'I wanted to beautify her': Man charged for allegedly defacing a statue of Mary in church courtyard

Police said that they had received a report on Nov 12 that the statue in the courtyard of the church had been defaced.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - A man who allegedly trespassed into the premises of the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and defaced a statue of Mary was charged in court on Friday (Nov 20).

Race Koh Jun Xian, 37, was charged with one count of criminal trespass and one count of defiling a place of worship with intent to insult a religion.

According to court documents, the church was closed to the public at the time of the offence as renovation works were ongoing.

Despite this, the Singaporean allegedly climbed over a fence at around 12.30am on Nov 12 and entered its premises.

He is then said to have used blue tack to stick marbles to the eyes of the statue.

In a statement on Friday morning, police said that they had received a report on Nov 12 that the statue in the courtyard of the Catholic church in Upper Serangoon Road had been defaced.

Officers from Ang Mo Kio Police Division managed to establish the alleged perpetrator's identity after conducting ground investigations and viewing footage from closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras.

Police arrested Koh on Wednesday (Nov 18) .

"The police do not condone acts that insult the religious harmony at the places of worship of any class in Singapore and perpetrators will be dealt with sternly in accordance with the law," said the police.

According to the church website, Sultan Ibrahim of Johor had presented the marble statue to the church more than 70 years ago.

The website states: "This statue of Mary in this form is called 'The Immaculate Conception of Mary'. It shows her standing upon a globe and crushing the head of a serpent beneath her feet, which takes its reference from the Book of Genesis 3:15."

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, the church said that the statue has been restored.

Praise the Lord! We have restored our Lady’s statue! Many have heard about Our Lady’s statue, and we have received many...

Posted by Church Of The Nativity Of The Blessed Virgin Mary on Tuesday, November 17, 2020

On Friday, Koh told the court: "I did not do this intentionally.

"I was sincere in wanting to pray to Mother Mary. I wanted to beautify her, I did not know this was an offence."

Koh will be remanded at the Institute of Mental Health and his case has been adjourned to Dec 4.

Offenders convicted of criminal trespass can be jailed for up to three months and fined up to $1,500.

Those convicted of defiling a place of worship with intent to insult a religion can be jailed for up to five years and fined.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.