Lee Sze Yong, accused of kidnapping the elderly mother of Sheng Siong supermarket boss Lim Hock Chee, took the stand yesterday and readily admitted that he had abducted Ng Lye Poh for ransom.
But the 44-year-old maintained that he would have released her by the end of the day even if no ransom was paid.
Lee, who had been planning for years to carry out a kidnapping, told the High Court on the third day of his trial that he was "trying his luck" when he approached 79-year-old Madam Ng at an overhead bridge in Hougang Avenue 2 on Jan 8, 2014.
He had rented a Honda Civic for just four hours that morning. "It did not cross my mind that she would get into the car," he testified in Mandarin.
He tricked her into boarding the car after lying that her son had a fall in the office and later blindfolded her. He then called Mr Lim, whose number he got from a noticeboard at a Sheng Siong outlet, to demand for $20 million.
Mr Lim later negotiated it down to $2 million, which Lee accepted. Madam Ng was released near Seletar Camp shortly after Mr Lim dropped off a bag with the money at Sembawang Park.
On Wednesday, Lee said he was worried for Madam Ng's welfare. He added that he told Mr Lim that his mother needed an injection for her diabetes and that he would send her home that night.
Deputy Public Prosecutor David Khoo said Lee was trying to get Mr Lim to hurry up with the ransom by highlighting Madam Ng's injection. Lee disagreed.
Lee's lawyer Selva K. Naidu told reporters that his client admits the acts of abduction but will be addressing the court on the mens rea, or the mental element, of the offence.
Mr Naidu said the defence will make submissions on whether "intent to hold for ransom" covers a situation in which the accused intends to release the victim even if the ransom is not paid.
The trial has been adjourned for four weeks for both sides to submit written submissions.
Earlier, Madam Ng, now 81, took the stand for 20 minutes to give her account of the abduction. She came to court in a wheelchair and had to be helped down the witness stand by several Criminal Investigation Department officers and her maid.
Madam Ng told the court that she was blindfolded but was not tied up during her ordeal. She did not have a drink while she was being driven around for 12 hours. She also relieved herself outside the car a couple of times.
She said she is not able to recognise her kidnappers but described one of them, who sat at the back of the car with her, as "fat".
Speaking through a Hokkien interpreter, she also told the court that, at one point, she tried to peep through her blindfold but the "fat" person lightly tapped her hands. She denied that Lee had assured her he would send her back. He did not "open his mouth" at all.
Mr Naidu pointed out to Madam Ng that her DNA was found at the opening of a canned drink that was found in the car. But she insisted that while she was offered a soft drink, she did not drink as she had diabetes. She said her kidnapper offered her biscuits but she declined.
No link was made in court to the other abductor, Lee's friend, Heng Chen Boon, who had been sentenced to three years' jail for helping him abduct Madam Ng.
Mr Heng, who has been released from jail, was not aware of Lee's plan but ended up helping him swop cars and guard Madam Ng after Lee threatened to expose their sexual relationship.
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