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Former fishball noodle seller gets jail for splashing hot water at prawn noodle hawker, disfiguring her chest

SINGAPORE: In the heat of an argument, a fishball noodle hawker scooped hot water from a tank on the stove and splashed it three times at a hawker from a prawn noodle stall, disfiguring her chest.  

Former Whampoa Market hawker Kim Eng Suthivanich, 52, was sentenced on Friday (Aug 21) to 10 months' jail for one count of voluntarily causing hurt by means of a heated substance.

She was also ordered to pay a compensation order of S$225.93 to the victim.

Eng had been acquitted of the charge, but was freshly convicted in June after the prosecution appealed.

The incident took place on Aug 13, 2017, at Whampoa Market.

Eng had been working at the fishball noodle stall for about seven months before this. The victim, 46, owned a prawn noodles stall at the same market. 

The victim knew Eng's boss and had his permission to borrow items such as condiments, as well as to use the fridge at the fishball noodle stall. Eng also knew about these arrangements.

On the morning of the incident, an argument broke out between them after the victim did not manage to retrieve her ingredients from the fishball noodle stall. 

Eng told the victim that she dislikes her, claiming that she did not return some items. 

Denying this, the victim replied that everything in the stall belongs to Eng's boss, and that this was a matter between her and the boss.

Angered, Eng told the victim to get out, but the victim insisted on retrieving her items.

Eng pushed her backwards at least twice, before threatening her in Mandarin: "Do you believe that I will use hot water to splash on you?"

Eng then grabbed a ladle, scooped hot water and splashed it at the victim. She did this at least three times, continuing to do so as the victim fled. 

The victim suffered first-degree burns on her upper chest, loin and arm and second-degree burns on her left breast. Her chest was permanently disfigured.

The episode was caught on closed-circuit television footage, but Eng claimed trial and was initially acquitted after a lower court judge found that Eng did not intend or know that splashing water would likely cause hurt to the victim.

The prosecution appealed against this and a high court judge reversed the acquittal in June. Eng no longer works at the fishball noodle stall.

PROSECUTORS ASK FOR A YEAR'S JAIL, DEFENCE ASK FOR A MONTH

Deputy Public Prosecutors Bhajanvir Singh and Delicia Tan called for a year's jail, saying that Eng had committed the offence over "a senseless argument", causing serious injuries that inflicted serious psychological and emotional trauma on the victim.

"It is jarring that up till today, (Eng) has not known an ounce of remorse. She took absolutely no responsibility for her actions and blatantly blamed the victim for causing the injuries to herself," said Ms Tan.

The victim's injuries have caused her to "lose self-confidence and affected her ability to start a relationship with another person for fear that her partner will eventually leave her as her body is 'incomplete' due to her disfigured breast", the prosecutors said.

"As a result of the above, she has resigned herself to the possibility of being single for the rest of her life," they added, citing a plastic surgeon who stated "no surgery" can repair the damage.

Eng's "brutish" behaviour was "brazenly committed in public, at a hawker centre, close to lunch time", said the prosecutors.

Defence lawyers Tang Shang Wei and Vincent Ho from WongPartnership asked for not more than a month's jail, saying that their client had been "provoked" by the victim who was "the aggressor at all times", and that the incident was in the spur of the moment.

This is also Eng's first brush with the law, and she has "already endured significant hardship throughout the course of the proceedings and has limited financial means", said Mr Tang.

They objected to the prosecution's description of Eng as unremorseful, pointing to Eng's police statement which stated she was "apologetic" for her actions and will not do it again.

Eng has to work to support her family and elderly mother, after her husband abandoned her and their two young children, added the defence. 

For voluntarily causing hurt by a heated substance, she could have been jailed for up to seven years and fined.

Source: CNA/ll(gs)

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