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4 schizophrenic men acquitted of murder or attempted murder confined further after review

The four men were confined further for various reasons – mostly that they would pose a risk of injury to other people if they are released.

4 schizophrenic men acquitted of murder or attempted murder confined further after review

A general view of the Supreme Court in Singapore on Sep 23, 2022. (File photo: CNA/Try Sutrisno Foo)

SINGAPORE: Four schizophrenic men who were acquitted of murder or attempted murder on the basis of an unsound mind were ordered to be confined for another 12 months in the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) or Changi Prison after reviews on Friday (Jan 13).

The first man, 71-year-old Omar Abdullah, attempted murder in 1991 and was released from confinement, but tried to rob a pawnshop while armed with a chopper in 2019.

The second, 48-year-old Tan Kok Meng, killed his 75-year-old father in 2015 by strangling him and hitting his face.

The third, 65-year-old Tung Siew Meng, killed his 70-year-old mother in 2001 after hearing a spirit saying his mother was a witch.

The fourth, 59-year-old Wong Kwok Wah, killed his neighbour in 1991.

On Friday, the four men appeared in court via video-link from where they were confined – either in IMH or Changi Prison.

Under the Criminal Procedure Code, the court can order a person to be kept in safe custody in a place and manner as it thinks fit, if it finds that a person’s actions would have amounted to an offence if not for an unsound mind.

The hearing on Friday was for the State Counsel to submit applications to the court, on behalf of the Minister of Law, to ask that the four men be each confined for a further 12 months for various reasons.

Justice Valerie Thean granted all four applications for the men to be confined for another 12 months. Further reviews will be made subsequently, the court heard.

OMAR ABDULLAH

Omar committed attempted murder in 1991 but was acquitted by the High Court. The case was reported to the then-Minister of Law, who made an order in 1991 for Omar to be confined.

In 2015, Omar's sister made an application for him to be released, based on several conditions, and the application was granted.

After Omar's release, he attempted armed robbery and appeared before a court. He was sent to IMH and the release order was revoked. 

Since August 2019, Omar has been in confinement at IMH, with a total confinement period overall of more than 27 years.

In considering his position, the Law Minister considered four main factors – the nature of Omar's mental condition, the circumstances of the offence, the risk of injury to others if he is released, and the need to be further confined. 

Based on medical reports, Omar suffers from schizophrenia and remains "evasive and guarded" with respect to his offending behaviour.

He continues to intermittently labour under paranoid delusions that other patients are disturbing him, and is incoherent at times, the court heard.

He also has little insight into the seriousness of his mental condition and the requirement for long-term psychiatric treatment.

He is currently compliant only because of the context of the highly structured ward environment, said State Counsel Evans Ng.

Omar's mental state remains fragile and he continues to manifest psychotic symptoms and is considered to be highly dangerous. He is unlikely to comply with psychiatric treatment if left to his own devices, said Mr Ng.

Omar's sister was the only next-of-kin for the four men who attended the hearing.

When asked if she had anything to say, she said: "I don't know what to say", before crying.

Omar told the court: "Please let me go out. I have money and I give money to my sister ... How long have I been in here? I have never gotten out of this place. I would like to draw my money. My money is getting more so I want to draw my money."

He claimed he had S$65,000 in Central Provident Fund savings and another S$15,000. Mr Ng said he would liaise with IMH to check if this money exists and if so, to look into his request.

TAN KOK MENG

Tan was first charged in November 2015 with murdering his father. He was found by the High Court to have committed the act but was acquitted of the charge based on his unsound mind.

He appealed against the High Court finding but failed in his appeal. He was confined in Changi Prison at the President's pleasure and stayed there until he was transferred to IMH in July 2022 under another order by the Minister of Law.

State Counsel Du Xuan said the Law Minister took the position that Tan should be further confined for 12 months.

Tan was diagnosed to be suffering from schizophrenia at the time of the killing. He was also in a state of acute drug intoxication and experiencing severe psychotic symptoms possibly exacerbated by the drug use.

His mother had locked him at home with his father when she went out for a medical appointment, and returned home to find her husband on the floor. 

Tan had strangled his father and inflicted multiple blows on him, killing him.

Ms Du said the risk of injury to others if Tan is released now is high. Tan has been at IMH for about six months and has been undergoing rehabilitative modules, including home and community living skills, she said.

He is managed by a multi-disciplinary team addressing his psychiatric and psychosocial needs and has been showing improvement.

He displays insight into his psychiatric condition and is now stable, but has only been detained for a short period of time, said Ms Du.

Tan told the court: "I know I have made a mistake and I am willing to pay for the mistake. I just hope that ... I can be released sooner, that's all, because I miss my family a lot."

TUNG SIEW MENG

Tung attacked his mother with a hammer in March 2001, after defaulting from his treatment for schizophrenia. He said he heard a spirit telling him that his mother was a witch and went to his mother's room with a hammer.

He hit her while she was lying on the bed and killed her. He was charged with murder and found to have committed the act but was acquitted on the basis of having an unsound mind. He was ordered to be detained in IMH.

State Counsel Ho Lian-Yi said Tung has a long history of schizophrenia that has been linked to violence.

He is not currently on a psychotic relapse, but this is because he is on oral psychotic medication that his doctor said is "only barely containing his psychotic symptoms".

Tung refuses to accept anti-psychotic injections and refuses all clinical procedures, including blood tests, said Mr Ho.

He continues to believe that his family uses witchcraft and is evil because of this, and has also made reference to a "hit list".

A medical report states that he still has persecutory delusions and limited insight into his condition. There is also a high risk of injury to others if he is released.

While in IMH, he continued to manifest violent and aggressive behaviour, attempting to hit an employee in 2010 and punching other patients over the years, the court heard.

Tung, who was attending the hearing via Zoom, reacted angrily when he heard this.

Most recently in December 2020, Tung purportedly punched another patient who had punched him a few days before, said Mr Ho. In May 2022, he reportedly pushed a patient off a chair and challenged a patient to a fight in September 2022.

Tung is also resistant to treatment and medical investigations, saying there is no such thing as mental illness, that medications are of no use and that he does not have a psychiatric condition.

If left to his own devices, Tung is most likely to default on his treatment. There might be a re-emergence of psychotic symptoms and possible psychotic-driven violence, said Mr Ho.

When asked if he had anything to say, Tung said he had "many things to say". He claimed his mother was hit by an unknown weapon which he did not have and rambled about the incidents of violence at IMH.

He claimed another patient had sat in his chair and made it "very hot" and that he had not challenged another patient to fight - it was the patient who used vulgar language against him.

After the judge ordered him to be confined for another 12 months, Tung erupted: "You are unfair, you are lying, you are not justice, you are obstructing justice from heaven, you will die one day, God will kill you."

WONG KWOK WAH

Wong was tried in the High Court in 1991 for a charge of murdering his elderly neighbour.

The court found that he had committed the act causing death, but acquitted him on the basis of an unsound mind.

He was kept in safe custody in Woodbridge Hospital – now called IMH – and transferred subsequently to Changi Prison Hospital due to his "unmanageable behaviour", said State Counsel Du Xuan.

After Changi Prison Hospital was closed, he was transferred to his current place of confinement at Changi Prison Complex.

Wong was diagnosed with schizophrenia and antisocial personality disorder and is said to exhibit impulsive behaviour, self-harm and violent outbursts.

According to a 1988 psychiatric report, he has been mentally unwell since his secondary school days. He developed paranoid ideas against his family and once assaulted his brother with a knife for unknown reasons.

Between 1984 and 1988, he was admitted to Woodbridge Hospital on five occasions. However, there was a poor prognosis for his condition as he was not compliant with medication after being discharged.

In September 1988, Wong killed his neighbour by fracturing his skull with a blunt blow.

Evidence at trial stated that he believed the deceased was responsible for the voices he heard, and he also heard a voice commanding him to kill the deceased. He could not resist the voice as the command was repeated, said Ms Du.

The risk of injury to himself and others if he is released is high based on four points, she said.

First, his psychosis remains untreated as he persistently refuses anti-psychotic medication. 

Second, he continues to have poor insight into his mental health issues, maintaining that he does not suffer from mental illness. He is "minimally participative" in programmes at his current place of confinement, the court heard.

Third, Wong has a history of psychosis-driven violence. While he was confined, he committed 34 disciplinary infractions between 2003 and 2018 – some of these involving assaults on other inmates and many of them involving harm to himself. There were no infractions in the past three years, but it is likely because he was housed in a single cell.

Fourth, Wong is unlikely to integrate well into mainstream society, because of his inability to live with others, the court was told. He declines to participate in group activities and refuses to move into a three-man cell.

Wong's brother did not want to attend the hearing but sent an email to the Attorney-General's Chambers.

In the email, he requested that his brother be transferred to IMH for further treatment. He feels that Wong's mental state will deteriorate, as "nobody can be sane after being confined for so long in a restricted place".

He said that if his brother is at IMH, he can buy his brother his favourite food and this will lift his spirits.

When Wong was asked if he had anything to say, he went into a rant detailing supposed persecution from his doctor and how "people make war with me".

He talked about how he exercises every day but was not allowed to at IMH and claimed he was blacklisted from IMH. He said he is known as "the great and famous Wong Kwok Wah, the living legend".

"I am a very famous man in Woodbridge," he said.

After hearing that he would be confined at Changi Prison Complex for another year, he said he wanted to go back to IMH and claimed to have been incarcerated for "a record-breaking 35 years".

Source: CNA/ll(mi)

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