01 July 2019

Crime Files Choa Chu Kang Combined Temple Murder Feature

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By: Irwan Shah

(Photos: Public Affairs Department & The Straits Times)


The temple is probably the last place one would think of when it comes to a crime scene. However, the least expected happened on 13 February 2016 when a temple helper was bludgeoned to death during a break-in that occurred in the wee hours. In this issue’s Crime Files, we take a look at a grisly murder that happened at the Choa Chu Kang Combined Temple. Find out how the investigation officers from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) leveraged technology while working

together with members of the public and other government agencies to bring the perpetrator to justice.


The Grisly Discovery


The deceased was discovered in a pool of blood within the compound of the Choa Chu Kang Combined Temple by another temple helper, Mr Tan, when he was starting his morning shift on 14 February 2016, at about 7 am. Shocked and aghast, Mr Tan quickly made his way to a nearby coffeeshop to alert his colleagues who were having breakfast at the time. The Police were

contacted and the officers from Jurong Division as well as paramedics from the Singapore Civil Defence Force swiftly arrived at the scene. The paramedics declared the deceased dead at 7.09 am. Investigation officers from the CID’s Special Investigation Section (SIS) took over the management of the scene and began their investigations.


The first thing we did was to analyse the scene and collect evidence such as blood stains, footprints and loose fibres. Meanwhile, other investigation officers from SIS were tasked to find the temple’s Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) footage and gather information from members of the public,” elaborated Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Zhang Yiwen, the lead investigator.


An autopsy of the deceased later revealed that the injuries were caused by a blunt force, and pointed out that there were also saucer-shaped circular patterns across the external injuries.


Investigating the Murder


Over 2,500 hours’ worth of surveillance footage from various CCTVs and Police Cameras (PolCam) in the neighbourhood were painstakingly reviewed by the investigation officers. This was crucial in helping them piece together what happened, and to trace the suspect’s movements before and after the incident.


Meanwhile, investigation officers on the ground received more information about the incident from Mr Tan, another temple helper. He noticed that a man was acting suspiciously within the temple compound in the evening, before the incident happened, and gave a description of the suspect’s attire. The information greatly helped the investigation officers to narrow down the suspect’s

movements from the surveillance footage. It was later established that the suspect bought some tools from a hardware shop before heading to a nearby coffeeshop.


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction.


Turning Point


Upon closer inspection of the surveillance footage extracted from the CCTV at the coffeeshop, Senior

Station Inspector (SSI) Mazlan, one of the SIS’s officers, spotted the words ‘Hair for Hope’ printed on the suspect’s red T-shirt. SSI Mazlan identified the T-shirt as one of the souvenirs given to participants during the ‘Hair for Hope’ annual event in 2015. The SIS officers then cross-referenced the list of 2015 participants from the ‘Hair for Hope’ event and finally managed to establish the suspect’s identity. It was revealed that the suspect, Loh Suan Lit, was unemployed and previously

jailed for drug-related offences. The suspect left Singapore on 16 February 2016 for Malaysia after the incident. With the help of the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA), the suspect was arrested at the Woodlands Checkpoint when he returned to Singapore a week later.


The suspect was brought back to his rental unit in Marsiling where the officers found gloves and masks from his previous job as a cleaner. More importantly, the bag used to keep the tools used during the incident was also found at his home. Results collected from a DNA analysis showed that the deceased’s blood and DNA results corresponded with that found on the suspect’s bag and

wristwatch. Further investigation of the fibres inside the bag matched the gloves and mask used during the incident. Also, the measurements of the rubber stopper bought by the suspect, to cap the hammerhead, matched perfectly with the saucer-shaped circular patterns on the deceased’s external injuries.


Justice is Served


“The accused testified that he had no intention of killing the deceased. Instead, he explained that he wanted to steal the gold chains on the deities and the money within the donation boxes. During his attempt, the deceased shouted at Loh, startling him. In a fit of panic, Loh attacked the deceased with a blunt object – believed to be a hammer – and ran away,” said DSP Yiwen.


Loh Suan Lit was eventually charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder. He was sentenced to 12 years’ jail and six strokes of the cane in court on 15 January 2018. Additionally, he was sentenced to another two years of imprisonment for an unrelated offence.

Last Updated on 02 July 2019