Singaporean accused of filming women in toilet: Court urged to lift gag order, stop his return to top UK uni

A student from a top university in Britain who allegedly filmed women while they were inside toilets should not be allowed to leave Singapore, the prosecution argued in court yesterday.

This came after the prosecution said it was last Friday alerted to text messages between the 22-year-old Singaporean and a "trusted friend", where the former discussed his plans to abscond and seek asylum in another country.

The conversation occurred before she realised that she was also one of his alleged victims.

The prosecution also sought for the court to lift its gag order on the student's identity, arguing that it is in the public interest for his identity to be revealed.

These were the latest developments in the case involving the student who was first charged with two counts of insulting a woman's modesty in October last year for filming women using the toilet and taking a shower.

The man's identity, and any information that could lead to his identification, cannot be revealed to protect the women's identities.

The man, who is represented by lawyer Kalidass Murugaiyan, was then granted permission to leave Singapore to go back to the university in October last year. Last week, he sought permission from the court to leave Singapore again to return to the university.

He now faces a total of 19 counts of insulting a woman's modesty by filming women using the toilet at various locations from as early as Dec 2, 2015, and one count of possession of obscene films.

Yesterday, however, the request to leave Singapore was opposed by Deputy Public Prosecutor Foo Shi Hao, who presented text messages that were exchanged between the man and a friend on Oct 2. In the messages, the man talked about a "masterplan" involving seeking asylum in another country. He said: "I could stay here, but that would be a certain metaphorical death." When the friend asked if he was certain he would be granted asylum, he replied: "Well, that's in the masterplan."

He also talked about a "decision-making rubric". "Stay for certain destruction... Or leave, and everything is uncertain, but potentially averting this problem," he told the friend.

DPP Foo argued that the text messages showed that the man is afraid of facing justice, and has a carefully considered plan to evade justice.

 
 
 

Meanwhile, Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Zhi Hao urged the court to amend its gag order such that the man's identity will be revealed to the public, without revealing the nature of relationships between the man and the 12 women identified so far as his alleged victims.

He added that 10 of the 12 women have requested that the man's identity be made known to the public. Of the remaining two women, one of them was hesitant while the other has not been consulted at the request of her family, said DPP Tan.

While the pool of potential victims may be narrowed through disclosing the man's name, it remains "sufficiently difficult" to identify a victim, he added.

In response, Mr Kalidass argued his client was experiencing suicidal thoughts at the time of the text messages. "He said certain things like he came up with a masterplan. He was in fact alluding to killing himself. That's why the word 'death' was being used."

Mr Kalidass added that the Samaritans of Singapore, which provides emotional support to individuals, had also e-mailed his client the following day to follow up on a call he had made to them about his "very strong suicidal thoughts".

In turn, the prosecution questioned why the man would have discussed asylum in the text messages if he had only intended to kill himself.

District Judge Adam Nakhoda is expected to make a decision on the prosecution's requests tomorrow.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2020, with the headline 'Accused texted about plans to abscond'. Print Edition | Subscribe