not disputed that Tan had offered the victim a Thai massage, that he was untrained in Thai massages, and that such massages were not offered at the gym.
Tan's defence was that he did not massage the victim's inner thigh area at all, as it was "a sensitive area for females".
He also asserted it was impossible for him to have sexually assaulted the victim with his finger, and said the victim did not say "Oi" to him at all.
VICTIM EVIDENCE UNSHAKEN, ACCUSED LACKS CREDIBILITY: JUDGE
The judge said she found that the victim had testified in a forthright manner, with her evidence remaining "unshaken" by Tan's then-defence lawyer, who later discharged himself.
"When considered against the overall backdrop of the available facts and circumstances, including but not limited to her text messages ... with Vivian, I found that her evidence did contain a ring of truth," said Judge Ong.
She said the victim's explanation that she did not leave immediately after the assault as she was unclothed and worried that the accused might overpower her was a reasonable one.
As for why the victim had not made a police report immediately, the judge said it was not unreasonable for her to focus on caring for her sick child whose fever had spiked that evening.
"At the end of the day, there is no set formula for how victims of sex assault should respond," said Judge Ong.
Turning to Tan's arguments, she said it would be "baffling" for the victim to conjure up an allegation against Tan, who claimed he had been "nothing but professional and eager to please", after a free trial class and free massage.
"I find the accused lacked credibility, and his version (is) contrived," said Judge Ong.
His testimony also contradicted the case put forward by his then-lawyer.
The lawyer had put to the victim that the accused could have accidentally touched her private parts, but the accused said he had not gone near the victim's inner thighs during the massage.
"It was even more telling that when the accused was arrested and gave statements to police he lied to the police that he did not offer or perform any massage service to the victim," said Judge Ong.
He gave differing explanations for this lie, saying once that he did so as he did not know the seriousness of the case, then again that he denied it as he thought he was in deep trouble, and then that he lied as he did not know giving a false statement was serious.
The judge found that the prosecution had proven its charge and found Tan guilty.
The prosecution pushed for eight years and four strokes of the cane, but will continue its arguments for the sentence it seeks at a later date.
The case was adjourned to Feb 7 for mitigation and sentencing.