Convicted robber who fled court faces judge again

Visvanathan Vadivelu will be sentenced on Sept 26 for armed robbery and drug charges.
Visvanathan Vadivelu will be sentenced on Sept 26 for armed robbery and drug charges.

Accused fled during break and was arrested the day after

A convicted robber who had absconded earlier this week during a break in court proceedings was arrested and hauled back to court yesterday.

Visvanathan Vadivelu, who was arrested on Wednesday evening, was not offered bail. The 50-year-old Singaporean will be sentenced on Sept 26 for one count of armed robbery, two counts of drug consumption and one count of drug possession - charges he had pleaded guilty to earlier this year.

Visvanathan was to have been sentenced on Tuesday, but during court proceedings, he told District Judge Kan Shuk Weng that he wanted to retract his plea for all charges other than drug possession, which he admitted to.

When Judge Kan asked him why he wanted to retract his plea, he replied that he has "mental issues".

He also claimed that lawyer A. Revi Shanker, whom he had discharged on Monday, had not been "interested" in these issues.

The judge then stood down the hearing for Mr Revi to be called to the courtroom. But when the lawyer arrived about 15 minutes later, Visvanathan was nowhere to be found.

Judge Kan then issued a warrant of arrest against him.

The armed robbery charge involved a Shell petrol station in Upper Bukit Timah Road.

On July 31, 2017, Visvanathan used a kitchen knife to threaten a 22-year-old cashier before escaping with $1,000.

 
 

He was arrested four hours later.

He was charged in court and out on bail when police rearrested him on Sept 15, 2017, for suspected drug-related offences.

He had a packet of a powdery substance which was later found to contain diamorphine or pure heroin.

His urine samples also showed traces of the drug as well as methamphetamine, commonly known as Ice.

Offenders convicted of armed robbery can be jailed for up to 10 years and given at least 12 strokes of the cane.

Those over 50 years old cannot be caned.

In a statement on Thursday night, police said that Visvanathan was on court bail when he appeared in court on Tuesday for sentencing for armed robbery and drug-related offences.

On why he was able to flee the court, police said: "When the proceedings adjourned for a court break, the man was able to leave the courtroom unescorted because he was still on court bail.

"He was not required to be, nor could he be taken into police custody during the break."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2019, with the headline 'Convicted robber who fled court faces judge again'. Print Edition | Subscribe