A promising young athlete who brutally beat an elderly man to death in 2011 was sentenced to 16 years’ jail and 12 strokes of the cane on Tuesday (Mar 1).
Sumanthiran Selvarajoo, then 18, had been walking through an Ang Mo Kio park on his way home after a night of drinking when he spotted Mr Loo Nam Sheng who was chanting prayers.
Irritated at the sight of the 64-year-old praying, the young man confronted the elderly man and asked him what he was doing. Mr Loo replied that he was praying to Buddha. Angered, Sumanthiran punched Mr Loo’s face and challenged him to “make Buddha appear”.
Sumanthiran continued to rain punches and kicks on the elderly man’s face while taunting him by asking Mr Loo to “get Buddha to come and save” him. Sumanthiran also used an umbrella to strike the elderly man, who by this time was lying on the grass and groaning in pain.
When Sumanthiran realised the amount of blood “flowing out of (Mr Loo’s) face”, he called the police to report that he had “whacked an uncle”, and told the police to come and save Mr Loo. He also verbally abused the operator and taunted her by saying “you dare come and catch me”.
After reporting the crime, Sumanthiran turned his attention to getting Mr Loo medically attended to. He called the Singapore Civil Defence Force and repeated his confession, telling them to “come and save the old man”.
Sumanthiran then left Mr Loo bleeding heavily from the face and walked towards the Ang Mo Kio police centre to surrender himself.
Mr Loo was later pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics. He had sustained 10 skull fractures and multiple bruises and lacerations on his face. An autopsy report stated Mr Loo had died from “severe facial injuries”.
The forensic pathologist who conducted the autopsy also noted “profuse oozing of blood” from Mr Loo’s mouth, and said that the elderly man’s blood had pooled in his air passages and blocked his airways.
HE HAD VIOLENTLY ASSAULTED MORE VICTIMS: PROSECUTION
Deputy Public Prosecutor Ang Feng Qian urged the court to impose an 18- to 19-year jail term and 12 strokes of the cane, citing the “sheer ferocity” of Sumanthiran’s attack and pointing to a series of other violent offences the accused had committed.
In addition to the culpable homicide charge for causing Mr Loo’s death, Sumanthiran, now 23, also pleaded guilty to another three charges for violently assaulting three more victims between September 2010 and June 2011.
Sumanthiran had “embarked on a spate of violent offending” during this period, DPP Ang noted, adding that all the offences had been committed after Sumanthiran had consumed alcohol.
The DPP pointed to a report by an Institute of Mental Health psychiatrist, who suggested that Sumanthiran’s “risk of future violence remains high”, despite some progress made in prison, “a highly structured environment without access to alcohol”.
A TROUBLED YOUTH, NOW A CHANGED YOUNG MAN: DEFENCE
Sumanthiran’s lawyer Sunil Sudheesan conceded that his client had “done a number of bad things” but urged the court to take a "big-picture approach" in putting Sumanthiran’s offences into context.
Mr Sunil said the year-long period during which Sumanthiran had committed several violent offences was “a very bad year for him”. He had “faced a lot of stressors”, including failing to make the Youth Olympic Team.
The teen had been on track to join the national track and field team, having represented St Joseph’s Institution and Nanyang Polytechnic.
This “set off a spiral of events that culminated in (Sumanthiran) killing this innocent man”, Mr Sunil said. But he is “a different person now compared to five or six years ago”, the lawyer insisted. While Sumanthiran had been diagnosed with a host of psychiatric issues including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, he has since “grown out of it”, the court heard.
Mr Sunil also drew the court’s attention to the fact that Sumanthiran had confessed to his crimes and surrendered himself to authorities more than once. “Under the fearsome exterior he was trying to portray, he was a boy calling out for help,” the lawyer said.
Calling Sumanthiran “a troubled youth”, Mr Sunil said his client has “come out through a dark tunnel”. “This was a boy with rage, anger … he is now a young man with hope in his heart. I think the court can take a gamble on him.”
YOU HAVE SOME PROMISE OF BRIGHTER FUTURE: JUSTICE
In sentencing Sumanthiran, Justice Woo Bih Li told the young man: “You are an unusual person. You have a volatile and violent temperament … yet you know your violent conduct is wrong, and you have surrendered yourself.”
Justice Woo encouraged Sumanthiran to engage in an alcohol treatment program, given his diagnosis of alcohol dependence, and urged the youth not to “continue on your violent path”.
He told Sumanthiran: “You have some promise of a brighter future."
For culpable homicide not amounting to murder for Mr Loo's case, Sumanthiran was sentenced to 14 years’ jail and eight strokes of the cane. His total sentence, including the three other violent assaults he pleaded guilty to, earned him an overall sentence of 16 years in jail and 12 strokes of the cane.