Six months’ probation for Singaporean ‘terror neighbour’ suffering from dementia

The court heard on that Tan Siew Ngoh (pic), 65, who became a nuisance to her neighbours, is experiencing the onset of dementia, a condition that her family only discovered recently.  — TODAY pic
The court heard on that Tan Siew Ngoh (pic), 65, who became a nuisance to her neighbours, is experiencing the onset of dementia, a condition that her family only discovered recently. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, Dec 29 — For years, she was known as the terror neighbour in Yishun who regularly splashed yellowish liquid that smelt like urine across the doors of her neighbours and threw balls of toilet paper and used sanitary pads outside their flats.

Countless police reports were filed, closed-circuit televisions (CCTVs) were installed to catch her in the act and a cacti-lined makeshift wall was even built to keep her out of the common corridor.

All these actions did not deter 65-year-old Tan Siew Ngoh.

The court heard yesterday that Tan is experiencing the onset of dementia, a condition that her family only discovered recently.

Tan, who appeared in court in a wheelchair, was given a six-month administrative probation for her acts by District Judge May Mesenas. She was ordered to take her medication regularly, attend follow-up treatment for dementia and go for follow-up assessment and treatment at the Institute of Mental Health for her condition, if necessary.

Tan was accompanied in court by her daughter, who is in her 30s. The daughter was ordered to furnish a bond of S$5,000 (RM15,100)  to ensure Tan’s good behaviour during the probation period.

District Judge Mesenas also asked Tan if she was aware of the consequences if she did not comply with the orders, such as the possibility of returning to court to be sentenced for the eight offences for which she was convicted. Tan replied in Teochew through an interpreter: “I understand.”

Court documents stated that Tan lives on the fifth floor of Block 112 on Yishun Ring Road and she regularly harassed her neighbours on the fourth and sixth floors. They included Edmund Lee Wee Kuan, 28, and others who shared the common corridor on the sixth floor.

Lee installed a CCTV outside his flat and between Feb 2 and April 29 last year, it captured 32 instances of Tan throwing unknown liquids — which were clear or yellow in colour — and items at his doorstep, or leaving balls of toilet paper on his bicycle. The acts were mostly committed in the wee hours of the morning between 12am and 5am.

Faced with 36 charges, Tan pleaded guilty to eight proceeded charges and the rest were taken into consideration during sentencing.

The court also heard about the other acts that she committed against her neighbours.

On Oct 8 last year, she poured an unspecified liquid on a metal gate belonging to Neo Chui Leng, 39, who lives on the fourth floor. As a result, the bottom of her gate became rusty and difficult to open fully. She had to spend S$500 to replace it and Tan has not compensated her for the cost.

Earlier in March, Tan poured a yellow liquid on the doorstep of a sixth floor neighbour, Yeo Kim Hong, 66, and stole a pair of slippers. Her acts were captured on CCTV.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Zulhafni Zulkeflee and Tan’s lawyer Christopher Sim both agreed that probation is a more appropriate sentence for Tan considering her age and mental condition. Calling it an “exceptional case”, DPP Zulhafni noted that Tan would not be able to pay any fine imposed and would benefit more from a supervised framework.

Agreeing, District Judge Mesenas said that it is important to set up a “structure that can continue” even after the court order ends so that Tan does not reoffend. The judge also told Tan and her daughter to consider having Tan attend adult daycare or activities at a senior activity centre.

Speaking to TODAY after the hearing, Tan’s daughter, who wanted to be known only as Peggy, apologised to her affected neighbours. She had tried to reach out to them but was ignored.

“We feel very sorry for inconveniencing everyone,” Peggy said. She has two older brothers.

“I hope our neighbours can put things of the past aside and don’t take (my mother’s actions) to heart, although we know they have caused a lot of unhappiness.”

Tan could have been fined up to S$1,000 for each of the six counts of causing public nuisance for which she was convicted.

For committing mischief to Neo, she could have been jailed up to a year and fined. She could have been jailed up to three years and fined for stealing Yeo’s slippers.  — TODAY

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