SINGAPORE, June 24 — For nearly three weeks in 2017, Leow Jin Jie repeatedly sent harassing text messages to a 19-year-old teenager who had attempted suicide, asking her if she had eaten and telling her not to “be naughty” among other things.

The investigation officer (IO) with the Singapore Police Force (SPF) would also pester her for prompt replies, and comment on her body.

His offences came to light only two years later, when the victim attempted suicide once more and her mother asked for a female IO because the previous one had sent inappropriate messages to her daughter.

Upon being investigated himself, Leow claimed he was having marital problems and wanted to “test” if he still had appeal with women.

Today (June 24), the 33-year-old Singaporean pleaded guilty to a single charge of unlawful stalking and was sentenced to 20 days' jail.

TODAY has contacted SPF for comment.

Leow has been a police officer since 2009. He was with Jurong Investigation Branch at the time of his offence before becoming a community policing unit officer.

‘Don’t be naughty’

The court heard that the victim, who cannot be named due to a gag order to protect her identity, was diagnosed at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) with a major depressive disorder with borderline personality traits.

In late September 2017, Leow was assigned to investigate her for an offence of attempted suicide. Her father had found her in her bedroom with cuts on her forearms. She had also recently undergone an abortion.

Before this, she had been given two stern warnings for previous attempts at suicide.

Suicide was still a criminal offence at the time but has no longer been illegal since January 1, 2020 after amendments to the Penal Code were passed in Parliament.

When the victim was discharged from IMH, Leow went to her home and asked to sit alone with her at the dining table to take her statement.

He then sat next to her to do this, before asking for her mobile phone number and giving her his own. The next day, he began sending her text messages via WhatsApp.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Yvonne Poon told the court that he knew he would be harassing her if he contacted her for non-investigative purposes.

These messages ranged from Leow asking her about her wellbeing and advising her to take tonics, to questioning what time she slept and when she would meet a male friend.

One of these messages read: “Dun be naughty. U haven’t eat please go and eat. Dun make me angry.” He also sent semi-sexual suggestions, asked her to use a sanitary pad instead of a tampon for her menstruation, and eventually proposed that they use the Snapchat application which automatically erases messages after the conversation is over.

DPP Poon said: “She felt harassed as he was always checking on her, intimidated as he said he would get angry, and also felt like he was trying to control her by saying 'good girl'.

“She felt insulted when he commented on her body, and distressed as he would keep trying to meet her.” However, the victim did not cut Leow off completely because he was much older than her. She was also afraid of the consequences of reporting him not only because he was a police officer, but her IO as well.

She would take some time to respond to him. In contrast, he replied to her within seconds or minutes, and chastised her for not getting back to him quickly.

In mid-October 2017, she was taken to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital for a checkup.

Annoyed by his messages, she told him she had been hospitalised and declined to give him her ward number. He said he could check where she was warded if he wanted to, but refrained out of respect from her.

Nonetheless, he showed up at the hospital to conduct investigations for an unrelated coroner’s inquiry. He sent her a photo of the car park and told her he would wait for her downstairs.

When she went to a smoking corner with her mother, Leow sent her a photo of her surroundings and said she looked cute. This made her feel scared and harassed, DPP Poon told the court.

She then confided in her mother about what was going on when they walked away, before deleting their text messages and blocking his number. The period of their exchanges was 18 days.

In November 2019, she attempted suicide again. This time, her mother asked for a female IO, saying that their previous one had sent inappropriate messages.

The victim’s mother was then advised to lodge a police report against Leow.

Received awards for ‘stellar performance’

DPP Poon asked for 20 to 30 days’ jail, telling the court that Leow was well aware he was dealing with a “very vulnerable person”. She had had multiple self-harm episodes since July 23, 2017.

The prosecutor said: “(This was) both from the nature of the offence he was investigating and the medical reports he applied for... The abuse of his position of trust extends from the very inception of their interaction.

“The only reason he had such unfettered access was his position as the IO. He could retrieve very intimate information like her psychiatric condition and her physical status at the time, having just undergone an abortion.” DPP Poon noted that the frequency and intensity of Leow’s contact with the victim were also clear from the facts.

In mitigation, Leow’s lawyer Marcus Lim asked for no more than seven days’ jail.

He said that Leow had received numerous awards due to his stellar performance during his time in SPF, and was likely to be fired upon his conviction.

“Notwithstanding that, he is determined to contribute to society and has started to donate blood on a regular basis,” Lim added.

The defence counsel argued that because the victim did not give an impact statement, there was no indication that she suffered further harm or distress apart from being scared or harassed.

She did not have to adjust her lifestyle to avoid him, and his motive at the time was only to test if he still had value with women, Lim said.

In response, DPP Poon said these were merely the absence of aggravating factors, which is not mitigating.

When sentencing Leow, District Judge Dora Tay stressed that she was judging Leow by the legal threshold of his offence — that he knew his actions were likely to cause harassment.

“I wish to assure the accused that I think it’s important to understand the full context of their messages, and her responses... But I also have to bear in mind the relationship and her explanation... of why she said what she said,” the judge added.

Those convicted of stalking can be jailed for up to a year or fined up to S$5,000, or punished with both.

Where to get help

― National Care Hotline: 1800-202-6868

― Fei Yue's Online Counselling Service: website (Mon to Fri, 10am to 12pm, 2pm to 5pm)

― Institute of Mental Health's Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222 (24 hours)

― Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444 (24 hours) / 1-767 (24 hours)

― Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019 (Mon to Fri, 9am to 6pm)

― Silver Ribbon Singapore: 6386-1928 / 6509-0271 (Mon to Fri, 9am to 6pm)

― Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788 (Mon to Fri, 2.30pm to 5pm)

― Touchline (Counselling): 1800-377-2252 (Mon to Fri, 9am to 6pm) ― TODAY