From The Straits Times archives: All about the Sheng Siong kidnap case

Sales executive Lee Sze Yong was sentenced to life imprisonment with three strokes of the cane for kidnapping the elderly mother of Sheng Siong supermarket boss in January 2014. In a letter to the court, Lee had asked to be given the death penalty.
Lee Sze Yong, main suspect in the Sheng Siong kidnapping case, brought back to Sembawang Park for police investigations.
Lee Sze Yong, main suspect in the Sheng Siong kidnapping case, brought back to Sembawang Park for police investigations. PHOTO: ST FILE

This article was first published on Dec 1, 2016 and updated on March 22, 2017

SINGAPORE - Lee Sze Yong, who kidnapped the elderly mother of Sheng Siong supermarket boss Lim Hock Chee in January 2014, was sentenced to life imprisonment on Thursday (Dec 1).

Lee, 44, was also sentenced to three strokes of the cane.

Lee had asked to be sentenced to death instead as he could not bear the thought of "hopeless years ahead" behind bars.

The Court of Appeal on Wednesday (March 22) turned down his appeal against his conviction.

"Even if the accused did have the intention to release the victim by the end of that fateful day... the offence was complete when he abducted the victim to hold her for ransom," said Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon in dismissing his appeal against conviction.

This brings to a close the near three-year saga of a crime rarely seen in Singapore.

Here are some of the highlights from The Straits Times archives:

1. Lee's first target was Peter Lim's children

(Clockwise from top left) billionaire Peter Lim, Breadtalk's George Quek, Fragrance Group chairman Koh Wee Meng and "popiah king" Sam Goi.PHOTOS: ST FILE, BUSINESS TIMES FILE

Lee, who was saddled with credit card debts of nearly $200,000, told the police that he got the idea of kidnapping someone after reading the Forbes list of richest people.

In an organiser, Lee jotted down information on several wealthy people - their identity card numbers, how much they were worth, where they lived, the names of their children and the schools they attended, and the times they left and came home.

The list of his potential targets included BreadTalk founder George Quek, "popiah king" Sam Goi of Tee Yih Jia Group and Fragrance Group executive chairman Koh Wee Meng.

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2. He had a 'spending plan' for ransom money

In two tables - one based on a hypothetical $10 million ransom and the other on a $20 million ransom - Lee worked out how he would use the money to clear his debts, and buy a house and cars for himself and his former partner.

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3. How the kidnapping was committed

Sheng Siong supermarket boss Lim Hock Chee with his 81-year-old mother, Madam Ng Lye Poh, who testified leaving the court after her testimony. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

On Jan 8, 2014, Madam Ng Lye Poh followed Lee, a stranger, into his car because she was told that her son had a bad fall in the office.

The elderly woman, then 79, was later blindfolded and driven around for hours. She was offered a soft drink which she refused as she is diabetic.

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4. More about the victim: The two sides of 'Sheng Siong Ma'

Shopkeepers and hawkers at a Housing Board enclave near Hougang Avenue 2 and 8 know Madam Ng as "Sheng Siong Ma", or the mother of the supermarket chain founded by her son Lim Hock Chee.

"She has a very loud voice... it's almost like her trademark," one said.

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5. Suspects were lovers who had been living together for more than 10 years

Heng Chen Boon (centre) in the police van on Jan 17, 2014. PHOTO: SHIN MIN

Lee and Heng Chen Boon - his accomplice - were lovers who lived together for more than 10 years, Lee's mother revealed.

Mr Heng was not aware of Lee's plan but ended up helping him swop cars and guard Madam Ng after Lee threatened to expose their relationship.

Heng was sentenced to three years' jail for helping Lee abduct Madam Ng. He has since served his term.

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6. Accused asked to be given death penalty in letter to court

Lee asked to be given the death penalty instead of "deprivation of liberty for the rest of my life".

"I had ruined my life. By dying, I hope that I have repaid my debt and to be at peace," he wrote.

He also asked Madam Ng for her forgiveness in a handwritten three-page letter to the court.

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7. Singapore was a hotbed of abductions in the 1950s and 1960s

Rubber magnate Ng Quee Lam was dragged from his limousine when he arrived to pick up a friend for dinner at Kee Choe Avenue in Sennett Estate in November 1964. PHOTO: FACSIMILE OF THE STRAITS TIMES

The Sheng Siong kidnapping was Singapore's first kidnap-for-ransom case in over a decade.

When Mr Lim got a call asking for $20 million in exchange for his mother's release, he thought it was a phone scam.

But such crimes were much more common in the past.

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