The State Coroner on Thursday (Oct 27) ruled that a 70-year-old man who set himself on fire in a carpark at the junction of Geylang Lor 19 and Lorong Bachok last night (1 June) at around 10pm, did so to end his own life as he was distressed about losing his job.
Eyewitnesses speaking to the media at that time said that he stood next to a taxi and poured a flammable liquid on himself and set himself on fire. They also said that there was a loud explosion soon after the man set himself on fire and that the fire shot up very high. Passers-by eventually put out the fire using a fire extinguisher from a nearby coffee shop, after the man had been burning for about 4 minutes.
The man’s arms were outstretched as he was burning and he was shouting “Ahhhh!!!!”, witnesses said. His clothes and hair were all burnt out by the fire. Ambulance arrived in about 10 minutes after the incident.
The man suffered severe third-degree burns and eventually died from his injuries. The man was a known figure in that area, and that he plays Chinese chess nearby often. It was reportedly paid $1000 monthly. Others who claimed to know him said that the old man was supposed to turn up for work that day but did not. He reportedly went around thanking his friends who had loaned him money before setting himself on fire.
The State Coroner identified the elderly man as Tan Woon Teck and established that he was fired as an assistant at a coffee shop three weeks earlier for an alleged assault of a female colleague. Being terminated from employment was a “major reversal” in his life that “evidently weighed heavily on him” said State Coroner Marvin Bay.
Mr Bay said that the 70-year-old’s medical history and criminal record suggested that he was prone to “contemplate extreme measures to express his mounting grievance and despair from the travails and vicissitudes of his life.”
The Coroner revealed that the Mr Tan had attempted suicide once before in 1976, when he was referred to Changi Prison Hospital and was diagnosed with depression. In 1986, he was charged with rape and again found to be depressed. The outcome of this case was not revealed in court. In 1989 however, a psychiatric assessment recorded improvements in Tan’s sleep and mental state.
The State Coroner ruled out foul play in the incident.
The death of the 70-year-old is the second known case of Singaporeans self-immolating. In April 2014, a 42-year-old man died after setting himself on fire when he was refused petrol at a kiosk in Johor Baru.