Singapore man jailed for abusing kitten till it bled, robbing teen of phone on bus

Rico Wong Wei Wei pleaded guilty to three charges of robbery, breaching a personal protection order and ill-treating an animal. — TODAY pic
Rico Wong Wei Wei pleaded guilty to three charges of robbery, breaching a personal protection order and ill-treating an animal. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, Oct 22 — Following a dispute with his wife, Rico Wong Wei Wei threw a two-month-old kitten he had earlier rescued against a cupboard and onto the ground.

A month later, he robbed a 17-year-old student of his mobile phone on a public bus after threatening the teenager with a knife.

The 29-year-old man, who has a history of criminal offences, was sentenced to three-and-a-half years and 10 weeks’ jail today for his latest crimes.

He was also given six strokes of the cane and banned from owning any pets for a year after his release.

He pleaded guilty to three charges of robbery, breaching a personal protection order and ill-treating an animal.

In his youth, he served two stints of reformative training and spent two years in a juvenile home for snatch theft, robbery and mischief. In 2016, he was jailed one year and two months for snatch theft.

In light of this, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Daniel Ling urged Deputy Principal District Judge Seah Chi-Ling to impose a heavier sentence as Wong had re-offended “in blatant disregard of the law”.

Threw kitten against a cupboard

The court heard Wong’s 27-year-old wife filed a personal protection order against him in January 2018 following a fight in their home.

On May 4 last year, the couple argued over financial issues.

In an upset and “very angry” state, Wong picked up his grey kitten and threw it out of his bedroom.

It struck a cupboard in the living room and its head began bleeding.

He picked the feline up again and told his wife: “Look at this, because of you.”

Wong then threw the cat onto the floor in front of her and its blood splattered on the floor.

He added: “If I can do this, you, I don’t care.”

The cat stopped moving about 15 minutes later.

Shaking with fear, Wong’s wife asked him to remove it as she did not wish to see it.

It was unclear if it had died.

Threatened with Karambit

The next month, Wong saw a 17-year-old student using his iPhone XR on SMRT bus service 856.

He decided to steal the S$1,000 mobile phone.

With a black Karambit — a small curved knife resembling a claw — hidden underneath one of his sleeves, he sat beside the teenager and threatened him with it.

When Wong told the teen to hand the phone over, the teen asked if he could give Wong money instead.

Wong then said he wanted S$1,000 in cash. The teen agreed and Wong demanded that he hand over the phone before they alighted.

The pair then went to a nearby automated teller machine where the teen withdrew S$500, which was his withdrawal limit.

He promised Wong he would hand over the remaining S$500 the next day but Wong refused and kept both the cash and the phone.

Wong also followed the teen home to retrieve his Apple ID and password as he wanted to reformat the phone to sell it.

Wong eventually sold the phone for S$720 and gave the secondhand phone shop assistant a false name, identity number and address to avoid being traced.

He has made no restitution.

S’pore is a city where children can take the bus safely: DPP

DPP Ling said that the teen was a vulnerable victim and the phone was “probably the most valuable item in his possession”.

“Singapore is known to be a city where children can take the bus home safely,” he added.

The prosecution could have sought corrective training but decided not to, the prosecutor added.

Corrective training, which is typically given to habitual offenders and is considered a harsher form of imprisonment, carries a minimum five-year jail term and no early release for good behaviour is allowed.

In mitigation, Wong’s lawyer, Jonathan Wong, told the court that his client was “profoundly remorseful and painfully aware” of what the sentence entailed.

He would be unable to care for his family that includes two young children.

His wife, who was in court, and father are now committed to supporting Wong.

After serving his latest jail time, Wong worked a low-paying steady job and made a “serious and concerted effort to reform” but financial stressors accumulated despite his best efforts, said the lawyer.

For robbery, he could have been jailed up to 10 years and given at least six strokes of the cane. — TODAY

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