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Tue, Nov 02, 2010
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Darren Ng reportedly got into staring incident

AsiaOne update: Police have since arrested four men in connection with the murder of Darren Ng. The four are aged between 18 and 20.

Youth dies from slash wounds
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BY DAVID LIM

STARING incidents between groups of young people that lead to fights often arise because of threats to their pride or a perceived invasion of personal space, psychologists told my paper yesterday.

In one such incident last Saturday, a 19-year-old youth was killed at Downtown East in Pasir Ris after he and two friends reportedly got into a staring episode with a group of 10 youths.

According to witnesses, verbal exchanges ensued between the two groups, which led to a brawl.

The youth, Darren Ng Wei Jie, ended up being hacked repeatedly by the bigger group and later died from his wounds.

Police have classified the case as murder.

The sequence of events that day was typical of what happens after a "staring contest", said Dr Carol Balhetchet, director of youth services at the Singapore Children's Society.

She said: "There's a lot of pride involved.

"They want to show their friends that they have power and control and, so, they end up getting into something from which they can't back out."

Once eye contact is made, such situations seldom simmer down because of an "if I blink, I lose" mentality, she added. This is why staring incidents often escalate into ugly situations.

Psychologist Daniel Koh, from a private practice, said that staring could sometimes be a "trigger" aggravating an underlying issue between groups or individuals.

He said: "Once fighting starts, young people get carried away and their main purpose is to show others what they are capable of."

Fights also occur when individuals feel threatened by a sense that their personal space has been invaded.

Even without being in close proximity, two groups can get involved in ugly brawls if one party simply dislikes the other looking in his direction, especially for a sustained period of time.

Mr Koh said that it is because such individuals feel challenged when they are stared at.

"When you stare, it is as if you don't respect the other person, but it's also about how one interprets it. A regular person may just look away but some people are sensitive and tend to interpret it as a threat," he said.

Dr Munidasa Winslow, executive director of addiction and mental-health consultancy Promises, said that staring need not even be intentional for fights to break out.

"Perceived staring from a perceived threat to (a person's) dominance is enough to set some people off," said Dr Winslow.

Young people may also be more daring when they are in greater numbers, said the psychologists.

Mr Koh said: "In a bigger group, the consequence of stares increases. Each person feeds off one another's anger or excitement and there's no one to say 'stop'. They tend to egg each other on to fight."

He said that during such encounters, the young people in groups act more on emotions and forgo reason completely.

"It's only later, when they have calmed down, that they realise they shouldn't have done it. But often, it's too late," he said.


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