Cops surprised robbery suspect at work

SINGAPORE- When four police cars turned up at his Geylang Bahru workshop on Wednesday, the boss of a glass installation company knew something was wrong.

"I don't read the papers because of my long-sightedness, but straight away, I knew it was serious," said the 47-year-old, who gave his name as Mr Ho.

Police showed him a photo of someone he recognised as "Ah Siong", a Malaysian general worker he hired less than a month ago.

He was stunned to find out that the 35-year-old, whose real name is Lee Heong Chye, was wanted for a brazen armed robbery committed on Sunday at a carpark near Geylang Bahru Food Centre, less than five minutes' walk away.

Lee will be charged in court today with armed robbery.

Brandishing a penknife, he had allegedly entered a woman's car and forced her to drive to a nearby multistorey carpark, where he bound her with tape before fleeing on foot with an iPhone 5, $500 in cash, a $2,000 watch and assorted credit and ATM cards.

The offence carries a jail term of up to 10 years and at least 12 strokes of the cane.

Upon confirming that Lee was doing construction work at the Royal Plaza on Scotts hotel, Mr Ho said police took him to the worksite, where 20 police officers swooped in to arrest the unsuspecting worker.

It was the culmination of three days of intense police investigation involving officers from units that included the Police Intelligence Department and Public Transport Security Command.

The Straits Times understands that ground inquiries on Sunday stretched past 11pm, while the manhunt operation around the vicinity soon expanded islandwide.

The breakthrough came when CCTV footage from around the area and the carpark, together with a facial composite provided by the victim, revealed Lee's identity.

Mr Ho told The Straits Times he took Lee on because he had prior experience working in another glass workshop at Sungei Kadut.

"Employing him was very fast because the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) already had all his details," said Mr Ho. "He said he had a wife and three children back in Penang, so I thought he will be stable as a family man."

But there were signs of trouble early on, when Lee started asking for his salary to be paid weekly. He also began asking for loans every few days.

"Three days after I hired him, he came into my office and said I was giving him children's work to do," said Mr Ho. "On the fourth day, he asked me for a $50 loan, and two days later, another $300."

A loner who did not socialise with the other workers, Lee had claimed he did not gamble in passing conversations with Mr Ho.

After Lee was arrested, police took him back to the workshop, where they retrieved the bank cards and some of the cash he had stashed in a haversack. But the iPhone and penknife were not found.

"I asked him where he kept the handphone, and he told me he had thrown it away," said Mr Ho.

"I told him that even at this stage, he was lying to my face. There was nothing more to say."


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