56-year-old man who robbed Western Union outlet in Ubi arrested with help from in-car cameras

The items that were retrieved from the man that was accused of robbing the Western Union outlet in Ubi.
The items that were retrieved from the man that was accused of robbing the Western Union outlet in Ubi.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - It was a combination of technology, such as the use of in-car cameras, and old-fashioned footwork that led police to the 56-year-old suspect in the armed robbery at a Western Union branch in Ubi on Tuesday (Aug 1).

The Singaporean man was nabbed at about 10.35pm on Thursday along Pasir Ris Drive 6, after a three-day islandwide manhunt.

To establish his identity, the police trawled through over 1,000 hours of closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage. These were retrieved from police cameras, in-car cameras, shophouses and eateries.

Bedok Police Division commander and assistant commissioner of police Tan Tin Wee, who shared the details at a press conference on Friday, added that officers also knocked on doors across an extensive area in the surrounding estate.

He described the case as "challenging", as the suspect had "taken pains to hide his identity". There was also limited forensic evidence, such as fingerprints, he added.

 

The man was wearing a white helmet, black jacket, dark-coloured trousers and a green disposable face mask when he entered the Western Union branch wielding a knife on Tuesday morning. He later fled on a bicycle.

 

Superintendent K. Vasanthan, the head investigator of Bedok Police Division, said that CCTV footage gathered from the public provided crucial leads in tracing the suspect's escape route.

 

For instance, the police appealed to vehicle owners, who were driving on the road at the same time as the suspect to submit their in-car camera footage.

 

Said Mr Vasanthan: "It's the small things that helped us put the jigsaw pieces together."

The police's Vehicles on Watch initiative was launched in 2015 to tap on in-vehicle cameras to deter and solve crimes. The cameras act as extra "eyes" in the community, the police had said.

On Tuesday morning, the suspect had threatened at knifepoint a Western Union employee, who was alone in the Ubi Avenue 1 branch at the time. About $4,000 was handed over to him.

But during his escape, he dropped some of the money near the carpark behind the branch. The money was later recovered by the employee, who has been identified as Ms Hankum Porntip, 28.

The suspect eventually fled on a bicycle with just $1,071 in a plastic bag. No one was hurt.

More than 130 officers from the Bedok Police Division, Criminal Investigation Department and Police Intelligence Department were involved in tracking the robber down.

The Straits Times understands that the suspect, who is tall with a slim built, was visibly tired when he was nabbed by a team of around 10 police officers. It is believed that the suspect worked alone.

He was found wearing the dark-blue trousers he had allegedly committed the crime in. Other items recovered include four 4D tickets, black shoes and a green face mask. He also led the police to a red bicycle in Bedok.

Preliminary investigations showed that he spent almost all the money, including on the 4D tickets. Meanwhile, police are still trying to locate the knife and white helmet.

If convicted of armed robbery, he may be jailed between two and 10 years, and get at least 12 strokes of the cane.

This was the second armed robbery case reported this week. On Monday, a 48-year-old man was arrested four hours after robbing a petrol station in Upper Bukit Timah Road with a knife. He made off with over $1,100. The robber, Visvanathan Vadivelu, was charged on Wednesday.