Man molested hotel cleaner

A man with a history of schizophrenia walked into Hotel Jen in Orchard Road and molested a cleaner.

Yesterday, Mohamad Azman Sarip, 39, was sentenced to 21/2 years' jail and one stroke of the cane after pleading guilty to one count of molestation.

On Oct 1, 2016, the 33-year-old woman was carrying out her cleaning duties in a room on the 17th storey of the hotel at around 5pm when she saw Azman pacing in the corridor.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Mark Yeo said: "Thinking that he was a hotel guest, she greeted the accused and offered to help him locate his room.

"However, the accused did not respond to her. The victim then continued with her cleaning duties."

Suddenly, Azman turned to the woman and walked towards her.

He then used his left hand to hug her forcefully from behind to prevent her from leaving, and molested her. The cleaner screamed for help and Azman ran away.

She alerted her housekeeping coordinator and the police were called. Officers established Azman's identity after viewing closed-circuit television footage and he was arrested.

The DPP said Azman had touched the woman's private parts, and urged District Judge Eddy Tham to sentence him to three years' jail, with three strokes of the cane.

Defence lawyers Sunil Sudheesan and Diana Ngiam represented Azman pro bono.

Yesterday, Mr Sudheesan asked the judge to give Azman the mandatory minimum sentence of two years' jail, with one stroke of the cane.

He urged the judge to be merciful, adding that Azman, who was an odd-job worker, had a history of mental illness and was in remission when he committed the offence.

Mr Sudheesan said: "Anybody interacting with him would realise that something is amiss... Accused persons like him need treatment. They don't need jail. They don't need caning."

After the sentencing, the lawyer said he would write to the prison authorities so that they can assess if Azman is mentally fit for caning.

The court heard that the cleaner, who is from China, has since returned to her home country.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, Hotel Jen said it takes the security and safety of its guests and staff seriously.

Its spokesman said: "As part of our commitment to protect and safeguard our guests and colleagues, the hotel is equipped with 24-hour closed-circuit camera monitoring, an on-site emergency response team and an updated lift control system. Our colleagues receive thorough and ongoing training on safety and security."

Shaffiq Alkhatib

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2018, with the headline 'Man molested hotel cleaner'. Print Edition | Subscribe