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Man jailed 8.5 years for killing son-in-law at Boon Tan Street

SINGAPORE – A semi-retired businessman who fatally stabbed his son-in-law in front of a lunchtime crowd three years ago was sentenced to 8½ years’ jail on Monday (Sept 21) in what Justice Dedar Singh Gill described as a “tragic” case.

Tan Nam Seng, 72, was unhappy with how the younger man had treated his daughter and believed that it was part of a ploy to cheat him of his business.

Tan had pleaded guilty last month to a reduced charge of culpable homicide for stabbing Mr Spencer Tuppani, 39, in the chest three times outside a Telok Ayer Street coffee shop at about 1.20pm on July 10, 2017.

Closed-circuit television footage played in court showed Mr Tuppani running away and collapsing in front of a restaurant in Boon Tat Street.

The older man was seen in the footage kicking Mr Tuppani twice in the face and chasing passers-by away.

While waiting for the police to arrive, Tan phoned his daughter to tell her what he had done.

“I can’t sleep at night. I have done it. I have killed him. Don’t cry. I am old already. I am not scared (of) going to jail,” he told her.

Tan was originally charged with murder but the charge was reduced after he was found to be suffering from a major depressive disorder.

The High Court heard that he was unhappy with how Mr Tuppani had treated his daughter and believed that it was part of a plan to cheat him of his business.

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His condition, which included “overwhelming ruminations and worries about the well-being of his daughters”, impaired his mental responsibility for his actions, said an Institute of Mental Health report.

On Monday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Lim Jian Yi sought 12 years’ jail, saying that deterrence was needed against people taking matters into their own hands.

Defence counsel Wee Pan Lee sought 7½ years’ jail, arguing that Tan’s sentence should not be more than a life imprisonment, given his life expectancy.

Tan founded TNS Shipping in 1974, and the business grew into various companies over the years.

His three daughters worked for the business, and so did Mr Tuppani, who married Tan’s eldest daughter Shyller in 2005.

The companies were later consolidated into TNS Ocean Lines.

In 2016, the company was sold to a bigger corporation and Mr Tuppani was appointed chief executive officer.

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Mr Tuppani, who proposed the deal, persuaded his father-in-law and wife to assign their shares to him so as to boost his stake in the company.

Tan received $450,000 from the sale of his shares but had been unhappy with the amount, the court heard.

In early 2017, Ms Tan found out that Mr Tuppani was having an affair with another woman, with whom he had two children.

The couple agreed to a divorce but frequently quarrelled over issues such as the custody of their three children.

Tan found out that Mr Tuppani was recording the arguments and suspected that he planned to use the recordings in divorce proceedings.

After Tan’s younger daughter Sherry was suspended from the company on July 4, 2017, he believed that Mr Tuppani planned to cheat him of his business by divorcing Ms Shyller Tan after taking control of all their shares.

On July 10, 2017, Tan was on the way to the office at Cecil Court when he saw Mr Tuppani in Telok Ayer Street. When he reached his office, Tan went to the pantry to look for a knife, and then headed to the coffee shop.

He told Mr Tuppani “you are too much” in Hokkien before pulling the knife out of his sling bag and stabbing the younger man.

After Mr Tuppani collapsed in Boon Tat Street, Tan told passers-by: “This is my son-in-law, don’t help him, let him die.”

He then placed the bloodied knife on a table beside him and calmly sat on a nearby chair.

When Ms Shyller Tan cried over the phone after hearing what he had done, he told her: “What’s done cannot be undone.”

The maximum sentence for culpable homicide is life imprisonment and caning. Tan cannot be caned as he is above the age of 50.

This article was first published in The Straits TimesPermission required for reproduction.

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