Son was stressed, dad was sick

Son was stressed, dad was sick
Mr Soong Ah Chai’s wife being restrained by police officers and her daughter (in blue) after learning that her husband and son were dead.

SINGAPORE - Before he became wheelchair-bound, he was a very fit elderly man who ran a marathon even when he was 60 years old.

But Mr Soong Ah Chai's active lifestyle came to a standstill when he was diagnosed about a year ago with Parkinson's disease.

The 65-year-old man's second son, IT support staff Soong Sheng Long, 30, became his main caregiver.

Saddled with his own problems, the younger man later told a close friend that his father had mentioned to him about ending both their lives together.

He tragically carried out his father's wish on March 24. Both fell to their deaths from the 17th storey of Block 605 at Clementi West Street 1.

In his findings yesterday, state coroner Marvin Bay said that the pair were killed in a joint suicide after they fell from the 22-storey point block.

He added that it was most likely that the younger man helped his father to end his life before climbing over the parapet and plummeted to his death seconds later.

Investigation Officer (IO) Inspector (Insp) Kevin Lee Ming Woei told the court yesterday that the younger Mr Soong became the head of his household after his elder brother moved out to be with his own family.

The younger man, who shared the flat with his mother and younger sister, had to take care of their ill father.

Before his death, he had confided in his close friend that he was very stressed at both work and home.

The younger Mr Soong was stressed following his promotion to team leader and the added responsibilities that came with it. Insp Lee said that the younger Mr Soong was not confident that he was up to the job.

The court heard that on the morning of the tragedy, the older Mr Soong had fallen at home and suffered a cut on his brow.

Upon seeing this, the family's maid decided that she wanted to quit as she could no longer cope with caring for the elderly man.

Because his mother had to take the maid to the maid agency, the younger Mr Soong had to take urgent leave from work to take care of his father.

Coroner Bay said that this incident was a "likely catalyst" to the tragedy.

Before falling to his death, the younger Mr Soong sent his direct work supervisor an e-mail with a header that read "Not fit for duty".

The message that followed went: "Sorry, I failed as a lead. Find someone else."

He created a chat group on WhatsApp and added his mother, elder brother and younger sister to it. Entitled "I chose the easy way out", he sent out two messages: "Sorry" and "Forgive me".

TOO LATE

His brother tried to contact him after receiving the messages and their mother also told her older son to rush home to see what was happening.

But it was already too late. The brother was on his way home when he received a call from the police, informing him about the incident.

Officers recovered his younger brother's mobile phone in the family flat on the seventh storey.

In it, they found a note that was created minutes before the tragedy: "Sorry I never grew up. Sorry I have no desire to move on with my life. Sorry that I only have running as my option. This is the only way I am in control of my life."

Two closed-circuit television clips taken from a lift at their block were played in court yesterday. They showed the younger Mr Soong entering the lift with his wheelchair-bound father.

At around 2.24pm, a witness heard two loud thuds a few seconds apart. He saw the older Mr Soong lying at the foot of the block. He also saw the younger man on the roof of a sheltered walkway.

A paramedic who arrived at the scene not long afterwards pronounced the father and son dead at 2.45pm. Their autopsies revealed that they died of multiple injuries, consistent with those sustained from falling from height.

Said Insp Lee: "(The younger Mr Soong) was a very quiet person... who usually kept his troubles and problems to himself as he did not wish to burden his family.

"As such, (they were) not aware if (he) had any troubles."

ashaffiq@sph.com.sg

 

HELPLINES
Samaritans of Singapore (SOS):1800-2214444
Singapore Association for Mental Health:1800-2837019
Sage Counselling Centre:1800-5555555
Care Corner Mandarin Counselling:1800-3535800

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