Man with history of mental illness gets jail, caning for molesting woman in Hotel Jen

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

On Thursday (Sept 20), Mohamad Azman Sarip, 39, was sentenced to 2½ 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 immediately alerted her housekeeping coordinator who in turn told a security officer to call the police.

Officers managed to establish Azman's identity after viewing the footage from the closed-circuit television.

He was later arrested and taken to Tanglin Police Division.

DPP Yeo said: "The accused admitted that he had gone to Hotel Jen on Oct 1, 2016, in search of females. He further admitted that he watched pornography every day, and was feeling depressed and lonely."

The DPP said that 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.

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

The lawyer said Azman, who was an odd-job worker, had fallen into a coma for two weeks after a motorcycle accident in 1992, and his character changed after that.

He urged the judge to be merciful, adding that Azman has 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, Mr Sudheesan said that he will 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 its 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."