West Coast murder trial: Stress could have been a factor, says defence

West Coast murder trial: Stress could have been a factor, says defence
Mr Mark Tan Peng Liat (right) with his father, Mr Tan Kok Keng, in happier times. Mr Mark Tan is charged with the murder of his father at their home in West Coast Rise. The older Mr Tan was taken to the National University Hospital (NUH) unconscious in the afternoon of 10 February 2015. He was pronounced dead at 6.48pm.
PHOTO: Facebook

While Mr Tan Kok Keng, 67, did die after his son allegedly put him in a chokehold, it is not conclusive what killed him.

Forensic pathologist Gregory Davis, who testified for the defence yesterday, said stress could also have hastened the death of an already fragile heart.

Businessman Mark Tan Peng Liat, 30, is accused of culpable homicide for the death of his father on Feb 10, 2015.

Read Also: West Coast murder: Mum breaks down in court

During an argument over money, Tan allegedly put his father in a headlock and chokehold in their West Coast Rise home.

His father suffered a cardiac arrest and was later pronounced dead in hospital.

The defence is arguing that Tan had to restrain his father to stop him from getting hold of swords kept around their home.

Read Also: West Coast murder: Victim was a generous man, neighbours say

Tan, the defence argued, did not know his actions were likely to cause his father's death.

During the cross-examination yesterday by Deputy Public Prosecutor Kumaresan Gohulabalan, Dr Davis said two apparently competing causes of Mr Tan's death, hypertensive heart disease and neck compression, are not mutually exclusive.

'MANUAL COMPRESSION'

He disagreed with Health Sciences Authority pathologist Lee Chin Thye, who said, when he took the stand last October, that the primary cause of death was believed to be a "manual compression of the neck".

While Dr Davis agreed there had been pressure to the victim's neck, resulting in a fracture of the thyroid cartilage, he had expected to see more florid petechiae - red or purple spots caused by bleeding into the skin - if manual strangulation caused death.

While Mr Tan's injuries did include a thin film haemorrhage, it is not conclusive evidence that pressure was applied on his neck, said Dr Davis.

He said such a haemorrhage occurs "commonly without pressure on the neck" as well.

Read Also: West Coast death: Victim was injured over a 'considerable time', had force applied to neck

He also said cartilage of an older person, aged 45 or so, could be calcified - hardened due to calcium salts - and a blow could break it.

Dr Lee had earlier disagreed that the elderly tend to have more brittle bones and said calcification could have made cartilage stronger, not weaker.

But Dr Davis agreed with DPP Kumaresan that considering Mr Tan's age, it may have been dangerous for him to be placed in a headlock, with enough force causing the injuries in his neck.

This could potentially place a person at risk of cardiac arrest, he said.

Read Also: West Coast murder: Son's murder charge for allegedly killing dad changed to homicide

Mr Tan had 31 external injuries, including bruises on his neck, and internal injuries such as a fracture to his thyroid cartilage.

He was found motionless in a bedroom.

His son had seven minor injuries - bruises and abrasions.

Besides the culpable homicide charge, Tan is also accused of having 15 airsoft guns without a licence.

The trial resumes today.

byseow@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on January 24, 2017.
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