Storekeeper, 17, started with stealing of school uniforms and progressed to molesting girls

SINGAPORE - He started by stealing school uniforms, using at least one set to masturbate and progressed to molesting two young girls he had found "cute and lovable".

In eight instances over the past two years, Tony Tan Tong Li, 17, took garments that had been hung out to dry by neighbours in his Hougang estate.

With the girls, aged 11 and nine, his modus operandi was to approach them on the pretext of needing help to carry newspapers.

On Friday, Tony admitted to 10 charges arising from the acts, committed between 2012 and March this year in his Hougang neighbourhood. He also admitted to another two counts, involving two bicycles he was found with but could not account for.

A storekeeper at the time of his arrest, he is expected to be sentenced on Aug 29, after a court called for reports on his suitability for probation and reformative training.

The court heard that Tony's most recent theft was of a uniform and a physical education t-shirt from Holy Innocents High School. On Jan 16 this year, he made off with the garments after spotting them hanging outside his victim's HDB flat along Hougang Avenue 10.

Tony admitted he had brought the school uniforms to the top floor of a nearby block of flats, masturbated, and thrown the items away. He also admitted to having a habit of searching his neighbourhood for young girls to chat up, and hopefully touch.

On March 27 this year, he molested an 11-year-old girl at a staircase landing.

While being investigated for this, he told police he had also touched a nine-year-old girl on March 12 last year. He fled after the girl screamed for help.

The prescribed penalty for outraging the modesty of a person under the age of 14 is a jail term of five years, caning, and fine.