Singapore’s Orchard Towers fatal brawl: Man who jumped bail after murder charge was reduced pleads guilty

Tan Hong Sheng, 23, was one of seven individuals charged over the death of 31-year-old Satheesh Noel Gobidass on July 2, 2019. ― TODAY pic
Tan Hong Sheng, 23, was one of seven individuals charged over the death of 31-year-old Satheesh Noel Gobidass on July 2, 2019. ― TODAY pic

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SINGAPORE, Feb 6 — One of the accused in the high-profile Orchard Towers brawl, whose murder charge was subsequently downgraded, pleaded guilty to his role in the incident yesterday.

Tan Hong Sheng, 23, was one of seven individuals charged over the death of 31-year-old Satheesh Noel Gobidass on July 2, 2019.

Satheesh succumbed to his injuries at the entrance of Orchard Towers that morning and died from a stab wound to the neck.

Tan did not join the attack on Satheesh and had eventually pulled the alleged killer, Tan Sen Yang, away from the victim in order to stop the fight.

Tan Hong Sheng and the five others had their murder charges reduced as they were not involved in causing Satheesh’s death.Tan Sen Yang is yet to be dealt with in court. The 28-year-old is the only one still facing a capital murder charge.

Tan Hong Sheng pleaded guilty yesterday to consorting with Tan Sen Yang, who is accused of carrying an offensive weapon — a foldable karambit, which is a small curved knife resembling a claw — at the Naughty Girl Club in Orchard Towers.

Aside from that, Tan Hong Sheng also admitted to two unrelated charges of rioting, once while armed with a deadly weapon.

District Judge Ng Cheng Thiam will take five other similar charges into consideration for sentencing on March 5.

Tan Hong Sheng had been arrested twice for rioting at Club V5 Tycoon at Ming Arcade and Club District 9 at Orchard Hotel respectively, and had been out on police bail when he was at Orchard Towers that morning.

After his murder charge was reduced, he jumped bail and was later handed a fresh rioting charge. He has been in remand since then.

Four others in the Orchard Towers case have already been put behind bars. The fifth, Chan Jia Xing, 27, was given a year-long conditional warning in October last year. This means he must remain crime-free for 12 months or he can be prosecuted for the original crime.  

The case attracted heated online discussion, leading the Attorney General’s Chambers to direct the police to investigate claims of preferential racial treatment for the offenders. 

What happened at Orchard Towers

The court heard that in the early hours of July 2, 2019, Tan Hong Sheng went drinking at Naughty Girl Club with his friends, including Tan Sen Yang. 

One or two days earlier, he had seen the other man, whom he also knew as “Legay Boy”, behaving aggressively while wielding the karambit. 

He then told a mutual friend he no longer wanted to join drinking sessions when Tan Sen Yang was present, but the friend nonetheless invited Tan Sen Yang for drinks that morning of July 2.

At about 6.30am, Satheesh’s group got into a dispute with their group at the nightclub entrance. Tan Sen Yang swung his knife at everyone gathered there, slashing a security officer on the finger and another man on the face. 

Shortly after, Satheesh confronted the group about the dispute at the entrance of Orchard Towers. 

Tan Hong Sheng noticed Tan Sen Yang punching Satheesh while holding the karambit, before he allegedly slashed the victim around the lower jaw and neck.

Video footage of the incident later went viral on social media. Tan Hong Sheng did not join in the attack and pulled the other man away from Satheesh, who walked a few steps before collapsing.

Both Tans and another of the individuals involved, Loo Boon Chong, discussed the altercation at Boon Lay Market later. Tan Sen Yang told the others not to worry as he would take responsibility, then left with Loo.

Loo later discarded Tan Sen Yang’s bloody T-shirt down a common rubbish chute.

Has violent criminal past

Tan Hong Sheng’s criminal records, dating back to 2011 when he was placed in a juvenile home for unlawful society offences, comprise mainly violence-related crimes, Deputy Public Prosecutor Benedict Teong revealed.

Most recently, he was sentenced to reformative training in 2016 for rioting and being armed with a dangerous weapon.

The prosecution sought at least five years’ jail and 12 strokes of the cane, noting that he had “re-offended again and again” and that a deterrent sentence was required.

In mitigation, his lawyers — Cory Wong and Josephus Tan from Invictus Law Corporation — argued that he did not assault anyone and had pulled Tan Sen Yang away on multiple instances. 

He had also pulled the sole female involved, Natalie Siow Yu Zhen, away during the Naughty Girl Club altercation.

For consorting with a person with an offensive weapon, he could be jailed up to three years and given at least six strokes of the cane. ― TODAY

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