Jail, cane for construction worker who stabbed two men while drunk, killing one of them

SINGAPORE - What started out as a joyful New Year's celebration turned into a tragedy when a man flew into a rage after he was sprayed with beer and stabbed two people, killing one of them.

Mr Selvaraj Panneer Selvam, 29, suffered a 19.5cm-deep stab wound on his lower back and later died due to haemorrhage. The other man, Mr Ganesan Bala Murugan, 23, was stabbed in the abdomen and had to undergo a transfusion after losing 2.5 litres of blood.

Their attacker, Sannasi Nagarethinam, 36, was sentenced on Thursday (Oct 25) to seven years' jail and eight strokes of the cane after pleading guilty to one count of using a weapon to cause grievous hurt to Mr Selvaraj.

A second similar charge involving Mr Ganesan was taken into consideration during sentencing. All three men are Indian nationals working as construction workers in Singapore.

The court heard that close to midnight on Dec 31, 2016, a group of people at a basketball court at the SCAL Dormitory in Mandai Road became rowdy and started spraying drinks at others around them.

A dispute broke out after Sannasi and his friends, who were in the vicinity downing whisky, were sprayed with beer. This escalated into a fight which ended when onlookers intervened.

Still unhappy, Sannasi went up to his room at nearby Block C to arm himself with a wooden stick and a 32.7cm-long knife.

Mr Ganesan was walking towards the same block when Sannasi stabbed him in the stomach. Other residents then came forward to restrain the attacker who struggled and swung the knife in all directions.

Mr Selvaraj, who was in front of Sannasi, then received the fatal wound.

Despite his injury, Mr Selvaraj managed to stagger to a security office to seek help, and Mr Ganesan joined him there shortly after. The police were notified and officers arrested Sannasi later that morning.

His two victims were taken to hospital and Mr Selvaraj was pronounced dead at 1.26am on Jan 1 last year. The court heard that Sannasi had not intended to cause his death.

On Thursday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Daphne Lim urged District Judge Luke Tan to sentence Sannasi to at least seven years' jail with eight strokes of the cane.

She said: "From the moment the accused left the basketball court, he had violence and revenge on his mind. His mental state was that of alcohol-fuelled aggression and he retrieved the weapons fully intending to use them at the next available opportunity."

Defence lawyer Suang Wijaya, who represented Sannasi pro bono, pleaded for a maximum of five years' jail but left the number of strokes of the cane to the judge's discretion. He also said that Mr Selvaraj was his client's close friend.

For causing grievous hurt with a weapon, Sannasi could have been jailed for life or jailed for up to 15 years and fined or caned.