Fugitive on the run for 14 years sentenced to 28 months' jail for role in fatal gambling fight

Tan Keng Heng pleaded guilty to rioting, and was given a jail term of 28 months on Tuesday. PHOTO: ST GRAPHICS

SINGAPORE - After 14 years on the run, a 71-year-old man turned himself in last year for taking part in an unlawful assembly which resulted in the death of another man.

On Tuesday (March 29), Tan Keng Heng was jailed for 28 months, after he pleaded guilty to a charge of rioting.

He had been charged originally with murder, along with two others.

The trio, all Singaporean odd-job workers, fled to Malaysia after the incident. One gave himself up after four years on the run while another was caught across the Causeway in 2013.

Tan Keng Heng was jailed for 28 months, after he pleaded guilty to a charge of rioting. PHOTO: SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE

Mr Peng Teck Hoe, 32, a painter, died from his abdominal stab wounds, which were inflicted by one of the three men.

A district court heard that on Feb 21, 2001, one of the men, Neo Eng Hwee, then 46, was playing a game of cards near a wet market on the second level of Block 127, Lorong 1 Toa Payoh, with an unknown group.

Two unknown men, believed to be Mr Peng's friends, later joined in the game.

After about an hour, Neo suspected that the two men were cheating.

He confirmed his suspicion, the court heard, when he was the banker during one of the game rounds.

He stopped the game after he had distributed the cards to the each gambler, so that he could count the balance of the cards.

One of the two unknown men then declared that he had five cards instead of four.

Neo left the market and called for help to confront the alleged cheats and, later, Eng Bak Siong, then 47, and Tan, then 56, and three other unknown men arrived.

Their purpose, the court heard, was to confront the two alleged cheats and to intimidate them into returning Neo's money.

After Neo pointed out the two men who had allegedly cheated him, Eng took a knife and grabbed one of men around the neck. Tan grabbed the other man.

A commotion ensued and Eng thrust the knife two to three times at Mr Peng. Tan, meanwhile, got into a physical fight with another gambler.

Everyone fled when the police were about to arrive. Officers found Mr Peng lying near Block 128 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh. He died in Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

Neo gave himself up at Tuas Checkpoint in 2005. He faced a murder charge initially, but this was reduced after investigations. He was jailed for three years and eight months for his role in causing grievous hurt to Mr Peng.

Eng was arrested in Johor Baru by Malaysian police in July 2013 for immigration offences. He was extradited to Singapore later that month. He also faced a murder charge originally, but this was reduced to causing grievous hurt by a dangerous weapon and he was jailed for seven years.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Michael Quilindo asked for 30 months' jail for Tan, while defence lawyer Sunil Sudheesan asked for 18 months' jail.

In passing sentence, District Judge Liew Thiam Leng noted, among other things, that Tan had been on the run for 14 years, played a smaller role than Neo and Eng, and has been diagnosed with stage three cancer.

For rioting, Tan could have been jailed for up to five years. He is not liable for caning as he is over 50.

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