Changi death row inmates' pioneer counseller dies

Changi death row inmates' pioneer counseller dies
Father Brian J Doro.

A Catholic priest who once served as counsellor to some of Changi Prison's most infamous death row inmates, including child-killer Adrian Lim, died in Perth last month.

Father Brian J. Doro, who was awarded a Public Service Medal in the 1989 National Day Awards for his exemplary work, spent 17 years helping inmates and drug addicts reform.

A memorial service was held at the Good Shepherd Place in Toa Payoh yesterday in honour of the Australia-born priest who would have turned 74 this month.

"He was one of the pioneer prison counsellors who attended to death row inmates," said retired senior prison officer Victor Doraisamy. "I remember him as a very jovial, happy and positive man who had a passion for prison work."

On execution days, he would come in at 1am and keep the condemned inmate company until the end, said Mr Doraisamy.

One of the prisoners was Lim, who was sentenced to death for the murder of two children, Agnes Ng, nine, and Ghazali Marzuki, 10.

He was hanged in November 1988, along with his wife Tan Mui Choo and his mistress, Hoe Kah Hong.

Father Doro, who belonged to the Redemptorist order which runs the Novena Church, also counselled the two women for five years after they were convicted in 1983.

"It is like sending a friend off on a trip," the priest said in an interview with The Straits Times in 1989, describing how he felt as he stood "within touching distance" of the prisoners and saw them hanged before his eyes.

But Father Doro said he had never flinched in his duty to "give comfort to prisoners in their last moments". He said that by then there was no sadness, just acceptance. "We even joke about it."

Father Doro, who was born in Brisbane, became a priest at age 26, then spent three years in Taiwan where he learnt Mandarin, enabling him to say mass for Chinese-speaking inmates.

He came to Singapore in 1978.

In addition to counselling prison inmates, he was also a volunteer aftercare officer for drug addicts.

Father Doro, who was the Roman Catholic chaplain for Changi Prison at the time, is also understood to have provided religious services at the Whitley Road Detention Centre, where several people were detained for their alleged involvement in a Marxist conspiracy in 1987.

He left Singapore in 1995.

Memorial media notices were placed in Perth where he lived his final years and was buried. One of his two sisters was also a nun.

Sister Gerard Fernandez, who worked with him in the prisons for 17 years, wrote in a condolence message: "We journeyed with death row inmates. We sent them to the Lord with so much joy. They loved Father Doro. I feel sad losing a friend but I am relieved he is released from his sufferings. He shared our sorrows and our joys and he was always there for us."

This article was first published on March 08, 2015.
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