Fuelled by alcohol, a teenager went on a series of violent and unprovoked attacks in 2010 and 2011, culminating in the death of a retiree, whom he beat up because he felt irritated when he saw the 64-year-old praying in an Ang Mo Kio park.
Sumanthiran Selvarajoo, now 22, was yesterday sentenced to 16 years' jail and 12 strokes of the cane after he pleaded guilty to culpable homicide, causing grievous hurt, causing hurt and causing hurt with a dangerous weapon. He was between 17 and 18 years old when he carried out the four attacks in various parts of Ang Mo Kio between June 2010 and June 2011. Except in one case, where his father turned him in, he gave himself up to the police after each assault.
"You are a very unusual person," said Justice Woo Bih Li in sentencing him. "You have a volatile and violent temperament which causes you to injure others without valid reasons. Yet you know your conduct is wrong."
The judge took into account his young age and that he surrendered himself, but noted that his risk of future violence was high.
The court heard that Sumanthiran spent the night drinking with friends and was on his way home when he chanced upon Mr Loo Nam Sheng in the early hours of June 4, 2011. He confronted Mr Loo, who was standing in front of a tree at Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West park with his palms together, and asked what he was doing.
When Mr Loo said he was praying, Sumanthiran demanded to know who he was praying to. Mr Loo replied, "Buddha". This annoyed him and he suddenly punched Mr Loo in the face, challenging him to make Buddha appear before him.
He continued to punch and kick Mr Loo as the latter tried to get up. As the victim lay on the grass bleeding, Sumanthiran hit him on the shin with an umbrella, challenging him to get Buddha to save him.
Sumanthiran later called the police and emergency ambulance hotlines for help, using abusive language. He discarded his phone, but kept with him a book, The Long Hard Road Out Of Hell - the autobiography of American rock musician Marilyn Manson - as he went to Ang Mo Kio police headquarters to surrender.
Mr Loo died at the scene from severe facial injuries.
The court heard that at the time of the attack, Sumanthiran was on bail after being charged with slashing a 45-year-old man with a parang, beating up a 20-year-old who had a feud with his cousin, and slashing a 17-year-old with a bread knife.
A government psychiatrist found that Sumanthiran, who admitted to picking fights with his schoolmates by bumping into them, had anti-social personality disorder.
The defence disputed this. His lawyer Sunil Sudheesan told the court that at the time of the offences, his client, a school athlete, was depressed about failing to qualify for the 2010 Youth Olympic Games and was losing faith in religion. "Underneath that fierce exterior he was trying to portray, he was a boy calling out for help," said Mr Sudheesan.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Ang Feng Qian pointed to the ferocity of the attack in seeking a deterrent jail term of 18 to 19 years, noting that blood was found on the leaves of the tree where Mr Loo was standing.