Burglar who bludgeoned temple helper, crushed his voice box, gets jail and fine

A man bludgeoned a temple helper to death after a failed burglary attempt at a temple on Teck Whye Lane and was sentenced to 14 years’ jail and six strokes of the cane on Monday (Jan 15). 

Loh Suan Lit, who was jobless at the time of the incident, entered the Choa Chu Kang Combined Temple between 2.30am and 3.10am of Feb 14, 2016, where he tried to steal gold chains on religious statues and alms from various donations boxes. 

He panicked when he was discovered by the helper, Mr Tan Poh Huat, 53, who slept on the premises, reports The Straits Times

Loh then reached for a tool from his backpack and repeatedly bludgeoned Mr Tan.

The attack left the victim with 93 external injuries all over his body, including fractures on his skull, jaw, nose, and a burst eyeball.

Loh also crushed Mr Tan’s voice box, killing him. 

The weapon which Loh had used to assault Mr Tan could not be established, as Loh had told investigators that he could not recall the details of the attack. 

He pleaded guilty to one charge of culpable homicide.

According to Lianhe Wanbao, Loh also pleaded guilty to an unrelated charge of burgling a food stall at Beauty World Food Centre between Feb 2 and Feb 3, 2016. 

Justice Chua Lee Ming accepted arguments by the defence, that Loh’s assault was not premeditated., but also agreed with prosecutors on the ‘brutal and vicious’ nature of the attack, citing the number of injuries Loh had inflicted on Mr Tan. 

The court heard that Loh had bought a hammer, a saw, a screwdriver, and a chisel from a hardware store on the evening of Feb 13, 2016.

He also brought with him gloves, a surgical mask, a cap, and a separate set of clothes. 

He had intended to break into the temple to steal the gold chains and donations. 

When he reached the temple, he saw that there were still people around, and went to a nearby coffee shop where he took some pills to ‘get high’ while watching a football match. 

Loh returned to the temple at around 2.30am the following day and put on the mask, gloves and cap. 

He climbed over the back wall of the temple and tried to pry open several locked doors with his tools, but realised that he was making too much noise, and decided to give up on burgling the place. 

However, he was discovered by Mr Tan as he was leaving, and the temple helper shouted at him. 

In a state of panic, Loh reached for a tool in his backpack and hit Mr Tan until the latter became unconscious. 

Loh then fled and returned to his Marsiling flat.

He later threw the tools away. 

They were not recovered. 

Mr Tan’s body was discovered by another helper at about 7am.

He was soaked in blood, and there was blood splattered on the floor, chairs and ladders near his body. 

Blood trails also led to the back gate. 

A total of $2,868 was found on his body. 

The official autopsy report stated that the marks found on Mr Tan’s head and body were consistent with the use of an object with a spherical head, such as a hammer. 

After scouring through surveillance footage and conducting investigations, the police established Loh’s identity. 

He was arrested on Feb 24, as he was returning to Singapore via the Woodlands checkpoint after leaving for Malaysia on Feb 19.