Norwegian who choked cabby given chance to defend himself in retrial

Cabby Chan Chuan Heng showing how Arne Corneliussen held him in a chokehold. -- PHOTO: ST FILE 
Cabby Chan Chuan Heng showing how Arne Corneliussen held him in a chokehold. -- PHOTO: ST FILE 
Arne Corneliussen, from Norway, was jailed for 10 weeks for a “sustained and brutish” attack on a taxi driver on April 1, 2015. He pleaded guilty to choking Mr Chan Chuan Heng from behind, at the intersection of Circular Road and North Canal Road
Arne Corneliussen, from Norway, was jailed for 10 weeks for a “sustained and brutish” attack on a taxi driver on April 1, 2015. He pleaded guilty to choking Mr Chan Chuan Heng from behind, at the intersection of Circular Road and North Canal Road on Sept 22, 2014. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A Norwegian who has served more than half his 10-week jail term after admitting to choking a taxi driver, paid the victim $30,000 and lost his job, has been given a chance to defend himself in a retrial.

This comes after two Singaporean men came forward to say that the cabby was actually the aggressor.

The High Court heard on Friday how Mr Mohamed Ayub Shaik Dawood and his friend Roslan Zainal witnessed the altercation last September at Circular Road.

When Mr Ayub read a newspaper report on the case, he was surprised that 50-year-old Arne Corneliussen was jailed while 46-year-old cabby Chan Chuan Heng, whom he saw throwing a punch, escaped punishment.

He sought out Corneliussen's lawyer and he and his friend have since filed affidavits on their account of what happened.

Corneliussen's lawyer, Mr Terence Seah, said his client had pleaded guilty because he was too drunk to remember the details of the fight and the police had eyewitness accounts that he had attacked Mr Chan.

Given the "exceptional turn of events", the prosecution did not object to Corneliussen's conviction and sentence being quashed and the case sent back to the State Courts for a retrial.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Wong Kok Weng stressed that this did not mean that the earlier conviction was wrong. He pointed out that the two new witnesses were not at the scene when police arrived and did not come forward during investigations.

Two passersby who had pulled Corneliussen away from Mr Chan told police that they saw the Norwegian chasing the cabby and choking him, said the DPP.

But Mr Ayub said he saw Mr Chan punch Corneliussen on the left side of his head, causing the latter to squat down in a daze.

When Corneliussen asked the cabby why he had hit him, Mr Chan tried to run away. After a few short chases to and from the taxi, Corneliussen caught up with Mr Chan and pinned him down, before being pulled away.

Mr Roslan did not see the punch but heard a loud smacking sound, after which he saw the cabby, arms akimbo, standing over Corneliussen, who was squatting with his hands covering his face.

selinal@sph.com.sg