Saturday, November 25, 2017

Anthony Ler's hired teen killer seeks release after 16 years behind bars, Courts & Crime News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Anthony Ler's hired teen killer seeks release after 16 years behind bars, Courts & Crime News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Anthony Ler's hired teen killer seeks release after 16 years behind bars

A smiling mastermind who engineered his own wife's murder, Anthony Ler had coached a lanky bespectacled 15-year-old and twisted the boy's mind into killing his victim in 2001.

Sixteen years after he was detained at the President's pleasure, the teenage killer, now 31, has applied to President Halimah Yacob for clemency, and to be released. He is hoping to have his life back.

To be detained at the President's pleasure is to be jailed for an indefinite term, subject to a periodic review.

During the trial in 2001, the teenager, identified only as Z, was described by the presiding judge as "a rather simple-minded and mild-mannered boy ensnared haplessly way out of season in adult intrigue and machinations... He was no killer and had too much conscience and compassion".

Ler, on the other hand, was a master manipulator who wore a smile that never faded.

In his book, the late lawyer Subhas Anandan, who represented Ler, described him as a man who wore a constant smile, which in reality was a sneer.

Ler conjured up a series of stories to protect himself, and maintained throughout a trial which gripped Singapore that he never intended for the teenager to actually kill his wife, Ms Annie Leong. It was a joke gone wrong, he said.

  • Detained at the President's pleasure: What does it mean?

  • Anyone below 18 convicted of a capital charge, such as murder, kidnapping and drug trafficking, will be spared the gallows and instead detained at the President's pleasure.

    It is a legal term to mean the person will be jailed indefinitely.

    His conduct and progress will be reviewed periodically and when found suitable for release, a recommendation will be made to the President, who may then direct the release.

    The boy who killed Ms Annie Leong was just 15 years old when he committed the crime. As such, he was detained at the President's pleasure.

    Now, after spending 16 years in prison, the 31-year-old is appealing to President Halimah Yacob to be granted clemency and set free.

    Deputy Public Prosecutor Paul Quan Kaih Shiuh had in 2004 argued that jailing the boy for an indefinite period was a severe penalty in sharp contrast to the provision in the Children and Young Persons Act, which allows a judge to exercise discretion in deciding an appropriate sentence.

    Samantha Boh

But both were found guilty. Ler was sent to the gallows on Dec 13, 2002, and Z, who did not appeal against his sentence on his lawyer's advice, has been serving an indefinite jail term since.

His lawyer Peter Ong Lip Cheng, who submitted the petition for him, said the 31-year-old has done well while serving time, matured considerably and has been studying for a degree while in prison.

Speaking to The Sunday Times yesterday, he added that the application, which the Istana received on Nov 17, has been supported by counsellors, friends and others in contact with him during his term in prison. Z's identity was not publicised then as he was a juvenile when the crime was committed.

Mr Ong, speaking from Chongqing, China, where he is attending a course, said: "He has consistently shown remorse, maturity and understanding of what he has done. If given the chance, he would also be a standing and active testimony to youths of the consequences of crime, and share his personal story in redeeming himself."

Z knifed Ms Leong, a 30-year-old insurance agent, as instructed by Ler, her estranged husband. It happened on the fourth-floor lift landing of a Housing Board block in Hougang on May 14, 2001. She died later in hospital from multiple knife wounds to her neck and chest.

Investigations showed Ler had approached Z and his teenage friends, but of the lot, Z felt he had to prove himself to Ler.

Ler, a self-confessed gambler and womaniser, wanted to retain the HDB flat he and Ms Leong owned, and custody of their daughter, who was then four years old. She would be 20 now.

Then Judicial Commissioner Tay Yong Kwang, who heard the case, said during the trial that "Anthony Ler hatched the idea of killing his wife, taught Z how to do it cleanly, kept egging him on and finally practically forced him to commit the offence".

Z's admissions of "self-loathing and utter confusion after the murder" were accepted by the court.

In his statements to the police when confessing to the crime, Z had written: "How I wished that I had never known Anthony. I have let my parents down and all those people around me. I do not know how people would think of me. I feel very lost and confused."

Mr Ong said Z's remorse and desire to change have been borne out by his work in prison in the last 16 years. He has been a model inmate with no record of misbehaviour.

Among other things, he has studied diligently through to his A levels and encouraged others to study and improve themselves as well. He also maintained close ties with his family in letters which showed character growth, he added.

Mr Ong, who was one of two lawyers defending Z during the 2001 trial, said Z has evolved from being the naive and weak-minded boy then to a resilient young man today, eager to make amends for his wrongdoings.

He said a 2003 Singapore report to a United Nations committee of convicted persons below the age of 18 detained at the President's leasure showed they can be considered for release after serving about 13 years of imprisonment.

The cases are reviewed after every four years but after the 10th year, they are reviewed annually, he said.

"This appeal is timely but it is not merely about the time served so far, but also on the evidence of his growth, maturity and readiness to contribute to society."

About the case

The Anthony Ler trial in 2001 made headlines, not only because he hired a 15-year-old to kill his estranged wife Annie Leong, but also for the show he put on to hide his crime.

Ms Leong, 30, was stabbed multiple times outside a lift on the fourth floor of the Housing Board block where she was living with her mother and daughter.

At her wake, Ler sat down with a New Paper reporter and admitted to being a bad husband. He said that he had "fouled up" their marriage with an affair and his gambling. He said that his wife was an angel, while he was the devil.

But Ler insisted that he was innocent.

Two days after the interview, Ler, then 34, was arrested at his Pasir Ris home and it emerged that he had offered a secondary school student $100,000 to kill Ms Leong, and even coached him on how to stab her in the neck.

Ler was sentenced to death, and hanged on Dec 13, 2002. The student, because of his age, was spared the death penalty and detained indefinitely at the President's pleasure.

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

MRT incidents like Joo Koon collision should not have happened; we must put things right: PM Lee, Politics News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

MRT incidents like Joo Koon collision should not have happened; we must put things right: PM Lee, Politics News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

MRT incidents like Joo Koon collision should not have happened; we must put things right: PM Lee

SINGAPORE - Major rail disruptions such as the flooding at Bishan and a train collision last week at Joo Koon have shaken public confidence, and should not have happened, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

"But they have, and we must learn the right lessons from them, get to the root of the problems, and put things right," said PM Lee on Sunday (Nov 19) at the annual People's Action Party convention.

The MRT network has been hit by a spate of woes, including the train collision at Joo Koon last week which left 36 people injured.

PM Lee said such disruptions "loom large in the public consciousness", and are a reason that the public does not feel like rail reliability has improved even though statistics show there are "fewer delays and breakdowns than before".

He stressed that improving Singapore's infrastructure is a priority, especially its public transport system. Commuters should eventually see better reliability when major projects like resignalling are fully completed, he added.

The authorities will continue expanding the public transport network as well, and make other major social and infrastructure investments, he said, adding that taxes will be raised as spending needs grow.

PM Lee noted that improving train reliability is a "very complicated problem".

Apart from the technical issues, there is also a need to strengthen the train operators as well to deliver consistent high performance, he said. Engineering and maintenance teams must be reinforced, and morale maintained.

The ongoing upgrading of the signalling systems on the older North-South and East-West lines will cause their own set of delays, he said.

"Once the signalling upgrade is fully completed, hopefully within a year's time, these delays should go away," he said.

He added: "The best thing we can now do is to give our transport team the time and the space to work these problems out."

He said Singapore already has a "first-class transport system", its reliablity comparable to other cities' in the world.

Citing a recent New York Times article that compared the on-time performance of transit systems, he said the top cities in the world for reliability are Hong Kong, Taipei, Los Angeles, and Singapore, with trains being on time over 99 per cent of the time.

"The Transport Minister has one of the toughest jobs in Cabinet... I want Boon Wan and his team to know that they have our full confidence," he said.

Besides improving train reliability, the authorities will also expand the transport network with major investments such as the High Speed Rail to Kuala Lumpur, and development of other regional centres such as Woodlands and Punggol, said PM Lee.

Singapore will also double the capacities of its air and sea ports with Changi's Terminal 5 and a megaport in Tuas. The megaport will open up the Great Southern Waterfront for longer-term development, a new area thrice the size of Marina Bay, he said.

"But the investments and social spending are costly, and we have to make sure that we can afford them," he said.

He added that Government spending will rise further, spending needs will grow, and raising taxes, as finance minister Heng Swee Keat said, is "not a matter of whether, but when".

Besides PM Lee, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan also brought up rail issues at the event at the Big Box in Jurong on Sunday.

Mr Khaw, who is the PAP chairman, promised commuters in an earlier speech that the government would complete its work on the MRT lines.

He added that he had arrived at the awards and convention via the North-South Line, and commuters had come forward to encourage him.

"I thanked them and I promised them, we shall complete this work. And we will. This is a promise," he said.

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Xinmin Secondary School students' NRIC numbers leaked on file sharing site Pastebin, Education News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Xinmin Secondary School students' NRIC numbers leaked on file sharing site Pastebin, Education News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Xinmin Secondary School students' NRIC numbers leaked on file sharing site Pastebin

SINGAPORE - The NRIC numbers of hundreds of students at Xinmin Secondary School were leaked in the second known data breach by a Ministry of Education (MOE) school since March 2015.

The information was posted a few months ago on file-sharing website, but The Straits Times understands that it has since been taken off the site and a police report has been made.

When contacted, a spokesman for MOE said: "In line with government IT security policies, MOE has stepped up efforts to work with schools and ensure that their security measures continue to be effective."

She added: "As investigations are ongoing, we are unable to share more."

In March 2015, the personal data of more than 1,900 pupils from Henry Park Primary School were exposed.

An Excel spreadsheet containing the children's particulars was mistakenly sent out to about 1,200 parents as part of an update about a school event. The file contained the names and birth certificate numbers of all 1,900 pupils in the school, and the names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of their parents.

MOE schools such as Xinmin Secondary and Henry Park are exempted from the Personal Data Protection Act, fully enforced from July 2014. The Act requires organisations to take "reasonable measures" to protect personal data in their possession.

Instead, MOE schools are governed by public-sector rules, which have not been made public.

Technology lawyer Bryan Tan of Pinsent Masons MPillay said: "The Government said that its standards are more stringent than those that govern the private sector. But when a public incident like this happens, we can assess whether the first statement is true."

Lawyer Mr Koh Chia Ling from law firm OC Queen Street said that the students have no recourse. "Even if they do, it might be difficult for them to show any loss suffered from negligence or breach of contract," he said.

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

PSLE results will be released on Nov 24, Secondary 1 posting results out on Dec 21, Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

PSLE results will be released on Nov 24, Secondary 1 posting results out on Dec 21, Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

PSLE results will be released on Nov 24, Secondary 1 posting results out on Dec 21

SINGAPORE - Results of this year's Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) will be released on Nov 24, the Ministry of Education (MOE) and Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) said in a joint press release on Friday (Nov 17).

Pupils can collect their result slips from their respective primary schools from 11am.

Eligible pupils will receive option forms to select their secondary schools at the same time, the release said.

Every sealed Secondary 1 (S1) Option Form comes with a unique S1 Personal Identification Number (S1 PIN), which can be used to submit the options online via the Secondary 1 Internet System, from 11am on Nov 24 to 3pm on Nov 30 at

"Students, in discussion with their parents, are advised to first consider their secondary school choices, decide on these choices and complete the option form before logging on to the S1-IS. This will help to facilitate the smooth completion of their online submission," MOE and SEAB said in the joint release.

The forms can also be submitted physically to the primary schools, from 11am to 3pm on Nov 24, and from 9am to 3pm from Nov 27 to Nov 30.

Posting results will be released on Dec 21, and can be accessed via Short Message Service (SMS), at the pupil's primary school or on the S1-IS.

Pupils have to report at their secondary schools at 8.30am the next day, that is, Dec 22.

Parents can call MOE Customer Service Centre on 6872-2220 on weekdays from 8.30am to 5.30pm and from 8.30am to 12.30pm on Saturdays, for more information.

Pupils eligible for the Normal (Technical) course and interested to study in Crest Secondary School or Spectra Secondary School - specialised schools for Normal (Technical) students - should apply directly to the schools, the release said.

They are still required to indicate their choices for other secondary schools under the posting exercise.

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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Woman jailed for blinding colleague with stiletto kicks, Courts & Crime News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Woman jailed for blinding colleague with stiletto kicks, Courts & Crime News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Woman jailed for blinding colleague with stiletto kicks

A former nightclub hostess who blinded the left eye of her colleague with her 14.5cm-high stiletto heel was sentenced to 16 months in jail yesterday.

Siti Zahara Afifi Abdul Karim, 28, was also ordered to pay compensation of $5,923 for the medical expenses of Ms Nur Lena Rahmat, 30, who is now effectively blind.

The mother of three had admitted to causing grievous hurt to the then 29-year-old part-time hostess through a rash act to endanger the personal safety of others.

In his brief sentencing remarks, District Judge Mathew Joseph said that there were several aggravating factors in this case.

Siti Zahara had attacked a sensitive and vulnerable part of the victim's body - her face and eye region - by thrusting her stiletto-heeled legs at her face three times.

She had used her stiletto heels as a dangerous weapon.

"In your unrestrained and consuming anger, you had perversely turned a simple fashion accessory item into a lethal weapon. This was simply astonishing and an incomprehensible and inhumane act on your part," he said.

He said Siti Zahara had behaved in an "extremely aggressive manner", and had continued attacking the victim even after a bystander tried to stop her. She had repeated her rash acts, hitting the victim not once, but three times. She stopped only when the victim cried out: "I cannot see, I cannot see.''

"And even though she was in obvious distress, the accused persisted in attacking her victim, which resulted in the horrific eye injuries. This was sheer wanton violence,'' he added.

Judge Joseph said that sadly, the victim, who wears a prosthetic eye, is now effectively blind.

She now also has limited vision in her right eye.

"It is almost beyond belief that a simple stiletto shoe heel can inflict such horrendous eye injuries. These serious injuries inevitably must constitute further aggravating factors in this case," he said.

The court heard that the two women were at Club One KTV Boutique in Jalan Sultan at about 3am on Oct 8, 2015, when they had an argument over the money paid for the braces of the accused's younger sister. The sister had been in a relationship with the victim's male friend, who wanted to continue paying for her braces even after they had broken up. The victim had allegedly urged her friend not to do so.

On the day of the incident, the dispute between the two escalated into a scuffle, during which Siti Zahara fell onto the floor, followed by the victim.

Colleagues had tried to stop the fight, but Siti Zahara continued kicking in a fast and aggressive manner in the direction of the victim.

The victim felt the heel hit her eyelid twice before the heel went into her eye, causing her eyeball to pop out.

She was heard exclaiming: "I cannot see, I cannot see."

In mitigation, Siti Zahara's pro bono lawyer Wilbur Lim said his client was also injured, and was not aware that her heels had injured Ms Nur Lena in the eye.

He said she is remorseful for the harm she caused to the victim.

Siti Zahara, who is out on $10,000 bail, will begin her sentence on Nov 23 as she wants to raise money to pay the victim. She could have been jailed for up to four years and/or fined up to $10,000.

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