Telok Blangah Man Causes Death Of Helper By Starting Fire, Sentenced To Psychiatric Treatment
Chia Gek Yong, 73, started a fire on his mattress in the early morning of 29 Jan 2022. The resulting smoke led to the death of a helper living a floor above in the Telok Blangah block.
Chia suffered from a long history of bipolar disorder and relapsed during the incident. Attempting to kill hallucinated bedbugs, he lit the flames, which spread out of control.
The judge highlighted the mental condition as contributing to the offence. She thus sentenced him to two years’ mandatory psychiatric treatment in lieu of jail on Wednesday (25 Oct).
Given the severity of the case, the judge declared that Chia could face sentencing again should he not attend the treatments.
Man in Telok Blangah causes death of helper after lighting mattress on fire to kill ‘bedbugs’
On 29 Jan 2022, the elderly Chia Gek Yong awoke at 4am in his 10th-storey Telok Blangah flat.
He believed he saw bedbugs in his bed, and so sprayed cans of insecticide on it. However, he thought the bugs had survived, so he lit the mattress on fire with lighters.
Chia then attempted to control the spreading fire with bottles of water to no avail. Police and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers arrived and managed to extinguish the fire shortly before 6am.
Source: SCDF on Facebook
The officers then checked the 11th-storey flat right above Chia’s house, forcing their way in through the locked door.
They found the helper, Ms Koimatun Achmad Ali, unconscious inside. She tragically passed away at the hospital at 10.33pm from smoke inhalation, reported 8world News.
Source: Kevin Ho on GoGetFunding
Police arrested Chia after he admitted to starting the blaze.
Defendant suffered from bipolar disorder
Chia pleaded guilty in Aug 2023 to the offence of causing death by performing a rash act.
His lawyer argued that Chia had bipolar disorder since the age of 19 and has experienced relapse many times since.
During the incident that led to the helper’s tragic death, he experienced a “manic episode of moderate severity”, the symptoms of which included hallucinations, reported The Straits Times.
A psychiatrist at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) noted Chia’s symptoms aligned with the disorder, such as increased energy levels.
Staff found that Chia’s mood and behaviour improved upon taking his medications again.
The defence alleged that the regular IMH follow-ups created a positive trend in Chia’s ability to manage his condition.
Sentenced to mandatory psychiatric treatment for 2 years
District Judge Carol Ling concluded that Chia’s bipolar disorder held a contributory link to him starting the fire and causing Ms Koimatun’s death.
Source: SCDF on Facebook
She stated that a jail term would not deter future offences caused by the mental illness.
As such, Judge Ling sentenced Chia to a mandatory treatment order (MTO) for two years in lieu of jail time. She deemed his rehabilitation a community-based effort, especially with his family members supporting him.
However, due to the serious tragedy of Ms Koimatun’s death, Judge Ling said that the court could revoke the MTO and re-sentence Chia should he fail to attend the treatments.
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