Singapore — A 24-year-old man and his stepfather are on trial for the 2016 beating of his childhood friend that led to the latter’s death.
Ryan Xavier Tay Seet Choong claims that he and his stepfather, Lawrence Lim Peck Beng, 58, had never meant to kill Mr Shawn Ignatius Rodrigues.
Tay is contesting the charge of voluntarily causing grievous hurt to Mr Rodrigues, who had learning disabilities. He is alleged to have stomped the victim on the shoulder, punched him in the face and head and pressed his knee on his back.
All they wanted to do was to detain him and turn him over to the police. Mr Rodrigues died of traumatic asphyxia with head injury.
The incident occurred on July 9, 2016, at the staircase outside the apartment in Yishun where Tay and Lim lived.
Tay and Mr Rodrigues became friends when they were altar boys at a Catholic church. A report on channelnewsasia.com on Monday (Feb 17) quoted Tay as saying: “Shawn and I became close friends, because I helped him a lot. Although he was senior, he was bullied … because he was retarded.”
However, Tay became uncomfortable later on when he suspected that his friend had developed feelings for him. “When I was in Secondary 3, I realised that when he spoke to me, he sounded feminine, and I suspected he could be gay. I confronted him, asking if he was gay. He said, ‘Not that I’m going to marry you anyway’. Since then I assumed he’s gay,” he said.
Mr Rodrigues developed the habit of wanting to see him every day. He even changed the profile photo on his WhatsApp account to one of Tay as a child and refused to change it when Tay asked him to.
Tay said: “I was disgusted with him and ignored him. I left the church as I did not want to be associated with him. The other boys felt I was gay with Shawn. I was not happy with this as I was not gay.”
However, Mr Rodrigues began to harass Tay and his family. They made around 50 police reports over two years, these gaining in frequency in 2015.
Mr Rodrigues was also alleged to have molested Tay’s mother and assaulted an elderly woman in the neighbourhood.
On July 9, the day Mr Rodrigues died, he showed up at their doorstep several times and shouted for Tay. Lim asked loudly why he wanted to see his stepson but this woke up Tay.
Tay went after Mr Rodrigues, caught hold of him at the end of the corridor near the lift lobby and pushed him to the floor.
Lim came and sat on the lower part of Mr Rodrigues so that he would stop thrashing his legs violently. Tay said that, at this point, Mr Rodrigues was bleeding from the nose.
Tay yelled at his neighbors to call the police but no one answered. Some came later with cords to tie Mr Rodrigues’ legs.
The police then arrived to take Mr Rodrigues away but later told Tay and Lim that he had died.
Both say the death was accidental. Tay said: “The issue of Shawn harassing my family has been dragging for some time. I was worried while in camp … because my mother was molested … (there was) no update from police. It seems he was free in the neighbourhood.
“I did not expect Shawn to die. I admit that I had used excessive force on Shawn when I pushed his head down. But if I did not do this, he could’ve overpowered us because he’s bigger in size … I do not know what’s wrong with him.”
According to Lim: “For about two years, Shawn has been harassing my family, and we have been lodging police reports. To me it seemed justice had not been served, and if something had been done, this would not (have) happened.”
Life became more peaceful after Mr Rodrigues died, he added.
It was not the first time Tay got violent with his former friend, whom he had physically attacked three times in the past.
If convicted of voluntarily causing grievous hurt, Tay could be jailed for as long as 10 years and fined or caned. Lim faces the same penalties if convicted of abetting Tay. /TISG