Singapore

Church caretaker jailed for setting fire inside church

Angry with what he considered to be a security lapse at his workplace, a St Hilda's Church caretaker decided to set fire to a room at the Ceylon Road place of worship on Easter - April 16.

Yeo Liang Chai, 60, pretended not to know about the blaze and tried to put out the fire when his colleagues discovered it.

To cover his tracks when police arrived on the scene, Yeo showed an officer a note with the word "jihad" that he had earlier written.

He was jailed for 1½ years yesterday after pleading guilty the day before to one count each of committing mischief by fire and intentionally perverting the course of justice.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Andrew Tan said: "During his stint as a full-time caretaker, the accused discovered that there were many practices he considered to be security and safety lapses.

"He aired his views and suggestions on numerous occasions.

"However, his superiors and fellow colleagues did not think the lapses were significant."

At around 7am on April 16, Yeo became upset after he found an unlocked room on the second storey of the church. He felt that it was a security lapse.

Incensed, he took a bottle of kerosene and set fire to another room which had been used to store donated books and clothes.

The fire caused more than $32,000 in damages, the court heard. No one was injured in the incident, according to an earlier police statement.

DPP Tan urged District Judge May Mesenas to jail him for at least 1½ years, saying that Yeo's note could be "construed as racially and religiously inflammatory".

He added: "It is indisputable that attributing an arson to a jihad is an extremely serious offence, and has significant potential to damage racial and religious relations in Singapore." - SHAFFIQ ALKHATIB

COURT & CRIME