SINGAPORE: A man who has been in and out of jail for most of his adult life over his fetish for stealing women's wallets was sentenced to 16 months' jail on Wednesday (Nov 13) for stealing again.
Low Ji Qing, 55, pleaded guilty to two counts of theft - one for stealing a woman's wallet in Paragon, and another for filching another woman's handphone in Takashimaya.
The court heard that he stole a 31-year-old woman's Loewe wallet worth S$115 at Paragon Market Place on Jan 4 this year.
A "loss prevention officer" at the supermarket noticed Low behaving suspiciously inside the supermarket and tracked his movements.
He saw Low approaching the victim, who was pushing her son in a pram and had hung her unzipped handbag on the pram's handlebars.
While the woman shopped for groceries, he took the wallet from her bag, held it under a packet of food in his hand and walked away.
The officer informed the store manager about this, and they confronted Low together.
The victim confirmed that the wallet was the one missing from her handbag.
Before this, Low had stolen a handphone from a 31-year-old woman at Takashimaya on Dec 7, 2018.
The woman was similarly pushing her daughter in a pram and left her handbag hanging on the handlebars, when Low took her phone.
She tracked it with an application at first, but lost the signal and Low was traced through police investigations.
He initially denied taking it, but closed-circuit television footage caught him taking the phone.
The prosecution had asked for 18 months' jail, while the defence asked for no more than 14 months.
Mr Chooi Jing Yen of Eugene Thuraisingam LLP pointed out Low's diagnosed fetishism. He also had adjustment disorder with depressed mood at the time of the offences, he said.
FETISH STEMMED FROM LONELY CHILDHOOD: DEFENCE
He said Low's fetishism "had its seeds in a lonely childhood", as Low was adopted from birth by his aunt when his parents were unable to care for him, and he developed a particular attachment to his older sister, whom he felt "was the only one who showed love towards him".
"He started smelling her old wallets when she was not around, so as to imagine that she was with him," said Mr Chooi. "As he grew older, he progressed to smelling the wallets of other females."
He would steal a wallet, keep it for a few weeks so that he could masturbate while smelling it and fantasising about having sex with its owner, then throw it away and look for a new one, the defence lawyer said.
However, his condition has changed and improved, with Low attending 20 sessions of psychotherapy and mindfulness practice and 10 sessions with a psychologist from the Institute of Mental Health for about eight months from September 2017, said Mr Chooi.
"This was accepted by the honourable Chief Justice as meriting mitigating weight," he said.
Mr Chooi had successfully defended Low in April against an appeal by the prosecution for a higher sentence for stealing wallets.
He had been sentenced to 10 months' jail in October 2018 for similar theft offences.
The current offences were committed while Low was on bail pending an appeal to that sentence, and was "a time of great stress" for him, the lawyer said.
Mr Chooi said Low's 92-year-old father was admitted to the intensive care unit at Tan Tock Seng Hospital in mid-November 2018, and "one of Low's greatest stressors is that he (would) not be able to be by his father's side during this period".
He said Low has made a vow never to re-offend and is committed to continuing his treatment programme at IMH.
He also has the "steadfast support of his girlfriend", with whom he has been living for the past eight years.
For each count of theft, he could have been jailed for up to three years, fined, or both.