SINGAPORE, Oct 13 — Increasingly dependent on her parents and boyfriend after suffering panic attacks, Desiree Tan Jiaping scolded them repeatedly over small matters and blamed them for not providing enough for her.
The 35-year-old pestered her father Tan Tian Chye and her mother to borrow money from their relatives, so that she could buy a Build-to-Order flat from the public housing authority.
They did whatever was necessary to pacify her, with Tan even slapping his wife to appease her.
Such was the mental torment that the couple even contemplated suicide.
Things took a tragic turn on November 19 in 2018, when she threatened to kill her father with a fork.
In their Bedok South flat, he struck her with a metal pole until she fell to the ground, before strangling her with a cloth.
Yesterday, the High Court sentenced Tan to two years and nine months’ jail, which was backdated to his date of remand on November 20, 2018.
Now 66, the former private-hire car driver with Grab pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
In sentencing Tan, Justice Hoo Sheau Peng said that it was a “tragic case” and that Tan was, by all accounts, a selfless, loving and devoted father.
“As a society, it is critical to continue with efforts to improve… access to mental health services. It is unfortunate that much-needed help, support and intervention were not sought by or given to the Tan family during those years for their daughter and, thereafter, for (Tan),” Justice Hoo added.
She encouraged Tan to continue seeking treatment for his major depressive episode and significant caregiver stress.
After being sentenced, Tan cried and thanked the judge, prosecutors and his lawyers.
He could have been jailed up to 10 years or fined, or given both penalties. While the offence carries the possibility of caning, offenders above 50 cannot be caned by law.
Anxious and demanding
Desiree Tan graduated from university in 2006, and when she could not hold down a full-time job, her parents continued providing for her.
In 2012, after she fell at an MRT station, she was assessed to have panic attacks with agoraphobia — the fear of being in crowded public spaces — and “hypochondriacal preoccupations”.
A hypochondriac is someone who is abnormally anxious about his or her health.
Desiree Tan became very anxious about leaving home by herself.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Bhajanvir Singh said that she became more particular and demanding towards her family and boyfriend, who moved in with them.
For instance, if her parents got her food order wrong, she would tell them to return to the stall to change it. She chided them if they did not.
Tan often took time off from his driving job to take her out and help her overcome her anxiety.
In 2017, she started asking her parents for more money. She said that she wanted to apply for a Build-to-Order flat with her boyfriend.
She also insisted that her parents ask her younger brother for the money that they spent on his education to be returned to them, and to transfer the cash to her.
They caved to her demands, asking her brother to return S$50,000 (RM152,920.95). Tan also borrowed S$10,000 from his older brother and gave it to her.
She also demanded to be named the sole beneficiary of her parents’ Central Provident Fund savings.
She became upset after finding out that her mother did not do so. Her mother later acceded to her demand.
Refused to take medication
Her behaviour worsened in the middle of 2018, when she yelled vulgarities at her parents and complained of the smell of cigarette smoke in their flat.
She instructed her parents to confront their neighbours and find the culprit, to ward off the smoke with cardboard pieces and buy fans.
Tan and his wife placated her by apologising and bowing before her.
Two months before killing her, Tan took his daughter to Changi General Hospital, where she was diagnosed with an unspecified anxiety disorder.
She declined psychiatric medication over fears of becoming dependent on it.
She moved to her aunt’s home to escape the cigarette smoke, but continued asking her parents to transfer cash to her.
Her behaviour pushed Tan and his wife to the brink of suicide.
DPP Singh said: “The accused felt very stressed by the deceased’s constant demands and scolding.”
On the day of her death, Tan picked his daughter up from her aunt’s home and helped her pack her belongings.
She scolded him for being late and being a lousy parent. During lunch on the way home, she clenched her fork in her fist and said she felt like killing him with it.
Frightened, he apologised repeatedly. She continued scolding him until they got home.
He picked up a metal pole that was part of a partially dismantled drum set, in case he needed to defend himself.
When he saw her pointing a knife at him, he hit her and strangled her with a cloth. He released his grip when she was motionless.
He called the police and his brother. When officers arrived, they found him crouching at the kitchen’s entrance as she lay in a pool of blood.
An Institute of Mental Health psychiatrist who examined him four times said that he had a major depressive episode. This substantially impaired his mental responsibility for his acts.
His risk of reoffending is low, the psychiatrist added. — TODAY