Robber jailed nine years after 88-year-old victim dies
Jobless man jailed, caned for robbing 88-year-old, who fell, hit her head and died
Before he forcibly snatched a purse from the left hand of a frail 88-year-old woman in 2014, a jobless man told her: "Sorry auntie."
But Muhammad Fazrie Mohamad Ridzuan's apology counted for little since his violent action caused Madam Lee Ping Yeng to lose her balance.
She fell, hit her head against the floor, and later died in hospital.
Madam Lee lost her life for just $22, which was all she had in her purse.
Fazrie's girlfriend, Ms Nur Mardhiah Mohamad Zaharin, later spent the money on cigarettes and beverages.
Fazrie, now 24, was jailed nine years and given 12 strokes of the cane yesterday after pleading guilty to one count of committing robbery with hurt.
He was originally charged with murder on April 29, 2014, but this was later reduced to the current charge.
One count each of theft and possession of a weapon were taken into consideration during sentencing.
The court was told that Ms Nur Mardhiah's four-year-old daughter had complained of a stomach ache some time between 8am and 9am on April 12, 2014.
The lift landing on the ninth storey of Block 115, Teck Whye Lane. TNP PHOTO: PHYLLICIA WANG
Fazrie told Ms Nur Mardhiah that he would buy some food and asked her for money. She gave him $1.80, and told him that it was all she had and to buy whatever he could with it.
He went to a coffee shop in Block 145, Teck Whye Lane, at around 10am and spotted Madam Lee buying Chinese mixed rice nearby.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Chee Min Ping told the court: "The accused thought that (she) was an easy target to rob as it would be easy to overpower (her) should she put up any resistance."
When Madam Lee walked off, Fazrie followed her to the nearby Block 115, where she lived on the 12th storey, and entered a lift with her.
He greeted her in the lift and when the doors opened on the ninth storey, he apologised to her before snatching her purse.
Fazrie knew that by using such force, the elderly woman would most likely fall down and injure herself as she appeared "very old and frail", the court heard.
He ran down the stairs, took another lift to the void deck, and threw the purse away after pocketing its contents.
DPP Chee said: "As a consequence of the force employed by the accused, (Madam Lee) lost her balance and fell out of the lift... the back of her head hit against the floor of the lift landing."
Fazrie went back to Ms Nur Mardhiah, who was then staying with her aunt at nearby Block 9, and gave her the $22.
He lied that he had found the money in a wallet at the coffee shop. She used it to buy cigarettes and beverages.
The court heard that Ms Thangavel Jeyalakshimi, 69, who lives in a ninth-storey flat just beside the lift, looked out of her home at around 10.45am that day and saw Madam Lee lying motionless at the lift landing.
When The New Paper spoke to her yesterday about the incident, she said she had rushed out of her home and tried to help the older woman.
"She was lying face up. I tried to talk to her but received no response. I got worried and decided to seek help from another resident on the same floor," she said.
She knocked on her neighbour Jeffrey Lee Chin Hwa's door. Mr Lee, 39, then phoned for an ambulance.
After police and Singapore Civil Defence Force officers arrived at the scene, Madam Lee was taken to the National University Hospital.
She was found to have head injuries and died three days later.
The robbery was caught on closed-circuit television and the police arrested Fazrie on April 17.
Yesterday, DPP Chee urged Justice Choo Han Teck to sentence Fazrie to 10 years' jail with 12 strokes of the cane. She stressed that he had preyed on an elderly woman who was "vulnerable and alone".
Fazrie's lawyer, Mr James Masih, asked the judge to jail his client for six years with 12 strokes of the cane. He said that Fazrie's intention was only to snatch Madam Lee's purse to buy food for Ms Nur Mardhiah's daughter.
"The accused was shocked when he found out that his action had caused the death of the victim. He never intended for his action to cause grievous injury or death to the victim," added Mr Masih.
Justice Choo said he agreed with the prosecution and told Fazrie before sentencing him: "Take this as a final chance."
Several of Madam Lee's family members were in court yesterday to find out the outcome of the case.
They declined to comment when approached.
For committing robbery with hurt, Fazrie could have been jailed up to 20 years and caned.
She was lying face up. I tried to talk to her but received no response. I got worried and decided to seek help from another resident on the same floor.
- Ms Thangavel Jeyalakshimi, who saw Madam Lee Ping Yeng at the lift landing after the robbery
Crime prevention tips for the elderly
Senior citizens are generally more frail than most people and cannot easily defend themselves.
The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) said on its website that they become "victims of crime because of their more trusting and believing nature, and concern for their loved ones".
"This makes them easy targets for criminals," it said.
To protect themselves, the elderly are advised to:
- Walk in pairs or in a group and only in well-lit areas.
- Carry a personal alarm for extra protection.
- Be aware of their surroundings and avoid areas that increase their chances of being assaulted.
The NCPC also said that senior citizens should not retaliate if they become victims of crime as they can "easily sustain serious injuries, even death, in resisting".
Its advice: "Remain calm and try to memorise the assailant's appearance. Call the police immediately once you are safe to do so."
To reach out to vulnerable seniors, the police have a programme known as The Silver Watch, which was launched at Bukit Merah East Neighbourhood Police Centre in 2012.
The aim is to educate senior citizens to guard against crimes such as scams and two other common offences committed against them - robbery and snatch theft.