14 years, 6 strokes for ‘brutal’ temple killing

This article is more than 12 months old

Victim suffered 93 injuries all over his body

A 49-year-old burglar who bludgeoned a temple helper to death during a break-in was sentenced to 14 years' jail and six strokes of the cane yesterday.

Loh Suan Lit, who is jobless, entered Choa Chu Kang Combined Temple in Teck Whye Lane in the early hours of Feb 14, 2016, to steal valuables. But he panicked when he was caught by Mr Tan Poh Huat, who was sleeping there.

Loh reached for a tool from his backpack and repeatedly bludgeoned the 53-year-old, leaving him with 93 external injuries all over his body, fractures to his skull, jaw and nose and a burst eyeball.

He died from a crushed voice box. The weapon used could not be established.

Loh pleaded guilty to one charge of culpable homicide and one unrelated charge of burgling a stall at Beauty World Food Centre.

In sentencing, Justice Chua Lee Ming accepted the defence's argument that Loh's attack was not premeditated. But the High Court judge agreed with prosecutors that the attack was "brutal and vicious".

The court heard that on Feb 13, 2016, Loh bought a hammer, saw, screwdriver and chisel, intending to break into the temple to steal gold chains placed on religious statues and donations from devotees.


That night, he made his way to the temple with the tools in his backpack. As there were still people around, he left and went to a nearby coffee shop where he took some pills to "get high" and watched a football match.

Around 2.30am, he returned to the temple, wearing a surgical mask, gloves and a cap.

Loh climbed over the back wall and walked around, trying to prise open several doors. But he realised he was making too much noise and decided to stop.

As he was leaving, he heard Mr Tan shouting "oi". Panicking, Loh reached for a tool and hit Mr Tan repeatedly. He then climbed out of the temple, returned to his Marsiling flat and threw away the tools.

Mr Tan's body was found at about 7am by another helper. He was covered in blood and there were bloodstains on the floor, chairs and ladder near his body.

An autopsy report said marks found on Mr Tan's head and body were consistent with the use of an object with a circular head, such as a hammer.

Police established Loh's identity after reviewing surveillance footage. Loh, who left for Malaysia on Feb 19 that year, was arrested on Feb 24 as he returned to Singapore via the Woodlands Checkpoint.