Recalcitrant offender tried to rob elderly man at knifepoint after serving preventive detention

SINGAPORE - A recalcitrant offender tried but failed to rob an elderly moneychanger at knifepoint, just two years after he was released from preventive detention (PD).

Syed Muhammad Syed Hassan Alkaff now faces the prospect of serving another lengthy PD.

PD is for repeat offenders and can see them incarcerated for up to 20 years with no remission for good behaviour.

Alkaff had been given his first PD for offences including cheating. He was released in 2016 after serving seven years behind bars.

On Thursday (Sept 5), District Judge Hamidah Ibrahim called for a report to assess his suitability for a second PD over his latest string of offences.

Alkaff, 60, has pleaded guilty to one count each of attempting to commit armed robbery and being in possession of two vials of hydrochloric acid.

The court heard that the jobless man had claimed that he owed several moneylenders $20,000 in total.

Alkaff went to The Central in Eu Tong Sen Street on Oct 19 last year and noticed that Mr Amir Hamja Shaik Dawood's moneychanging business was located in a secluded area of the shopping mall.

Alkaff then hatched a plan to rob the 89-year-old man and returned to The Central the next day, armed with a penknife.

Mr Amir was unlocking the door of his unit at around 8pm on Oct 20 when Alkaff barged in.

 
 

Deputy Public Prosecutor Sanjiv Vaswani said: "A struggle ensued between the (two men)... The accused then hit the victim on the head and face area at least two times with the handle of the penknife."

Alkaff fled empty-handed after noticing passers-by in the vicinity, leaving his sunglasses and penknife blade behind. Mr Amir had injuries including a bruised forehead.

Police managed to trace Alkaff through closed-circuit television footage as well as DNA swabs taken from the sunglasses and penknife blade. Officers arrested him in a Bedok South flat on Oct 22 last year.

A backpack that he had carried during the robbery attempt was found to contain items including a pair of gloves, another penknife and two vials of yellow liquid found to be hydrochloric acid.

"The accused intended to use the white gloves and unopened penknife for another robbery attempt," said DPP Vaswani. "The accused claimed that he intended to protect himself from the moneylenders...by using hydrochloric acid to cause hurt to them."

The DPP urged the judge to call for a report to access Alkaff's suitability for PD, stressing that the robbery attempt was a premeditated offence.

Defence lawyer Koh Jian Ying pleaded for his client not to be given PD, and asked for one last chance. Alkaff will be sentenced on Sept 26.

Offenders convicted of armed robbery can be jailed for up to 14 years and receive at least 12 strokes of the cane. Alkaff cannot be caned as he is over 50 years old.

Correction note: This article has been edited for clarity.