Four years' jail for cleaner who killed flatmate

Tan Kim Hock was taken back to the rental flat in Bendemeer Road by the police during investigation. He had attacked welder Fan Fook Heng with a knife in June 2016 during a quarrel over the sound of a cup being washed.
Tan Kim Hock was taken back to the rental flat in Bendemeer Road by the police during investigation. He had attacked welder Fan Fook Heng with a knife in June 2016 during a quarrel over the sound of a cup being washed.SHIN MIN FILE PHOTO

He admitted to slashing man in a spat; judge notes a 'significant degree of provocation' in the case

An elderly cleaner was jailed for four years yesterday for slashing and killing 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 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. 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, he 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.

Tan's lawyer, Mr Christopher Bridges, said his client was not the aggressor and had acted on the spur of the moment after being provoked.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Jason Nim described the slashing as a "brutal" revenge attack.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 28, 2018, with the headline 'Four years' jail for cleaner who killed flatmate'. Print Edition | Subscribe