A 72-year-old Chinese-origin businessman in Singapore was on Monday jailed for eight-and-a-half years for stabbing his Indian-origin son-in-law to death at a coffee shop in broad daylight following disputes over his handling of the family business and extra-marital affairs.
Tan Nam Seng pleaded guilty last month to a charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder by stabbing 38-year-old Spencer Tuppani three years ago during a busy lunch hour in the central business district, according to a Channel News Asia report.
Justice Dedar Singh Gill said this was a “vicious and brazen killing” but noted the accused”s major depressive disorder at the time, as well as his “fast-deteriorating” health, which the judge said weighed heavily on his mind, the report said.
Tuppani had made several business moves that Tan perceived as a ploy to cheat him of his company. They also lived in the same household, even after Tan’s daughter discovered Tuppani’s affair with another woman and the couple was quarrelling frequently, it said.
On the day of the incident, July 10, 2017, Tan saw his son-in-law eating at a coffee shop. Tan retrieved a knife from the company’s office at Cecil Court before approaching the younger man who was there with three friends, the report said.
The accused told Tuppani “you are too much” in Hokkien (a Chinese dialect), before stabbing him three times in quick succession and following the victim as he stumbled away and collapsed in front of an outlet, it said.
Tan stood over his son-in-law and stopped others from helping him, telling them to “let him die” and that “I wish to kill him”, the report said, adding that before the police arrived, Tan kicked the younger man”s face twice, before calling his daughter.
He said to her: “I can’t sleep at night. I have done it. I have killed him. Don’t cry. I am old already. I am not scared (of) going to jail.”
The prosecution asked for 12 years’ jail, saying that while Tan was suffering from a major depressive disorder, there were “crucial” aggravating factors including the fact that it was “a revenge tragedy”.
Tan exacted revenge on his son-in-law in a “brutal, public and unprovoked killing” in broad daylight, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Lim Jian Yi.
Defence lawyer Wee Pan Lee asked for seven-and-a-half years” jail. He said Tan is a divorcee who received only primary school education, beginning work as a coolie for a transport contractor in his early teens.
He worked his way up to become a ferry clerk and later started his own shipping and transport cargo company at the age of 27.
At its peak, the group of companies employed more than a thousand people, and Tan intended to groom Tuppani to run the business with his daughters after retirement.
However, when Tuppani handled the sale of the business, Tan and his eldest daughter each received only 450,000 Singapore dollars (USD 3,30,990) instead of 1 million dollars.
“He used company funds to fund his own lavish lifestyle… for expensive cars, luxury watches and the upkeep of (his) mistresses,” said Wee.
Tan later discovered his daughter’s marital woes with Tuppani, who had been “involved in a string of extramarital affairs”.
Tan began to realise that Tuppani would not honour his word to return company shares to him and his daughter, and realised his son-in-law had been surreptitiously recording arguments with his daughter to use in divorce proceedings, going against his word to Tan not to fight over custody.
“Objectively, to a right-minded person, this was a vicious and brazen killing carried out in broad daylight on an unsuspecting victim having a meal in a coffee shop…,” said Justice Gill.
However, medical evidence has established that Tan had major depressive disorder and was experiencing an episode at the time, said the judge.
He was also in a pervasive dysphoric state and was worried about the well-being of his daughters. This state of mind adversely affected his impulse control and judgment, and significantly impaired his mental responsibility for the act, the judge added.
For culpable homicide not amounting to murder, Tan could have been jailed for life. He cannot be caned as he is above 50.