Jailed: Man on the run for 14 years after stabbing incident

Tan, who pleaded guilty to a charge of rioting, was originally charged with murder.
Tan, who pleaded guilty to a charge of rioting, was originally charged with murder.

71-year-old gets 28 months for role in fight in which painter was stabbed to death over a game of cards

A 71-year-old man who spent 14 years on the run, following an incident in which a man was stabbed to death over a game of cards, was finally brought to justice yesterday.

Tan Keng Heng was jailed for 28 months after pleading guilty to a charge of rioting. He had been originally charged with murder, along with two others.

The trio, all Singaporean odd-job workers, fled to Malaysia after the incident. One gave himself up after four years and another was caught across the Causeway in 2013.

Mr Peng Teck Hoe, then 32, a painter, died from abdominal stab wounds inflicted by one of the three men.

A district court heard that on Feb 21, 2001, Neo Eng Hwee, then 46, was playing a game of four cards near a wet market on the second level of Block 127, Lorong 1 Toa Payoh with an unknown group.

Two unknown men, believed to be Mr Peng's friends, later joined in the game. Neo began to suspect that the two men were cheating.

He confirmed his suspicion, the court heard, when he was the banker during one of the game rounds.

He stopped the game after he had distributed the cards to each gambler, so he could count the balance of the cards. One of the two unknown men then declared he had five cards instead of four.

Neo left the scene and called a friend who asked Eng Bak Siong, then 47, to help him confront the alleged cheats. Eng went there with Tan, then 56, and three other men. Their purpose, the court heard, was also to intimidate the two alleged cheats into returning Neo's money.

After Neo pointed out the two men, Eng took out a knife and grabbed one of them around the neck. Tan grabbed the other man.

A commotion ensued and Eng thrust the knife at Mr Peng two to three times. Tan, meanwhile, got into a fight with another gambler.

Everyone fled before police arrived. Officers found Mr Peng lying near Block 128, Lorong 1 Toa Payoh. He died in Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

Neo gave himself up at Tuas Checkpoint in 2005. He faced a murder charge initially, but this was reduced after investigations. He was jailed for three years and eight months for his role in causing grievous hurt to Mr Peng.

Malaysian police arrested Eng in Johor Baru in July 2013 for immigration offences. He was extradited to Singapore later that month.

He also faced a murder charge originally, but this was reduced to causing grievous hurt with a dangerous weapon and he was jailed for seven years.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Michael Quilindo asked for at least 21/2 years' jail for Tan, while defence lawyer Sunil Sudheesan asked for 18 months.

District Judge Liew Thiam Leng noted, among other things, that Tan had been on the run for 14 years, played a smaller role than Neo and Eng, and has been diagnosed with stage three cancer.

For rioting, Tan could have been jailed for up to five years.

He is not liable for caning as he is over 50.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2016, with the headline 'Jailed: Man on the run for 14 years after stabbing incident'. Print Edition | Subscribe