Crash driver answered police call

The Woodlands Checkpoint.

SINGAPORE - For five hours on Saturday, more than 500 police officers from various departments scoured the island for the Malaysian driver who had crashed through Woodlands Checkpoint, with the help of taxi drivers.

At one point, they rang up the 64-year-old man on his phone - and he answered.

But "while the police managed to contact the subject on his mobile phone, he sought to evade checks and arrest by driving across various parts of Singapore and switching to another vehicle", said the police and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority in a joint statement last night.

Shortly after the man escaped, all forces on the ground were asked to look out for him and his car. Taxi companies also broadcast the alert to their drivers.

In addition, the police contacted his family, and were able to identify the driver's associates.

The driver was nabbed at 9.15pm. His abandoned car had been recovered 45 minutes earlier.

A package suspected to contain drugs was seized at a separate location.

The driver now faces possible drug-related charges, in addition to charges of evasion of Customs checks and vandalism. He will be charged this morning.

Four other men were picked up and are assisting in investigations.

Two of them, both Malaysians, were stopped at the Woodlands Checkpoint while they were trying to leave the country, before the arrest of the driver.

The other two men, both Singaporeans, were picked up shortly after the driver was arrested.

Asked why the police took five hours to nab the driver, director of operations Lau Peet Meng said police needed time to marshal resources, enlist the help of taxi drivers and find out more about the man.

"We are not looking for someone who is just walking down Orchard Road... (he was) determined to evade our checks and arrest," he said.

As for why patrol cars did not immediately give chase after the man's escape, Mr Lau said there are police cars at the checkpoint, but they are used mostly for transporting officers.

Having cars to chase after suspects is a "resource issue", said Mr Lau, who added: "We always expected the crash barrier to stop the vehicle from going through, because it's a fairly secure barrier and it's used around the world."

Yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean said the police will "study whether further improvements can be made in tracking down such cases".

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