Man jailed for burning towels at Hotel 81 after staff said he could not join his male friend and woman in room

SINGAPORE – A man was sentenced to three months’ jail on Wednesday (April 21) for setting fire to towels in a hotel after staff told him he had to leave the room occupied by his male friend and a woman they had just met at a karaoke lounge.

Lau Sheng Shiun, who was from the Republic of Singapore Navy, had faced trial and was convicted last month of mischief by fire with intent to cause damage.

The incident happened on Sept 12, 2017.

The 34-year-old had met up with Chua Wen Hao, 29, his friend and subordinate in the navy, before heading to the W KTV lounge at Foch Road at Jalan Besar.

They had a few drinks there and met a Vietnamese woman. The men later decided to head to Hotel 81 Violet nearby, and checked in at the front desk at about 9.20pm.

Shortly after, the hotel staff spotted through the security cameras that three of them had entered the room, in breach of its policy of disallowing more than two people in a room.

When the staff informed them that they were in breach of the policy, Lau left the hotel through a backdoor.

He started smoking in the area where the hotel kept crates of towels before eventually leaving at about 9.50pm.

But shortly after, someone passing the area Lau was in saw that some of the towels were on fire. The hotel staff were alerted and they extinguished the flames and called the police.

Using security camera footage and through ground inquiries, the police were able to identify Lau. He was arrested on Sept 21 that year.

On Wednesday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Zhou Yihong urged the court to jail Lau for at least three to four months, noting that it was purely fortuitous that the fire had not spread further and caused severe damage.

During sentencing, District Judge Ong Luan Tze said there was some element of vengeance in Lau’s actions, and that he had admitted to being frustrated with the hotel. Lau said he had set fire to the towels to express his frustration.

His lawyer Josephine Costan said Lau will be appealing against the conviction and sentence.

The Straits Times has contacted the Ministry of Defence for comment.

Lau is currently out on bail of $10,000, pending the appeal.

For mischief by fire intending to cause damage, he could have been jailed for up to seven years and fined.