Man gets six months' jail for helping friend to set fire outside HDB flat

SINGAPORE - A 21-year-old unemployed man thought he was helping a childhood friend get back at someone when he started a fire outside an HDB flat in Bishan early this year.

Manikandan R. Gunasegaran, who was out on bail at the time, covered his head so that he would not be caught in the act by cameras. Despite his efforts, he was nabbed.

On Friday (April 27), Gunasegaran was sentenced to six months' jail for committing mischief by fire. It will run after his current jail term for unlicensed moneylending ends in May next year.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Gail Wong told District Judge Edgar Foo that the premeditated act carried a "high risk of harm and property damage".

"It (the fire) was set in the middle of the night, when occupants were asleep," she said.

The court heard that at about 10pm on Jan 18, Gunasegaran was drinking with friends in Duxton Road when he met a childhood friend known to the court only as Iswaran. The pair used to belong to the same secret society.

Iswaran said someone living in Block 272 Bishan Street 24 was causing stress to him and his family and asked Gunasegaran to start a fire outside the unit. Gunasegaran agreed and left to do his friend's bidding some time after midnight.

At the foot of the block, he found a container and some paper. He also went to the carpark where he siphoned some petrol from a motorcycle.

Gunasegaran poured the petrol outside the unit before tossing the paper he had set fire to on the floor. He fled soon after.

When one of the occupants of the flat, Mr Mohamed Noor Kasim, 60, left for work at about 6am, he discovered burn marks on the door and in the corridor.

He woke up his daughter Nur Shahitha Mohamed Noor, 29, who called the police.

A Singapore Civil Defence Force report said the nearby wall, floor tiles, main door and metal gate were damaged, as were footwear and a floor mat. Ms Shahitha has estimated the cost at $915. No restitution has been made.

Gunasegaran said in mitigation that he has plans to further his studies and that prison counsellors are helping him.