Man gets 11½ years' jail for Jurong West market fire that led to more than $6 million in damage and losses

Lim Ying Siang (centre) pleaded guilty to one count each of committing mischief by fire and drug consumption.
Lim Ying Siang (centre) pleaded guilty to one count each of committing mischief by fire and drug consumption.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - An odd-job worker who set fire to two styrofoam boxes at a market in Jurong West caused more than $6 million in damage and losses when the flames engulfed the premises and affected two neighbouring coffee shops.

The blaze started by Lim Ying Siang at the market in Block 493, Jurong West Street 41, at about 2.40am on Oct 11, 2016, affected 56 stall owners, most of them did not have fire insurance.

The stall owners suffered about $740,000 in loss of property and an additional $980,000 in lost income as many could not open for business for at least a few months, a district court heard on Tuesday (March 20).

Besides these costs, Deputy Public Prosecutor Goh Yi Ling said that rebuilding and renovation works for the market and the two coffee shops in Blocks 493 and 494 came up to about $5 million.

On Tuesday, Lim, 42, was jailed for 11½ years and ordered to be given three strokes of the cane after pleading guilty to one count each of committing mischief by fire and drug consumption.

The court heard that after Lim took about 20 sleeping pills on Oct 10, 2016, he went to drink beer at the coffee shop in Block 493 and then at the one in Block 494.

He returned home at around 1.20am and found that he did not have his home keys and mobile phone. He went back to the Block 493 coffee shop and flew into a rage when he found it shuttered.

 
 
 

When he spotted a styrofoam box near a vegetable stall at the market, he used his lighter to set it on fire. He did the same to another box that was near an incense stall.

Police received a hotline call about the fire at around 2.40am.

DPP Goh said members of the public tried to extinguish the flames but failed.

"The fire subsequently engulfed the entire Block 493 market, and Block 493 coffee shop and extended to the Block 494 coffee shop before Singapore Civil Defence Force firefighters were able to extinguish it," she added.

When an acquaintance asked Lim whether he knew about the fire later that morning, the odd-job worker admitted that he started it. He was arrested on Oct 13.

The court heard that traces of methamphetamine were later detected in Lim's urine samples and he admitted he had consumed the drug before his arrest.

DPP Goh urged District Judge Kenneth Yap to sentence Lim to 111/2 years' jail with three strokes of the cane. She stressed that he had caused widespread damage and endangered the lives of residents in the neighbourhood.

Lim's lawyer, Mr Ahmad Firdaus Daud, who was assigned to the case under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, pleaded for a 10-year jail sentence and three strokes of the cane.

"Mr Lim's IQ is in the borderline range. He has a full-scale intelligence quotient of 74... Mr Lim is genuinely remorseful for his actions," he said.

For committing mischief by fire, Lim could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined.