Yap Weng Wah stood in court with his hands clasped in front of him, closed his eyes and let out a sob from time to time as he waited for his sentence.
When it came, he stared blankly. The 31-year-old Malaysian engineer was given 30 years' jail and the maximum 24 strokes of the cane for sexually abusing 31 boys between 2009 and 2012.
The boyish-looking Yap hardly looked like the villain in Singapore's worst case of sexual abuse of young boys.
But this was a man who, after befriending them online, cajoled victims as young as 11 - the oldest was 15 - into performing oral sex or letting him sodomise them. In the case of one boy, there was no sex but he was persuaded to send Yap a video of him performing a lewd act.
Justice Woo Bih Li made it clear that the high-risk offender needed to be put away for a long time to protect society and as a warning that such heinous acts would not be tolerated.
"There is... a strong public interest in the present case to deter potential sexual offenders from using the Internet to lure young victims," he said.
In the gallery were Yap's family - his mother and younger brother and sister - who had come from Ipoh.
The judge pointed out how Yap tried to hide the extent of his crimes.
When he was questioned after a victim lodged a report, he told the police that he had sex with just three boys. The truth was far more shocking.
In a raid on his home on Sept 12, 2012, around 2,000 video clips of him having sex were found in his laptop - footage that he would watch to pleasure himself.
It was through these videos, which were meticulously catalogued based on the boys' names, ages and the year he met them, that the victims were traced. Some of the boys could not be identified. There were, however, at least 14 other boys he had taped during his visits to Malaysia.
The 76 charges against Yap took up 23 pages. He committed the acts at his flat, in hotel rooms, at a public park, and in toilets at shopping centres and swimming pools.
In the case of one 13-year-old, he arranged a meeting at Hougang Swimming Complex some time in early 2010. In a toilet cubicle, he told the boy to remove his school uniform. He then sodomised the boy and recorded the act with his phone.
Around March 2010, he took a 15-year-old to a hotel. Yap undressed and tried to kiss the boy. Even when the boy protested, Yap performed oral sex on him.
He hunted for his victims on Facebook, often pretending to be a polytechnic student. He gained the boys' trust by portraying himself as an elder brother. And he invited them to share their problems with him.
Yap also made it a point to find out their interests and hobbies, then used the knowledge to arrange meetings with the victims under various pretexts, such as to give them gifts, play computer games or give body-building tips.
Justice Woo said Yap's premeditated use of the Internet to hunt for a large number of victims, and breaching the boys' trust after earning it, were aggravating factors. "Yap was planning and hunting for victims to satisfy his deviant urges," he said.
It was made worse by Yap recording videos of the sex acts despite the boys' protests. He assured his victims that he would delete the videos, but instead saved them on his laptop.
The videos were at risk of being circulated if they fell into the hands of third parties, said Justice Woo.
Yap, who in January admitted to 12 charges of sexual penetration of a minor, with the rest of the charges taken into consideration during sentencing, pleaded for compassion.
In a letter he read out in court, he said he was a first-time offender. He claimed to have found religion and vowed to do one good deed a day.
Yap also swore never to repeat his acts, was sorry for his "disgraceful" crimes and that he was ashamed of his sexuality.
He claimed to have developed a "phobia" of young boys in the more than two years that he had spent in remand. But the judge was not convinced.
Yap's multiple offences over a long period meant that his claim to be a first-time offender carried little weight. The judge also said Yap's guilty plea "did not spring from genuine remorse, but from a realisation that his goose was as good as cooked".
This article was first published on Mar 21, 2015.
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