HDB finds damaged walls in flat of 'neighbour from hell'

An inspection by HDB officers of the Elias Road flat found damage on two walls. One damaged area was about the size of a basketball. -- ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI
An inspection by HDB officers of the Elias Road flat found damage on two walls. One damaged area was about the size of a basketball. -- ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

For the past five years, residents of a Pasir Ris block of flats have been wondering about the cause of the loud banging from a second-floor unit that often kept them awake through the night.

On Wednesday night, an inspection by Housing Board officers found damage on two walls in the home of Mr Liew Chien Siong. One damaged area was about the size of a basketball.

Following the discovery at the flat at Block 612 in Elias Road, Mr Liew was arrested and referred to the Institute of Mental Health for a psychiatric assessment.

"On Wednesday night, our officers managed to reach Mr Liew and he allowed us to inspect his flat," an HDB spokesman told The Straits Times yesterday.

"Our inspection revealed that there was no damage to the ceilings, floor or pillars in the flat. There was some minor damage to two non-structural wall surfaces in the living room. The flat, however, is structurally sound."

HDB, first alerted to the noise problem in 2011, said it tried to inspect the unit on several occasions. "However, each time, there was no response from the occupant, Mr Liew," the spokesman said. "We have reminded Mr Liew to stop the noise disturbance and will ask him to repair the wall surfaces. We will continue to monitor the situation and take further action if necessary."

The 33-year-old jobless man, who lives alone, was arrested under Section 7 of the Mental Health Act. It allows police to apprehend "any person who is reported to be mentally disordered and is believed to be dangerous to himself or other persons".

Residents were shocked to learn of the damage HDB found.

Said Mr Zairi Zaini, a 42-year-old chauffeur: "The loud banging day and night would surely damage something. Damage the size of a basketball is considerable. I do not understand why the authorities kept saying they had no authority to gain entry into the flat in the past. I cannot imagine what would have happened if this was not stopped."

Housewife Salimah Raja Idris, 50, who lives next door to Mr Liew, said she noticed cracks on a wall in her living room last year. "It started with a small crack and it got bigger. Now the crack line is from the ceiling to the floor."

She recalled how Mr Liew was a friendly teenager when he first moved into the flat with his father in 1994. "He would call me 'auntie' when he saw me along the corridor. He loved to play basketball and was always seen carrying one," Madam Salimah said.

But the cheerful boy turned cold towards his neighbours after his father died of a heart attack in 2001, said a 50-year-old neighbour who wanted to be known only as Madam Rafidah.

"When the Residents' Corner was set up, he used to complain to me of the noise from the karaoke sessions. He said he couldn't study for his exams because of the noise," said the housewife. "But when I started ignoring his complaints, he turned hostile and stopped talking to me."

Resident Ismail Jan, 64, is relieved to know the man is getting help: "It's good for everybody. I hope that when he returns, he does not repeat all the nonsense."

joycel@sph.com.sg