Cabby jailed 4 months for starting fire

DANGER: About 100 people at Block 688A, Choa Chu Kang Drive had to be evacuated because of the fire.
PHOTO: Shin Min Daily News

Unhappy with his wife after an argument, he started a fire in their master bedroom.

Taxi driver Koh Chong Huat did not seem to care that he was also endangering the lives of his tenant, her young daughter and their neighbours.

About 100 people at Block 688A, Choa Chu Kang Drive had to be evacuated and luckily, no one was hurt in the blaze.

Koh, 44, was jailed four months yesterday after pleading guilty to one count of committing mischief by fire at around 6.30pm on Aug 1.

Assistant Public Prosecutor (APP) Kalaithasan Karuppaya said the cabby quarrelled with his wife earlier that day and she left their 12th-storey flat.

Still fuming, Koh poured some thinner onto a mattress.

The court heard that Koh was walking near the mattress with a lit lighter in his hand when it caught fire.

APP Kalaithasan said: "(The) accused claimed he tried to put out the fire a few times with water and also opened up the bedroom windows but was instead overwhelmed by the thick smoke."

Koh's tenant, Ms Judy Pavithra Lucas, 28, was in her room with her 3½-year-old daughter when she saw smoke coming inside.

The Indian national opened the door and saw her landlord outside, telling her to leave the unit. Ms Lucas immediately fled the flat with her daughter.

The police received a text message about the incident at around 7.40pm and officers from the Singapore Civil Defence Force managed to put out the fire about 40 minutes later.

The evacuated residents were allowed to return to their homes only at around 8.50pm.

In his mitigation, Koh, who was not represented by a lawyer, told District Judge Mathew Joseph he had committed a foolish act.

He pleaded for leniency and added that he had made up with his wife.

He also said their flat had been renovated.

Before handing out the sentence, Judge Joseph said Koh had performed a dangerous act, and it was fortunate no one was hurt.

For committing mischief by fire, he could have been jailed up to seven years and fined.

This article was first published on October 7, 2015.
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