A dispute arising from a coffee-shop customer's unhappiness over its "self-service" policy on drinks turned fatal when an off-duty coffee-shop assistant confronted the patron with a cleaver.
The assistant, Khor Tzoong Meng, 51, was sentenced to eight years in jail yesterday after he pleaded guilty to a charge of culpable homicide for slashing 37-year- old Ang Kim Keat, inflicting a gaping 20cm-long wound to his neck.
The victim later died in hospital.
The High Court heard that on Feb 24 last year, Khor, who worked the 3pm to 11pm shift at the Hougang Avenue 3 coffee shop, remained there after work, drinking beer by himself.
Shortly before 2am the next day, Mr Ang turned up at the coffee shop, bought food from a stall and ordered a soft drink, asking for it to be sent to his table.
However, one of the coffee-shop assistants on duty told him that the coffee shop had a "self-service" policy after 11pm.
Mr Ang became upset and shouted his order at another coffee-shop assistant, Mr Teo Choong Meng. When Mr Teo said he had to collect his drink at the counter, Mr Ang shouted at him.
After Mr Ang finished his meal, he threw the plate on the floor and toppled his chair before confronting Mr Teo, who again explained the policy, pointing to a displayed sign.
As the customer walked away, he confronted Khor, accusing him of staring at him.
Khor apologised and said he was not staring, but Mr Ang hurled vulgarities at him before leaving.
Khor told Mr Teo that he wanted to explain the policy to the patron. Despite his co-worker's advice not to bother, Khor armed himself with a cleaver and followed Mr Ang.
Near a lift landing at the block, Khor had a verbal row with the patron. When Mr Ang punched him in the right eye, Khor took out his cleaver and slashed him in the neck.
After the victim collapsed, Khor wiped the bloodied cleaver on the grass and returned to the coffee shop. A passer-by called the police.
Meanwhile, Khor washed the cleaver before returning it. He continued drinking, telling Mr Teo he was "in great trouble".
Khor was arrested at home shortly after.
In mitigation, his lawyer, Mr Josephus Tan, noted that an eyewitness had seen Khor talking softly and that it was Mr Ang who first resorted to violence.
Things got out of hand when Khor was punched in the eye, said Mr Tan, who sought no more than seven years in jail.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Daphne Lim asked for 10 to 12 years in jail, noting that Khor could have let the matter rest but chose to arm himself and follow the victim when it was clear any confrontation would end in violence.