SINGAPORE: A man charged with robbing a Shell petrol station at knifepoint disappeared during a 10-minute court break on Tuesday (Sep 17), TODAY reported.
A warrant of arrest has been issued against Visvanathan Vadivelu, 50, who had pleaded guilty to the robbery and was to be sentenced on Tuesday.
But he told the court that he wanted to retract his guilty plea, saying he had been misled by his former lawyer into admitting to the offences. He also insisted on a psychiatric assessment, TODAY said.
His former lawyer A Revi Shanker, whom Visvanathan discharged on Monday, told the court he spent more than 10 minutes checking other courtrooms and around the State Courts after Visvanathan failed to return after the break.
Visvanathan was also uncontactable on his mobile phone, Mr Shanker said.
WANTED TO RETRACT GUILTY PLEA
Visvanathan was arrested on Jul 31, 2017, hours after a Shell petrol station along Upper Bukit Timah Road was robbed in broad daylight.
He admitted to taking off with S$1,193 from the petrol station, after threatening a female employee with a kitchen knife and ordering her to place money from the cash register in a plastic bag. He then fled the petrol station on a scooter.
At the time, it was the first such case of armed robbery in broad daylight in Singapore in 10 years, the police said.
Besides the robbery, Visvanathan had also pleaded guilty to three other unrelated charges of drug consumption and possession. Another five similar charges were to be taken into consideration for sentencing.
But on Tuesday, he said he wanted to retract his plea and accused Mr Shanker of lying to him and misleading him into pleading guilty. Visvanathan also claimed he had mental health issues.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Chong Yong accused Visvanathan of abusing the court process and dragging the matter out “until he is past 50 years old and can no longer be caned”, TODAY reported.
Offenders who commit armed robbery by day can be jailed up to 10 years and given at least six strokes of the cane.
The prosecutor told the court: “Now he says he’s confused, and his inability to answer as to what led him to plead guilty is a clear sign that this is complete fiction, designed solely to drag out the process even more.”
The judge then called for a 10-minute break for the prosecution to ask Mr Shanker about his former client’s allegations.
When Visvanathan did not return to court after the break, the judge issued a warrant of arrest against him and revoked his bail of S$70,000.
Visvanathan’s mother, who posted bail for him, will have to turn up for a hearing on Oct 29 to explain why the bail amount should not be forfeited.