Coroner's inquiry of rag-and-bone man's death: Was his attack on neighbours for revenge?

Did he lose his mind?

Or was it revenge that drove rag-and-bone man Tan Ban Huat, 57, to go on a chopper-and-knife attack against two neighbours from Block 4, Marsiling Road?

These questions were directed at senior investigation officer Staff Sergeant Abidah Mubarak yesterday during a coroner's inquiry into Tan's death.

Tan was pronounced dead at his eighth-storey rental flat on Jan 26 this year.

Firefighters responding to a fire at Tan's unit that evening found him lifeless and leaning against a wall inside a smoke-filled toilet.

When asked if revenge could have been a motivation for Tan, Staff Sgt Abidah said it was "possible".

She told State Coroner Marvin Bay there were no records of Tan being a mental patient at the Institute of Mental Health.

Tan had attacked Mr A. Majid Maarof, 61, with a chopper and then Madam Ng Yee Way, 60, with a kitchen knife when she stumbled into Tan soon after the first assault.

The attacks left both victims with cuts to their hands and face.

But Staff Sgt Abidah added "there was no concrete evidence" to suggest revenge as a reason other than statements by a resident of the same block, Mr William Teo, 56.

Mr Teo told investigators that Tan had issues with Madam Ng for criticising his selling of used items at the void deck.

Mr Teo also said Mr Majid had told him two days before the attacks that he had had a tiff with Tan for kicking a soft toy sold by Tan.

Staff Sgt Abidah believed the kicking of the toy was accidental.

According to court papers, Madam Ng said she "does not have any previous incidents with Tan".

But Staff Sgt Abidah said Tan may have suspected that Madam Ng had complained about him to the town council for blocking the space at the lift landing whenever he laid out his items.

LONER

An image of Tan as a loner who drank a lot at the void deck emerged in court.

After the attacks, a blood trail suggested Tan took the stairs to the 13th storey, where he contemplated throwing himself off the parapet before returning home, said Staff Sgt Abidah.

Mr Bay will deliver his findings on Jan 4, 2016.

About the case

At about 3.40pm on Jan 26, Tan Ban Huat slashed neighbour A. Majid Maarof with a chopper as he was fixing his bicycle's handlebar outside his third-storey flat.

Mr Majid's wife, who heard shouts outside her flat, saw her husband bleeding from cuts to his right ear and shoulder.

When she pushed Tan away, Mr Majid escaped to a neighbour's flat and called the police.

Tan then swung the chopper at Mr Majid's wife, but the handle gave way. He took out a kitchen knife from his pocket and tried to stab her. But she managed to flee.

ANOTHER NEIGHBOUR

Unfortunately, another neighbour, Madam Ng Yee Way, stumbled into Tan after hearing the commotion.

When she saw Tan holding the knife, she tried to run.

But Tan grabbed her by her hair. He tried to lunge with the knife at Madam Ng but she managed to grab hold of the knife with both hands.

She was injured in the ensuing struggle.

Tan let her go after Madam Ng apologised for interfering.

It was believed that Tan later went to the 13th storey to throw himself off the parapet. But he did not carry out his plan.

He returned to his eighth-storey flat and left the knife outside his unit.

At 6pm, firefighters pronounced him dead at his flat.

zaihan@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on December 29, 2015.
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