SINGAPORE - For seven months, they shared a living space, sleeping just metres apart from each other in an eldercare home. But when his roommate turned off the light while Sim Hwa was making himself a hot beverage, the 89-year-old snapped. He was so angry that he threw hot water on Mr Lee Say Fong, also 89, and slashed him with a fruit knife and a chopper.
The attack left Mr Lee with 26 per cent second-degree burns over his chest, back, right shoulder, right arm and face. He also had cuts on his chest, right ankle and left leg.
Sim Hwa, who had been staying at the Kheng Chiu Happy Lodge at Block 70 Tampines Ave 4 since 2011, was sentenced to 18 months' jail on Thursday (May 4). He pleaded guilty to an amended charge of causing hurt to Mr Lee .
Deputy Public Prosecutor Li Yihong said at about 9.30pm on Nov 23 last year, Sim was making a mug of Milo in the living room when he became angry with Mr Lee for turning off the lights.
Two hours later, Sim brought a kettle of hot water to the bedroom and splashed the contents on his roommate who was seated on his bed.
Sim then picked up the Mr Lee's 14.5cm-long fruit knife and slashed him a few times across his chest and left hand. He next used a 16cm-long chopper to slash him across his legs a few times.
Sim left the room and disposed of the two weapons in a laundry basket outside their room. He went to the ground floor and informed the staff that he had hit someone.
Meanwhile, an injured Mr Lee made his way up to the sixth floor and knocked on the bedroom door of a staff member, who called for an ambulance after seeing that he was bleeding profusely.
Mr Lee was first conveyed to Changi General Hospital and then transferred to Singapore General Hospital for further treatment of his extensive burns. He underwent multiple operations and was admitted to the Burns Intensive Care Unit.
He was discharged on Jan 10 this year for step-down care at St Andrew's Community Hospital after being warded for close to 50 days. He only returned to the home in late February.
Pleading for leniency, Sim's lawyer Liaw Jin Poh said in his mitigation plea that his client is stricken with multiple illnesses.
He said Sim had lived in constant fear of a roommate who had previously assaulted and injured him, and was a source of constant provocation and bullying. Sim also said that Mr Lee kept knives in the room.
Mr Liaw said the father of five was let down by his family who kicked him out of his house. He was persuaded by his second son to sell the family flat for a larger unit. After selling the flat, his second son and family took all the proceeds of the sale and bought another flat but refused to let Sim know the address of the new home.
Sim then sought help from his third son, who allowed him to stay with him. But the third son migrated to Thailand with his wife sometime in June 2011 and Sim was left without a roof over him again.
"Although his five children are all educated and gainfully employed, the accused had to make an application to the Maintenance of Parents Tribunal before the children agreed to give $50 each for his subsistence and medical bills etc," said the lawyer.
Sim, whose sentence was backdated to Nov 25, could have been jailed for up to seven years and fined. Elderly folk serving jail time may be possibly located in the prison's medical wing for safety reasons. The food served to them may also be slightly different to suit nutrition needs.