Marsiling slashing: Man died from breathing in smoke

Marsiling slashing: Man died from breathing in smoke
PHOTO: The New Paper

He went on a violent spree, attacking his neighbours with a chopper and a kitchen knife.

Later that same day, firefighters found rag-and-bone man Tan Ban Huat, 57, motionless and leaning against a toilet wall in his burning Marsiling Road HDB rental flat.

When one of them tapped him, he collapsed onto the ground. He was later pronounced dead at the scene.

Yesterday, a coroner's inquiry was held in the State Courts to look into the circumstances surrounding Mr Tan's death.

The inquiry heard that he had died from smoke inhalation and some shallow cuts were found on his neck, forearm and his left thumb.

But the police ruled out foul play as Mr Tan, whom residents knew as gemuk (Malay for fat) due to his large size, was found alone inside the toilet. His eighth-storey flat was also locked from the inside.

Investigation officer Staff Sergeant (Staff Sgt) Abidah Mubarak, who took the stand yesterday, said Mr Tan was a loner who loved to drink at the void deck of Block 4, Marsiling Road.

She added he hoarded items that he would display for sale at the lift landing near his block's void deck.

On Jan 26, Mr Tan used a chopper to attack a neighbour, Mr A Majid Maarof, 61, a cleaner who was then fixing the handlebar of his bicycle outside his third-storey flat at about 3.40pm.

Mr Majid's wife emerged from her home to see her husband bleeding from cuts on his right ear and shoulder. She pushed Mr Tan, who swung the chopper at her, but the chopper's blade broke.

Mr Majid took the opportunity to run to a second-storey neighbour's home to seek refuge.

Meanwhile, another resident, Madam Ng Yee Way, 60, heard the commotion and went to investigate.

As she was walking along the corridor towards the source of the noise, Mr Tan suddenly appeared in front of her.

She saw the kitchen knife in his hand and tried to flee, but he grabbed her hair. She then spun around and grabbed the knife that was thrust towards her.

In the midst of the struggle, she suffered a cut on her cheek that stretched to her chin.

Intention

When she asked Mr Tan why he was attacking her, he replied that he wanted to kill her as she was interfering in his affairs. After she repeatedly apologised, he let her go.

Based on a blood trail, Mr Tan was believed to have taken the stairs to the 13th storey, where he tried to throw himself off the parapet, said Staff Sgt Abidah.

But he was believed to have difficultly doing so due to his large size, she said.

He went back to his eighth-storey flat and left the knife outside his unit.

At about 5.15pm, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) received a call about a fire in Mr Tan's unit.

Firefighters broke open the main door and found him inside the smoke-filled toilet. By then, he was lifeless and leaning against a wall, albeit in a standing position, she said.

The injuries on his neck and thumb were found by the Health Sciences Authority to be self-inflicted, Staff Sgt Abidah said.

Mr Tan was pronounced dead at 6pm.

The SCDF fire report is still pending, but preliminary findings stated that the blaze was caused by incendiaries, Staff Sgt Abidah said.

Mr Tan was not close to Madam Ng or Mr Majid, although they would acknowledge each other whenever they met, the police officer said.

She added that Mr Majid had on a different day sparked off a confrontation with Mr Tan after accidentally kicking one of Mr Tan's soft toys that was on display for sale.

But the misunderstanding was believed to have been resolved as Mr Majid apologised to Mr Tan.

Staff Sgt Abidah also said Mr Tan could have suspected that Madam Ng had complained about him to the town council for obstructing the space at the lift landing whenever he laid out his items.

The inquiry also heard Mr Tan had allocated all of his CPF money to a friend, Mr Lim Hwa Huk, 59, who had previously loaned Mr Tan about $10,000.

State Coroner Marvin Bay has adjourned the case to Aug 14.

Helplines

Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) 1800-221-4444

Singapore Association for Mental Health 1800-283-7019

Touch Counselling & Social Support 6709-8400

Care Corner Mandarin Counselling Centre 1800-3535-800

Mental Health Helpline 6389-2222


This article was first published on June 16, 2015.
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