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Geylang murder trial: Rag-and-bone man bought knife to stab victim after scuffle

Geylang murder trial: Rag-and-bone man bought knife to stab victim after scuffle

Toh Sia Guan is accused of murdering Goh Eng Thiam on Jul 9, 2016. (Photo: Justin Ong)

SINGAPORE: When a homeless rag-and-bone man felt another man staring at him, he approached the latter for medicine and then got into a fight with him.

After this, he went to a store and bought a knife, which he used to stab the victim six times, striking his scalp, chest and arm.

He then changed his blood-soaked shirt, went to a supermarket to shop and drank coffee at a coffee shop.

The trial against Toh Sia Guan, 67, opened on Tuesday (Aug 6). When asked how he pleaded to one charge of murder by causing bodily injury sufficient to cause death, Toh said through a Mandarin interpreter: "I didn't kill anyone."

The court heard that on the morning of the incident on Jul 9, 2016, Toh cycled from a canal in Potong Pasir, where he had been resting, to Lorong 23 Geylang to buy breakfast.

He frequently went to Geylang to collect cardboard and cans for a living, and that was also where the victim, 52-year-old coffee shop worker Goh Eng Thiam, went for breakfast.

When Toh rode up to the Victoria Food Court at No 2 Lorong 23 Geylang, he saw Mr Goh sitting outside the coffee shop and felt that he was staring at him.


To diffuse the tension, Toh asked Mr Goh whether he was selling Chinese medicine, according to a statement of facts both the prosecution and defence agree on. 

Mr Goh was angered by this and shouted Hokkien vulgarities at Toh, saying: "Do I look like a drug peddler?"

Toh got off his bicycle and began fighting with Mr Goh. Mr Goh used Toh's bicycle to hit him, while Toh picked up a wooden stick from a lorry parked nearby and hit the back of Mr Goh's head with it.

They struggled with each other with their bare hands, exchanging blows, before Toh ran away from the scene without his bicycle and dropped one of his slippers on the road.

Toh then went to the Budget Value Shop at No 43 Lorong 25 Geylang, where he bought a pair of slippers and a knife and returned to the scene to seek revenge, said Deputy Public Prosecutors Eugene Lee, Claire Poh and Senthilkumaran Sabapathy.

While this was ongoing, the victim called a friend, and cleaned himself with a towel and water at a nearby restaurant.


Less than 15 minutes after the first fight, Toh returned to Lorong 23 Geylang with a knife in his hand. He immediately rushed towards Mr Goh, who retreated to Victoria Food Court and retrieved the wooden stick.

Toh stabbed the victim multiple times and sliced the left side of the man's face. In the attack, both men's shirts were soaked in blood.

According to a witness, the two men traded punches, but the victim gradually weakened in his blows.

After realising that the other man was bleeding profusely, Toh ran away, said the prosecution.

He fled the scene two to three minutes after the attack began, wearing a blood-stained shirt and only one slipper on his foot.

A taxi driver called the police after spotting the victim while driving down the road in his cab, and an ambulance arrived minutes later. A paramedic pronounced Mr Goh dead at the scene at 8.11am.

An autopsy attributed his cause of death to a V-shaped stab wound in his upper arm.

The police recovered several exhibits from the scene including the 26.5cm-long knife, the wooden stick, the victim's shirt and one of Toh's slippers.


Meanwhile, Toh walked to a public car park at Lorong 21 Geylang, where he took off his dirty top and put on another shirt that he had taken from a clothesline nearby.

He went to an NTUC supermarket in Block 5 Boon Keng Road to buy another pair of slippers, and also had a drink at a coffee shop. 

Footage from closed-circuit television cameras, police cameras and in-car cameras played in court on Tuesday showed Toh's movements before, during and after the incident.

After buying slippers, Toh went to Ang Mo Kio, where he slept in gardens and parks and did not return to Geylang.

He was arrested 12 days later on Jul 21, 2016, at Labrador Park MRT after he was sighted in the area. 


Toh admitted to the police that he had evaded detection by seeking shelter under a bridge near the Bendemeer area.

A police officer said Toh was "unfazed and unsurprised" by the arrest as he knew it was a matter of time before he was caught, said the prosecution.

Toh confessed to the police that he had stabbed the victim in the stomach with the knife, although he later omitted this oral confession in written statements.

Toh, who is defended by lawyers Wong Seow Pin and Wong Li-Yen Dew, was taken to the Institute of Mental Health for psychiatric assessment. According to the psychiatric report, he did not suffer from any mental disorder or intellectual disability and was not of unsound mind at the time.

The prosecution said in its opening address that there was premeditation on Toh's part, as he had held a grudge and prepared for the second fight by buying a knife before returning to seek revenge on the victim.

"The accused had also acted in a cruel and unusual manner by viciously and repeatedly stabbing the deceased with the knife," said the prosecution.

"There was no reason for the accused to have resorted to the use of a knife. Both the accused and the deceased were of comparable build, and the CCTV footage of the first fight will show that they were matched in terms of fighting ability."

The prosecution intends to lead evidence from 43 witnesses to prove the charge.

The trial continues for the rest of the week.

If found guilty of murder with the intention of causing bodily injury sufficient to cause death, Toh faces the death penalty or life imprisonment. He cannot be caned as he is older than 50.

Source: CNA/ll(hs)


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