DNA sample leads to man's arrest 12 years after raping child

In 2002, Lee Ah Choy, then 23, abducted and raped a 12-year-old girl near her home in Singapore. He got away with the savage crime for 12 years, despite leaving his DNA on the victim and at the rape scene.
PHOTO: The New Paper

In 2002, a 23-year-old Malaysian man abducted and raped a 12-year-old girl near her home in Singapore.

And he got away with the savage crime for 12 years, despite leaving his DNA on the victim and at the rape scene.

About three years after the rape, Lee Ah Choy married a woman in Johor Baru (JB), and she bore him a son the following year.

After the marriage, he lived in JB and commuted daily to Singapore, where he worked as a carpenter.

It was only in 2014 that the law caught up with him when he was arrested in Singapore for an alleged theft.

A blood sample was taken from him and sent for DNA testing.

His fate was sealed when his DNA profile was found to match the one taken from the rape scene and his victim's body.

Lee, now 37, was yesterday sentenced to 16½ years' jail and ordered to receive 18 strokes of the cane after pleading guilty to one count each of rape, outrage of modesty and criminal intimidation for his assault of the 12-year-old girl.

A fourth charge for abducting her was taken into consideration during sentencing.

The victim, a Malaysian who is now 26, cannot be named to protect her identity.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Shahla Iqbal told the court that the victim was in Secondary One when Lee raped her.

She would leave her home, an HDB flat in the north-west, at around 6.40am every weekday to go to school.

At the time, Lee worked and lived in a factory in Sungei Kadut Street 3, about 1.3km away. He returned home to JB intermittently.

Though his working hours were from 9am to 6pm, the girl noticed him at the void deck of her block on five separate occasions when she was going to school. This was several days before the rape.

Lee tried to befriend her, but she ignored his advances.

On the fifth occasion, on Oct 17, 2002, he blocked her way and asked if he could take her out. Though she ignored him, he followed her until she boarded a bus.

She told her older brother about the incident and found out that he had also seen Lee loitering at their void deck. But they did not tell their parents.

The next morning, Lee blocked her way again. As she walked away, he told her that he needed her help to pass some money to his godsister who lived nearby.

When she declined, Lee grabbed her left arm and ordered her to follow him.

She swung free, but he put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her to a nearby block, where they got into a lift and went up to the fourth storey.

He then dragged her to the end of a corridor. DPP Iqbal said Lee had planned the rape in advance because he had earlier laid out pieces of cardboard in that spot.

The court also heard that the HDB estate was new at the time, with many units still unoccupied.

The girl burst into tears when Lee forced her to sit down at a nearby flight of stairs. He took out a paper cutter and threatened to cut her if she did not stop crying.

The terrified girl continued sobbing, and he placed the weapon on the floor.

DPP Iqbal said: "The victim seized this opportunity and grabbed the paper cutter, and pointed it at the accused.

"He looked at her and calmly told her that if she cut him once, he would cut her thrice in return."

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He then snatched the cutter from her and placed it on the floor again.

The girl tried to run away when he made her sit on the cardboard, but he grabbed her haversack and dragged her back.

Despite her struggle, he pinned her down, pulled down her panties and molested her.

He then raped her. After he was done, they got dressed and took the lift down.

She hurried home and told her mother about her ordeal. Her father reported the rape to the police at around 9.20am.

The victim was taken to the National University Hospital that day and was found to have suffered tears in her private parts.

Swabs were taken from her and the crime scene, but the police could not establish the identity of her attacker.

But Lee's days of eluding justice ended on Dec 18, 2014, when he was arrested at Anchorvale Street in Sengkang for alleged theft.

For rape, he could have been jailed up to 20 years and received up to 24 strokes of the cane.

Victim afraid to take lift

The victim, 26, still feels sad and afraid even though the rape happened about 14 years ago.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Shahla Iqbal told the court yesterday that the incident had caused the victim great psychological harm.

"The victim dropped out of secondary school as she lost interest in her studies, felt depressed, was afraid to take the lift on her own (and) had nightmares," she said.

"She rarely goes out to socialise with family or friends, (and) avoids men."

Stressing that the victim also suffered physical injuries to her private parts after the rape, she urged Judicial Commissioner Hoo Sheau Peng to sentence the rapist, Lee Ah Choy, now 37, to between 16 and 18 years' jail with 18 strokes of the cane.

The court heard that the victim was just 12 years old and a virgin when he raped her on Oct 18, 2002.

DPP Iqbal said: "It is clear that the accused had forcibly robbed the victim of her innocence without any regard for the emotional and physical pain that she would suffer thereafter.

"The accused was clearly only concerned with gratifying his own perverse sexual desires."

Lee's lawyer, Mr Richard Siaw Kin Yeow, asked JC Hoo to sentence his client to about 15 years' jail with 15 strokes of the cane.

He added that the theft allegation that resulted in Lee's arrest on Dec 18, 2014, had arisen from an employment dispute.

"Our client categorically denies any wrongful act (in this matter), and we understand that the prosecution will not be pursuing the matter," he added

Mr Siaw also said that Lee had not told his wife and their 10-year-old son about his sexual offences.

He said: "For the rest of his life, our client will suffer the pain and regret of bringing immense shame to his family. He now faces the serious prospect of losing his wife and son."

How DNA differentiates

DNA samples can be taken from almost anywhere in the body, including skin, blood and other bodily fluids.

According to a BBC report in 2013, 99.9 per cent of the DNA from two people will be identical.

What makes us unique is the 0.1 per cent of DNA code sequences that vary from person to person.

The report said: "These sequences are called genetic markers, and are the part of the code that forensic scientists use when doing a DNA test."

Parental, forensic and genetic testing look for similarities in the genetic markers between two biological samples.

The report added: "The chances that two unrelated people have identical profiles is less than one in a billion.

"Identical twins are the only people who have identical genetic markers. The more closely related two people are, the more likely it is that some of their genetic markers will be similar."

But recent research says there's a new test that can differentiate between the DNA of identical twins.


This article was first published on June 23, 2016.
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