This story was first published in July 2015 in an e-book titled Guilty As Charged: 25 Crimes That Have Shaken Singapore Since 1965. A collaboration between The Straits Times and the Singapore Police Force, the e-book appeared in The Straits Times Star E-books app. Read the other crime stories here. (Warning: Some content in these stories may be disturbing for some individuals.)
Yap Weng Wah, sex predator (2015)
After abusing at least 31 boys in Singapore, the Malaysian engineer gets 30 years in jail and the maximum 24 strokes of the cane
In his early 30s, Yap Weng Wah had a boyish look about him, but little else that stood out. Yet the 23 pages of 76 charges that he faced read like a horror story. The Malaysian was not just a sexual deviant, but also the worst predator of pubescent boys Singapore had seen.
The phrase “did penetrate” was repeated 74 times in the charge sheet. The other two charges involved him causing a 15-year-old boy “to penetrate” Yap’s mouth, and directing a 12-year-old to send a video of the child doing a sexual act.
Among the charges, seven involved 11-year-olds, 13 dealt with 12-year-olds and four with 15-year-olds. The bulk involved boys ages 13 and 14 – 32 and 20 charges respectively.
The abuse happened at a variety of places.
He brought the boys to flats in Yishun, Woodlands, Hougang, Aljunied and Changi, a chalet at Downtown East, and a Hotel 81 in Geylang.
The abuse also took place in toilet cubicles at public pools in Hougang and Kallang Bahru, malls and the Tampines Stadium.
The offences were committed over a period of three years, until June 2012 when the sister of an 11-year-old checked his mobile phone. She found SMS exchanges between Yap and her brother. They went to the police.
When Yap’s Yishun home was raided after the 31-year-old’s arrest in September 2012, police found more than 2,000 videos on his laptop of him having sex with others, including young boys. The videos had been meticulously catalogued with the boys’ names, ages and the year he met them.
From the footage, the police managed to trace 31 victims in Singapore. Some boys, however, could not be identified.
There were also videos made during his annual visits to Malaysia between 2009 and 2012. These clips involved at least 14 other boys below the age of 16.
The quality assurance engineer, who moved to Singapore for work in 2009, looked online for boys who lived or who went to school near his rental apartment in New Upper Changi Road, and later in Yishun.
Once he found his targets, he would befriend them on Facebook using different identities such as “Wai Loon” or “Loon”, but usually claiming to be an 18-year-old polytechnic student.
Some of the boys accepted his friend request after seeing that they shared mutual friends.
He gained their trust by portraying himself as an older brother or mentor – chatting or messaging them over several weeks or months sometimes.
They talked about hobbies, movies, sports and computer games. He would also deviously find a way to bring up the topic of sex.
He would ask the boys to meet him on a variety of pretexts – to hand them gifts, to swim, to let them play computer games or to give them body-building tips.
Between November 2009 and June 2012, he persuaded 30 of the boys into consenting to having anal or oral sex with him – even when they were reluctant, or said no, or cried or insisted they were “not the type”.
Yap, who never used a condom, recorded most of the sex acts on his mobile phone. When the boys protested, he promised to delete the footage. But he stored the videos on his laptop for him to watch again and again.
In one case, after chatting with him on Facebook for a few months, Yap met a boy at a shopping centre. After having lunch and playing arcade games, he took the boy to his room to watch cartoons online, while his landlord was in the living room.
An hour later, he took off the boy’s clothes and sodomised him. Yap promised the boy that it would not happen again. But it did, each time the boy came over.
Yap would then take him out for meals or movies.
In another case, he arranged to meet a 13-year-old at Hougang Swimming Complex some time in early 2010. In a toilet cubicle, he told the boy to remove his school uniform. He then sodomised the boy and recorded the act with his phone.
Around March 2010, he took a 15-year-old to a hotel. Yap undressed and tried to kiss the boy. Even when the boy protested, Yap performed oral sex on him.
He pleaded guilty to 12 counts of sexual penetration of a minor, and the rest of the 64 charges were taken into account during sentencing.
Arguing that Yap was a “clear and present danger to society” as he was at high risk of committing sexual offences again, Deputy Public Prosecutor David Khoo argued for a lengthy sentence to protect the public. He also pointed out the high degree of planning Yap did in order to carry out his abuse.
Hebephilia v paedophilia
Hebephilia: Having sexual interest towards children who are experiencing puberty — basically those between the ages of 11 and 14.
Paedophilia: Having sexual interest towards children yet to start puberty — generally those 11 and below.
The Institute of Mental Health’s Dr Bharat Saluja found that Yap had hebephilia – a sexual interest in pubescent youth, typically between the ages of 11 and 14. The psychiatrist also noted that Yap’s risk of re-offending was high.
As part of his mitigation, it was claimed that Yap had a nine-month sexual relationship with his maths teacher when he was 12. He thought what he did with the man were acts of love and intimacy.
It was also claimed that Yap was rejected by a female classmate and humiliated by her while in school. This led to him having a fear of approaching women.
He insisted he was sorry for his acts and promised to change.
In March 2015, Justice Woo Bih Li sentenced him to 30 years’ jail and the maximum 24 strokes of the cane.
He made it clear that the high-risk offender needed to be put away for a long time to protect society and as a warning that such heinous acts would not be tolerated.
Justice Woo said Yap’s premeditated use of the Internet to hunt for a large number of victims, and breaching the boys’ trust after earning it, were aggravating factors.
It was made worse by Yap recording videos of the sex acts despite the boys’ protests. The videos were at risk of being circulated if they fell into the hands of third parties, said Justice Woo.
“There is... a strong public interest in the present case to deter potential sexual offenders from using the Internet to lure young victims,” he said.
The judge also pointed out how Yap also tried to hide the extent of his crimes. When he was first questioned, he told the police that he had sex with just three boys. The truth was far more shocking.