Man claiming to be from PA asks for photo of woman's foot at Botanic Gardens, police investigating

Samuel Devaraj
The Straits Times
April 26, 2023

She was enjoying a picnic alone at the Singapore Botanic Gardens when a man approached her, claiming to be from the People’s Association (PA).

He allegedly asked if she could write encouraging words on her foot with a marker pen so he could take a photo of it as part of an upcoming event organised with Youth Corps Singapore, the volunteer arm of the National Youth Council.

He claimed the photo would be used for a poster for the event, and after she had written on her foot, he touched it to adjust it for a supposed photo, making her feel uncomfortable.

She became more suspicious when he appeared to be taking a video of her instead, and he later asked if he could be friends with her.

Soon after he left, she called the police.

The PA said no such event with Youth Corps exists.

A spokesman for the police said they are investigating the incident after receiving a call for assistance at about 4.20pm on April 17 at 1 Cluny Road, the address of Singapore Botanic Gardens.

The spokesman added: “A 35-year-old man is assisting in police investigations.”

The 24-year-old woman, who declined to be named, said on Monday that she enjoys going to places like the Gardens to journal and read.

The recent university graduate, who is looking for a job, said she had gone there at about 1pm on April 17. She sat beside a pond, in an area where other people were around.

The man approached her at about 3.30pm and showed her a photo on Instagram of notes of encouragement written on someone’s foot, and asked if she would like to do the same with her foot.

She was hesitant at first, and the man said she could take a picture of him if she was uncomfortable.

Though she felt this was odd, she agreed, wanting to get it over and done with quickly.

She then noticed him using his phone to record a video of her.

She said: “I felt it was a red flag, and I needed to get away from him as soon as possible. I was also afraid he knew I was getting suspicious (and that) he might do something worse to me.”

Soon after the woman rubbed off the ink from her feet, the man asked if they could be friends. She rejected him several times before he left.

She left the Gardens and contacted the police after her brother advised her to do so.

A PA spokesman said the organisation does not have programmes held in conjunction with the Youth Corps that involve feet.

She added: “PA staff carry an official staff pass with their name and photograph. When in doubt, members of the public should request to see the official pass. They can also check with staff at their nearest community clubs for verification.”

The alleged victim said she will be more careful when she goes on picnics alone.

“This incident raises trust issues and makes me more wary of men,” she said.

In April 2022, The Straits Times reported on a man who was sexually aroused by feet molesting a teenager in March 2019 by touching her soles and toes. He also molested another woman in July 2017 by caressing her feet.

He was jailed for two weeks and five days on two molestation charges. Prior to that, he was fined $8,000 for similar offences.

He had duped them into showing him their feet by claiming he was helping out at non-profit organisations, including one called “Barefoot Walking Society”. He touched the women’s feet while snapping their pictures.

On one occasion, he pretended to be from the PA and claimed to be conducting an activity where the organisation’s members would write quotes on the soles of feet and take photos of them to form a collage.

The Straits Times

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