Man punched in dispute over missing camera
A misplaced camera, a misunderstanding, an accusation. These ingredients made for blood and tears for a family at Sentosa on Sunday.
Blood, because the father was punched by another visitor after being accused of theft.
Tears, because his young children and those of his assailant wailed as they watched their fathers hitting at each other.
The victim, who wanted to be known only as James, 37, said he had gone to the Trickeye Museum at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) with his wife, two children and in-laws.
The Trickeye Museum showcases around 80 optical illusions in the form of paintings and installations, allowing visitors to take creative photographs of themselves with the exhibits.
After about 40 minutes, James' wife came across a small camera inside a Nikon case lying on a raised platform at an exhibit featuring a panda.
The couple, who are both in the education sector, told The New Paper at their flat on Monday that their first thought was to hand the camera to the museum staff.
James' wife, who wanted to be known only as Sarah, 32, said: "I asked a woman next to me if it belonged to her, but it did not."
James said: "Right away, she wanted to return the camera. But the lost-and-found counter was outside. So we decided to do it at the end of our visit."
Sarah said she placed the camera into a baby stroller before handing it to her mother a few minutes later to put into her handbag for safe keeping.
About half an hour later, a woman who introduced herself as a museum staff member approached Sarah. The museum told TNP that the woman was its operations manager.
Sarah said the woman asked her if her family had seen anything others might have misplaced.
"I wasn't sure she was a staff member because she wasn't wearing any identification. But we gave the camera to her," she said.
Sarah then verified with her that she was a staff of the museum. The operations manager handed the camera to a woman in her 70s who was standing a few metres away.
The woman loudly accused her family of stealing the camera, said Sarah.
"She was shouting at the top of her voice. The staff member tried to intervene to get her to move away, but she continued shouting."
James heard the commotion and went to his wife's assistance.
He said: "(The woman) was very aggressive and confrontational. I feared for my wife, so I argued with her."
Then a man, who later said he was the woman's son, suddenly appeared in front of James. The next thing James knew, the well-built man had punched him on the left side of his chin.
He said: "I didn't realise my mouth was bleeding. I became very angry."
He scuffled with his assailant in front of a crowd of around 20 people, some of them children.
James said his father-in-law, 65, also joined in to throw some punches at the man. The fight lasted about a minute before they were separated.
Two passers-by, two museum employees and six RWS employees and security personnel stepped in to stop the fight, a statement from the museum said.
The museum also said that the attack had occurred because of a misunderstanding: The attacker had thought wrongly that James had pushed his mother. (See report on facing page.)
TNP understands the attacker is a Singaporean permanent resident in his 40s.
When the police arrived, they established that it was a case of voluntarily causing hurt, said a spokesman. He added that James was advised on his legal recourse. No arrest was made.
A Singapore Civil Defence Force spokesman said that an ambulance was sent, but both parties declined to be taken to the hospital.
James, who said he had bruises on his chin, cuts on his lower lip and pain in his lower jaw, later went to hospital on his own.
He said: "My four-year-old son is so traumatised now. He keeps asking me if the police would catch the man who punched Daddy.
"The whole situation was ridiculous, unreasonable and quite stupid. Instead of being appreciative, they were aggressive and accused us of stealing their camera. Even if they wanted to dispute it, why did he have to hit me?"
Sarah said: "It was out of goodwill that we wanted to return the camera. Now I regret picking it up."
The other family could not be contacted.
The whole situation was ridiculous, unreasonable and quite stupid. Instead of being appreciative, they were aggressive and accused us of stealing their camera.
Museum: It was all a misunderstanding
A series of misunderstandings led to the confrontation between the two families, said the Trickeye Museum.
The New Paper understands that the camera had been left at an exhibit by the elderly woman's son, who then wandered off.
The family, consisting of the elderly woman, her son, his wife and their two young daughters, then made a missing item report to the museum's staff, saying that it was a theft.
The museum's operations manager, who declined to be named, told TNP: "They were upset because without a camera, they couldn't fully experience the museum, which was about optical illusions. They wanted to call the police."
She said she led the family to the staff office at the back of the museum and told them to stay there while they investigated.
But the elderly woman left the office to try to find the camera on her own, according to an e-mail sent by the museum to James to explain what had happened.
The manager clarified later to TNP: "I had tried several times to bring her back to the office. She kept wanting to look for the camera."
Later on, the manager checked that the family was not around before she approached James and Sarah, who had found the camera.
She introduced herself to the couple at the exit of the museum.
She said: "I asked them if they had seen anything that might have been misplaced by others, and she (Sarah) said no at first.
"They then explained they had wanted to hand in the camera at the end (of their visit). I was very grateful to them, so I thanked them."
James said that they were not sure if the manager was a legitimate staff member as she did not have any identification.
"We reacted like how anyone would have when approached by a stranger," he added.
But he denied that his wife had said no to the manager. Instead, she handed over the camera when asked. After that, Sarah verified with her that she was a museum staff member.
Unknown to the manager, the elderly woman had left the staff office again and stumbled upon her retrieving the camera from Sarah.
That was when the confrontation between the two families started.
During the stand-off, TNP understands that the elderly woman's son thought James had pushed his mother.
But James had only argued with her and did not touch her.
Said the museum spokesman: "We hope that visitors conduct themselves in a courteous and respectful manner while visiting our museum.
"We are looking into how to better handle such cases in future...to prevent confusion and misunderstanding."
They were upset because without a camera, they couldn't fully experience the museum, which was about optical illusions. They wanted to call the police.
- The museum's operations manager on the family who owned the camera