Shangri-La shooting: Car took wrong turn into security zone

Above: The car involved in the shooting near the Shangri-La last year. A bullet hole is visible on the windscreen. Gurkha officers fired five shots at the car after it dashed through a high-security roadblock for a security summit. Left: Ms Nassida N
The car involved in the shooting near the Shangri-La last year. A bullet hole is visible on the windscreen. Gurkha officers fired five shots at the car after it dashed through a high-security roadblock for a security summit.ST FILE PHOTO
Above: The car involved in the shooting near the Shangri-La last year. A bullet hole is visible on the windscreen. Gurkha officers fired five shots at the car after it dashed through a high-security roadblock for a security summit. Left: Ms Nassida N
Ms Nassida Nasir (left), wife of driver Mohamad Taufik Zahar who was shot dead, at the coroner's inquiry with an unidentified woman. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

They were going to Orchard Towers after failing to pick up prostitutes in Geylang - until a wrong turn put them at a high-security checkpoint outside Shangri-La Hotel.

With drugs in the car and wanted by police, 34-year-old driver Mohamad Taufik Zahar was urged by one of his passengers to drive off. He sped off in the direction of the hotel, but a pair of Gurkha officers fired five shots at the vehicle.

One hit Taufik on the side of the head, near his right ear. There was no exit wound as the the bullet fragmented upon impact. He died on the spot. These dramatic details were revealed yesterday at a coroner's inquiry into Taufik's death in the early hours of May 31.

 

The hotel in Orange Grove Road and its vicinity had been placed under a tight security net from May 28 to 31, as it was hosting the Shangri-La Dialogue, a major security summit attended by defence ministers and military chiefs from 27 countries. Of particular concern were vehicles carrying improvised explosive devices - a weapon commonly used in terror attacks, State Counsel and Second Solicitor-General Kwek Mean Luck said.

The court heard that Taufik had quarrelled with his wife that day. At about midnight, after she fell asleep, he took the keys to her rented red Subaru and drove to meet two friends in Geylang. Unable to find prostitutes there, they decided to head to Orchard Towers.

The trio had agreed to evade any roadblocks along the way. All had consumed drugs separately and the two passengers also had drugs with them. Taufik and one of his friends were also wanted by police - Taufik for missing a pre-trial conference for theft, drug consumption and criminal intimidation charges; and his friend for drug-related offences and for failing to stop at a roadblock.

But Taufik missed the turn into Claymore Hill at Draycott Drive towards Draycott Park and had to take the next turn into Draycott Drive towards Ardmore Park.

At 4.17am, he drove past an auxiliary police officer stationed along Ardmore Park. He stopped the vehicle in front of a second auxiliary officer, who was stationed between two layers of concrete barriers to control and direct traffic towards a vehicle check station.

He then drove past a third layer of concrete barriers at the start of the vehicle check station and stopped the car in front of two policemen. The duo approached the vehicle on its left, and asked for the left front and rear windows to be lowered.

Taufik's friend Mohamed Ismail, 32, sat in the front passenger seat, while another friend, Muhammad Syahid Mohamed Yasin, 27, sat in the rear centre passenger seat.

Syahid appeared agitated and asked the officers through the window why they were being checked. But before they could reply, he shouted at Taufik to "Jalan! Jalan!" or "Go! Go!" in Malay.

One of the policemen moved alongside the car and tapped on the windows repeatedly while shouting "Stop!", to no avail. The other police officer, seeing that the car was about to crash into the concrete barriers ahead, shouted "Crash Through!" twice to alert other officers.

As the car crashed through the fourth layer of concrete security barriers, an officer sounded the air horn and shouted "Dash Through!" several times. Gurkha officers shot at the car five times and the car finally slowed. Mohamed and Syahid fled from the car, which later came to a standstill near the junction of Anderson Road and Orange Grove Road.

Mohamed, who went on to receive eight years in jail and three strokes of the cane for drug offences, was arrested in the hotel's driveway. Syahid was nabbed at Shangri-La Apartments. He was sentenced to seven years' jail and three strokes for abetment to commit a rash act and for drug offences last year.

The inquiry continues today.


What happened at 4.17am on May 31 last year

    •A red Subaru saloon approaches a vehicle check station set up along Ardmore Park, but heeds neither an auxiliary police officer's (APO) signal to slow down nor a "Slow Down Police Check Ahead" sign.

    •A second APO stationed between the first and second layer of concrete barriers to control and direct traffic towards the station notices the car approaching him fast. He waves his traffic wand to signal the car to slow down. The vehicle stops in front of the APO and he directs it to proceed to the station.

    •The car moves past a third layer of concrete barriers at the start of the vehicle check station and stops in front of two policemen. The officers approach the car on the left.

    •The rear passenger appears agitated and asks why the car is being checked. Before the officers can reply, the man shouts for the driver to go. The driver ignores repeated instructions to stop and crashes through the final line of concrete barriers at the end of the vehicle check station.

    •A police inspector sounds the air horn and shouts "Dash Through" several times to warn other officers, who fall prone on the ground.

    •Two Gurkha officers standing guard in front of Shangri-La Hotel open fire after their repeated verbal warnings of "Police, stop!" go unheeded. A single bullet from the first Gurkha officer's weapon enters the car's front windscreen, but it continues moving. A fourth shot from the second officer's weapon hits the driver on the side of his head near the upper right ear. The car slows to a crawl.

    •Two other Gurkha officers don helmets and vests and check on the car, while the pair who opened fire return to their posts.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2016, with the headline 'Shangri-La shooting: Car took wrong turn into security zone'. Print Edition | Subscribe