72-year-old cleaner jailed 4 years for killing flatmate who started row over sound of running tap

SINGAPORE - An elderly cleaner was jailed for four years on Tuesday (March 27) after he slashed and killed his flatmate when a squabble over the sounds of a coffee cup being washed turned violent.

Tan Kim Hock, 72, admitted to attacking 62-year-old welder Fan Fook Heng with a knife in their one-bedroom Bendemeer Road rental flat late at night in June 2016.

Mr Fan died in hospital from multiple injuries a day later.

High Court Justice Chan Seng Onn noted that there was a "significant degree of provocation" in the culpable homicide case.

The court heard that the two men had been flatmates for about four years.

Tan was initially the sole tenant after his mother's death in 1991, but found a flatmate in 2012 after Housing Board regulations required him to share the flat. A neighbour introduced him to Mr Fan.

The two men got along initially but by the end of the first year, their relationship soured over Tan's smoking in the flat. They even came to blows in one incident.

The animosity came to a head one night when Tan was rinsing his cup in the kitchen to make his usual cup of coffee when Mr Fan confronted him, snatched the cup, slammed it on the sink and hit the tap violently before going back to the living room.

Tan felt his flatmate was annoyed by the sound of him washing his cup and tried to explain that he had no intention of disturbing him. But Mr Fan apparently retorted: "I don't care if I have to go to jail for a long time. If you don't stop making noise, I will beat you up."

Tan continued rinsing his cup with minimal noise but was again confronted by Mr Fan, who punched him in the face and accused him of disturbing him on purpose.

The court heard that Tan decided to teach Mr Fan a lesson and took out a knife from a drawer and lunged at the man, slashing him repeatedly until he collapsed.

As Mr Fan lay bleeding on the floor, he asked Tan to press the emergency panic call button at the front door. Tan refused, saying he might slip and fall as there was blood everywhere.

Mr Fan then crawled to the door to press the button before slumping on the floor.

Tan asked a neighbour to call for an ambulance while he waited at the common corridor. When the ambulance had not arrived after 10 minutes, Tan called the police himself.

He confessed to officers at the scene that he had attacked his flatmate after the dispute and showed them the knife.