This article first appeared in The Sunday Times on July 14, 2013
A 54-hour manhunt following last week’s brutal double murder at Kovan ended yesterday with a policeman in custody, sparking disbelief that a law enforcement officer was the prime suspect.
Senior Staff Sergeant Iskandar Rahmat, 34, was nabbed in Johor Baru on Friday night for the murders of motor workshop owner Tan Boon Sin, 67, and his son, Mr Tan Chee Heong, 42.
A 14-year veteran of the force and a member of the Bedok Police Division, he was facing financial difficulties and disciplinary proceedings. Checks showed that the married man was declared bankrupt last Thursday, a day after the murders.
His relationship to the victims is not yet clear, but he met the older Mr Tan at least once, when the latter reported a theft from a safe deposit box last year.
Iskandar was brought back to Singapore yesterday as Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Police Commissioner Ng Joo Hee broke the news about his identity at a sombre press conference.
Zero tolerance for cops who break the law
“The actions that the suspect has been accused of have tarnished the reputation of the Police. His actions, if proven, have abused the trust placed in him, and betrayed his colleagues in the Police Force who serve faithfully and dutifully.
“No one is above the law. Anyone who breaks the law, in particular officers placed in positions of trust or authority, will have to face the full weight of the law. We have zero tolerance for officers who break the law. I am confident that the investigations will be thorough and that justice will be served.
“I have asked the Commissioner of Police to tell every officer to continue to perform his duty faithfully and diligently so as to maintain the trust that the public has in the Police Force and our officers.
“The Criminal Investigation Department has worked hard to crack this case, resulting in the speedy arrest of the suspect.
"I also thank the Royal Malaysian Police for their assistance rendered in helping us arrest the suspect. This is an excellent example of the close and deeply valued partnership the law enforcement agencies of both countries have built over many decades.”
- Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean in a statement
“I cannot remember the last time a murder suspect was also a police officer,” a grim-faced Mr Ng told reporters. “You may have seen this kind of thing depicted in the movies and on TV, but when it happens for real, it hits you like a freight train.”
DPM Teo, who is Home Affairs Minister, said if Iskandar is proven guilty, his crime would have tarnished the reputation of the police, but nobody is above the law.
Yesterday’s revelation of the murder suspect sent ripples across Singapore as former police officers, MPs and netizens expressed shock that a police officer had been arrested for murder.
The drama began last Wednesday afternoon, when horrified eyewitnesses saw the younger Mr Tan being dragged for a kilometre under a car at Upper Serangoon Road.
He had slash wounds to the neck, as did his father, who was later found dead in their family home at nearby Hillside Drive.
The blood-stained car belonging to the Tans was found the next day at Eunos, but by then, Iskandar had already left Singapore for Johor on a scooter.
By then too, the police knew they were hunting one of their own – but Mr Teo said they kept the details secret so as not to compromise investigations.
They worked closely with the Malaysian police, who picked up Iskandar at 11.30pm on Friday outside a seafood restaurant at Danga Bay.
He was taken to the Police Cantonment Complex yesterday before being taken to the scene of the crime for a re-enactment. He appeared expressionless in the police vehicle.
At the same time, police officers descended on Iskandar’s three-room flat in Kim Keat Avenue. His family were interviewed by police investigators for about three hours, but would not speak to reporters.
Checks showed that Iskandar was made a bankrupt last Thursday over $62,000 owed to a bank.
Police said he had been removed from investigative duties earlier because he had failed to declare his personal debt. He was moved to administrative work and barred from carrying firearms.
While the motive for the killings is still unclear, one key detail emerged yesterday: Iskandar was the investigating officer when the elder Mr Tan reported a theft from his safe deposit box last November. The case was passed to another officer already looking into a series of similar thefts.
Just hours before his death last week, the elder Mr Tan was said to have gone to his safe deposit box at the Certis Cisco Centre.
A member of the Tan family told The Sunday Times they did not know Iskandar, or if he had any dealings with the victims. “All we want now is for justice to be served,” said Mr Ong Boon Kok, 49, an uncle of the younger victim.
Additional reporting by Jalelah Abu Baker, Amelia Tan, Joyce Lim, Pearl Lee, Toh Yong Chuan and David Ee