Businessman convicted of committing rash act that led to father's death

Mark Tan Peng Liat (above, at court, and with his father at left) had put his father in a necklock and a chokehold that killed him during a quarrel over money.
Mark Tan Peng Liat (above, at court) had put his father in a necklock and a chokehold that killed him during a quarrel over money.PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW
Mark Tan Peng Liat (above, at court, and with his father at left) had put his father in a necklock and a chokehold that killed him during a quarrel over money.
Mark Tan Peng Liat (with his father) had put his father in a necklock and a chokehold that killed him during a quarrel over money.PHOTO: FACEBOOK

A businessman accused of committing culpable homicide not amounting to murder when he put his father in a necklock and a chokehold that killed him was convicted of a lesser charge yesterday.

After a nine-day trial, District Judge Eddy Tham found Mark Tan Peng Liat guilty of committing a rash act that led to the fatal incident. Tan, 31, was scuffling with his father, Mr Tan Kok Keng, 67, when he committed the offence in their home in West Coast Rise on Feb 10, 2015.

In his grounds of decision, Judge Tham noted that Tan had attempted to restrain his father by hooking his right arm around the older man's neck.

He had also gripped his father's neck around the collarbone with his left hand.

Stressing he had no doubt Tan's intention was to restrain and stop his father from assaulting him, the judge said: "Given the volatility of the situation, where the accused had applied a form of restraint which he had been taught and exercised before, I found it difficult to say that it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused knew that his acts were likely to cause death.

"I found that the accused had instead committed an act so recklessly that it would amount to what is considered a rash act."

The judge said that shortly before the fatal incident, Mr Tan Kok Keng had rung his son and told him to return home.

During the trial, the court heard he had discovered his son had been withdrawing large sums from their joint account without telling him, and he wanted to confront him about it.

When Tan arrived home, his father accused him of stealing his money. This led to a scuffle in Mr Tan Kok Keng's bedroom and bathroom on the second floor of the semi-detached house.

Judge Tham said: "The arm was initially over the chest, but it quickly slipped into the neck area as (Mr Tan Kok Keng) was not wearing his shirt and his body was slippery with perspiration.

"The accused also used his left hand to press down on (Mr Tan Kok Keng's) neck area around the collarbone, using the side of his index finger and the thumb forming a V-shape over the neck in order to hold (his) head in position."

The older man struggled to break free but soon stopped moving.

In the meantime, his Indonesian maid, Ms Sumarti Dwi Ambarwati, had rushed to the nearby home of Tan's aunt, Madam Tan Hoon Choo, to tell her about the fight.

In July last year, Madam Tan, 72, testified that she hurried over to their house and found her nephew outside looking "very bewildered and lost".

Yesterday, Judge Tham said they went to check on Mr Tan Kok Keng, and found him lying face up with his mouth open.

The judge added: "(An) ambulance was called and attempts to resuscitate were made unsuccessfully by the paramedics when they subsequently arrived at the house. (Mr Tan Kok Keng) was subsequently pronounced dead at the hospital."

Forensic pathologist Lee Chin Thye found he had died of manual compression of the neck with a contributory cause of hypertensive heart disease.

Judge Tham said: "The restraint, in my view, even for a few minutes, clearly would be sufficient to cause resultant and irreparable harm which, unfortunately, did ensue in the present case."

Tan is out on bail and will be back in court on July 11. For committing the rash act, he can be jailed up to five years and fined.

Offenders convicted of culpable homicide not amounting to murder can be jailed up to 10 years, and fined or caned.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 09, 2017, with the headline 'Businessman convicted of committing rash act that led to father's death'. Print Edition | Subscribe