Woman burns to death on field

SINGAPORE - What he saw totally shocked him.

A woman was on fire, and she was screaming in pain as she walked onto a field near the Singapore Indian Association on Thursday.

Club groundskeeper Appanah Apparoo was the first to spot her as she emerged from behind a white screen about 100m away - engulfed in flames.

And even though he later managed to put out the fire with the help of two colleagues, there was not much they could do to save the dying woman.

She died soon afterwards.

A visibly shaken Mr Appanah, 49, told reporters on Thursday that he could not eat after witnessing the incident.

He shuddered and said in Tamil: "I feel quite faint now. I don't think I can sleep. The image of the woman burning is very vivid in my mind."

The public has access to club's field. That was why he did not suspect anything out of the ordinary when he first spotted the woman walking along its perimeter while he was flattening the ground in the morning.

Mr Appanah, who has been working there for 14 years, said the woman had short hair and was wearing a T-shirt and shorts. She was also carrying a plastic bag.

He added: "She went behind the screen and remained there. Thirty minutes later, an older woman claiming to be her mother turned up. She told me in Tamil to keep an eye on her daughter.

"I don't know if the two women spoke as I was busy working. But the older woman, who looked to be in her 50s, then left the field.

"I had never seen the two women before."

Mr Appanah was resting near the clubhouse about 15 minutes later when he saw the younger woman walking out from behind the screen, covered in flames.

Shocked, he immediately ran upstairs to inform club manager S.K. John.

The pair looked down and saw the woman fall face down onto the ground.

The two men and a canteen worker grabbed two sacks and rushed towards the woman.

They covered her with the sacks to put out the flame.

"It all happened so fast. It was all a blur," said the groundskeeper.

The manager called the police and officers arrived soon afterwards.

The police said that they received a call at 11.47am. When officers arrived at the scene, they found a 32-year-old woman lying unresponsive there.

Paramedics pronounced her dead at the scene and the police are investigating the unnatural death.

Mr S.K, 63, said the two women were not members of the club.

"I went to investigate after I knew she was dead. I walked behind the screen and saw a cigarette box, two boxes of matches and a bottle of kerosene," he added.

He said he was traumatised by the incident and would have to down "a few beers" before going to sleep.


He added that the dead woman's mother only reappeared after the police arrived and she was hysterical when she found out what had happened.

He said: "I spoke to the mother and tried to calm her down. (She) was blaming the groundsman.

"I told her, 'Why do you blame him? He's got nothing to do with this. It's not his duty. His duty is to work on the ground.'

"As I think this is an isolated incident, I don't see the need to fence up the field after this."

He said the dead woman's mother phoned one of her other daughters to tell her about the tragedy and a group of her relatives soon arrived at the scene.

The club manager also said that he overheard one of the women with the mother telling the police that the dead woman had a mental problem. And before she died, she suffered hallucinations of people chasing her.

He also overheard a relative claiming that the family had made a police report earlier about the woman's condition.

The New Paper arrived at the scene at around 2.30pm on Thursday and noticed that an area the size of a basketball court had been cordoned off with tape.

Police officers were seen standing around a burnt patch of grass, conducting their investigation.

Six women and a man - believed to be the dead woman's loved ones - were spotted nearby. One of the women was sitting on the ground crying and was comforted by the others.

TNP tried to talk to them but was stopped by the man, who said that the family did not want to be disturbed.

They declined to speak to reporters and quickly walked away in the direction of Rangoon Road.


Samaritans of Singapore (SOS)

Hotline: 1800-221-4444 (24 hours)

Website: www.samaritans.org.sg

Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin)

Hotline: 1800-353-5800

(10am to 10pm daily, except public holidays)

Website: www.carecorner.org.sg

Institute of Mental Health Helpline

Hotline: 6389 2222 (24 hours)

Website: www.imh.com.sg

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