Accused: I was just trying my luck

Lee maintained that he would have released the victim that day even if no ransom was paid.
Lee maintained that he would have released the victim that day even if no ransom was paid.

Accused kidnapper Lee Sze Yong took the stand on the third day of his trial yesterday and readily admitted he had abducted Madam Ng Lye Poh and demanded a $20 million ransom from her son, Sheng Siong supermarket boss Lim Hock Chee.

But Lee, 44, maintained that he would have released Madam Ng, then 79, by the end of the same day even if no ransom was paid.

"At the time I met her, I was just trying my luck," he said in Mandarin. "When I rented the car for four hours, it did not cross my mind that she would get into the car. The money is not an important factor. I promised to send her home."

Lee said he assured Madam Ng that he would take her home that night and never thought of hurting her. He pointed out that Mr Lim initially agreed to give him $20 million but said he had to wait till the next day. "I did not agree because my intention was for his mother to return home," he said. "I had gone through many years of planning. Why couldn't I wait another day to get the money?"

Deputy Public Prosecutor David Khoo retorted that Lee did not want to wait and eventually agreed on Mr Lim's counter-offer of $2 million because he wanted to cut his risk of being arrested. But Lee insisted he was concerned for Madam Ng's welfare as his mother was a similar age. "If I didn't worry about her, I would have taken the money and fled," he said. "Why would I... call her son to give details of where to pick her up?"

The DPP noted that after Mr Lim said he needed time to raise $20 million, Lee told him Madam Ng needed an injection for her diabetes. The DPP put it to Lee that he mentioned that to Mr Lim to get him to hurry up with the money. Lee disagreed.

Defence counsel Selva K. Naidu told reporters that his client admits to the acts of abduction, but will address the court on the mens rea, or the mental element of the offence.

Mr Naidu said the defence will make submissions on whether "intent to hold for ransom" covers a situation in which the accused intends to release the victim even if the ransom is not paid.

Selina Lum

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2016, with the headline 'Accused: I was just trying my luck'. Print Edition | Subscribe