Orchard Towers murder (2019)

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The victim collapsed at the entrance of Orchard Towers on the morning of 2 July 2019. Photo from The New Paper.

On 2 July 2019, a pub brawl that occurred in Orchard Towers escalated into an armed attack on a 31-year-old man.[1] The brawl resulted in the death of Satheesh Noel Gobidass. The attackers were identified as a group of adults between 22 and 27 years old, of which the only female attacker was 24-year-old Natalie Siow.

Details of incident[edit | edit source]

CCTV footage of the attack[edit | edit source]

CCTV footage of the perpetrators. Screengrab from YouTube video.

On 2 July 2019 at 6.15 am, ten individuals were seen walking towards the entrance of Orchard Towers. Satheesh Noel Gobidass was seen coming down the escalator and then confronting a member of the group. The confrontation escalated into physical blows and the rest of the group joined the fight.[2] Satheesh was then shown backing off from the group before tailing them to the entrance of Orchard Towers only to suddenly collapse on the floor.[3] Bystanders were seen trying to help staunch the bleeding from his neck.[4]

Police arrival[edit | edit source]

The police were reportedly contacted at 6.25 am.[5] When they arrived at the scene, they found Satheesh lying motionless on the floor. He was then taken to Tan Tock Seng hospital for treatment however, he was pronounced dead at 7.25 am. The police cordoned off the main entrance and the second floor of Orchard Towers. They interviewed shopkeepers who reportedly heard shouting and fighting earlier that morning. Correspondents from The Straits Times reported a pool of blood and plenty of blood-soaked tissues at the entrance of Orchard Towers.[4]

Arrests[edit | edit source]

Within 12 hours of the incident, the police arrested eight suspects. A spokesperson from the Singapore Police Force told The New Paper that the eighth suspect was a female who was not under remand but is instead assisting the police with investigations.[6]

Charges[edit | edit source]

The suspects of the Orchard Towers murder. Photo credit to Kelvin Chng (ST PHOTO).

On 4 July 2019, seven individuals were charged in court with one count each of murder with common intention. The individuals were Natalie Siow Yu Zhen (22), Joel Tan Yun Sheng (26), Chan Jia Xing (26), Ang Da Yuan (26), Tan Sen Yang (27), Loo Boon Chong (25), and Tan Hong Sheng (22).[4] The accused were represented by the following lawyers:[7][8]

Accused Lawyer(s) Law Firm
Chan Jia Xing Mr Josephus Tan, Mr Cory Wong and Mr Shane Yeo Invictus Law Corporation
Joel Tan Yun Sheng
Tan Hong Sheng
Natalie Siow Yu Zhen Ms Cheryl Ng Intelleigen Legal
Mr Amarick Gill Amarick Gill LLC
Loo Boon Chong Ms Diana Ngiam, Mr Sunil Sudheesan and Mr Sujesh Anandan Quahe Woo and Palmer LLC
Ang Da Yuan Kertar Singh Kertar & Sandhu LLC
Tan Sen Yang Eugene Thuraisingam and Suang Wijaya Eugene Thuraisingam LLP

Court proceedings[edit | edit source]

In March 2020, Ang Da Yuan was sentenced to eight months’ jail and six strokes of the cane.[9] As of October 2020, six of the seven attackers have been cleared of their murder charges. According to a statement by the Attorney General's Chambers (AGC), the attack on Satheesh Noel Gobidass was not premeditated and the six individuals were either "not involved in" the fight or had only dealt non-fatal punches and kicks.[10] Tan Sen Yang, the owner of the kerambit knife that was used to slash the victim, is the only accused who still faces capital punishment.

First trial (5 July 2019)[edit | edit source]

At the first trial, all seven individuals were charged in court with one count each of murder with common intention. According to court documents, they were “members of an unlawful assembly whose common object was to cause hurt” to Mr Satheesh.[4] Natalie Siow Yu Zhen, Joel Tan Yun Sheng, Chan Jia Xing and Ang Da Yuan were physically present in court. Tan Sen Yang, Loo Boon Chong and Tan Hong Sheng were present through a live video feed as they were remanded at the Central Police Station at Cantonment Road.

Trial of Tan Hong Sheng, Loo Boo Chong & Chan Jia Xing[edit | edit source]

On 11 July, Tan Hong Sheng, Loo Boo Chong and Chan Jia Xing were acquitted of murder.[7] Their charges were reclassified from murder to consorting with a person carrying an offensive weapon in public. They could not be charged again with the same murder offence. According to court documents, the three individuals were allegedly found in the company of Tan Sen Yang, who possessed a kerambit knife at the Naughty Girl Club on the second storey of Orchard Towers.[7] The knife was allegedly the weapon that seriously wounded Satheesh. The kerambit knife is said to be a curved knife resembling a claw.

Trial of Natalie Siow[edit | edit source]

Natalie Siow, the only female suspect that had been initially charged for murder. Photo from Hardwarezone.

In October 2019, Natalie Siow’s charge was reduced from murder to assault for allegedly punching and kicking the victim on the ground floor of Orchard Towers.[11] She was said to have burst into tears upon hearing the news of her sentence being reduced to assault. In October 2020, Natalie Siow was sentenced to five months of jail over two charges.[12]

Responses[edit | edit source]

Imposter providing "pro bono services" to Natalie Siow[edit | edit source]

A thread on Hardwarezone Singapore went viral after a man named “Danny Chua” allegedly from Kalco Law offered to defend Natalie Siow for free.[13] A quick search on the firm’s site revealed that no such person exists.[14] Natalie Siow has also amassed a "fan club" on Hardwarezone. A thread titled '[OFFICIAL] NATALIE SIOW YU ZHEN FAN CLUB' has 265 likes as of 23 October 2019.[15]

Press coverage[edit | edit source]

In light of the murder, several news sites have published articles that shed light on the unsavoury activities in Orchard Towers. The Straits Times published an article detailing Orchard Towers’ transition from a family mall to a place filled with vice. It also explained how the sleazy activities in the mall have affected other businesses in the area.[16] Today published an article about the Thai discos in Orchard Towers where violence is always likely to break out. It highlighted the popularity of Thai discos with youth due to the cheap drinks, music and late opening hours.[17]

The Project X: In Defense of Orchard Towers[edit | edit source]

Orchard Towers on Orchard Road in Singapore. Photo from Lianhe Zaobao.

The Project X is a local organisation that stands up for the rights of sex workers in Singapore.[18] On 1 August 2019, The Project X published a blog post in response to the news sites that exposed the “sleazy” reputation of Orchard Towers. The blog post detailed that it was unfair to attribute the recent murder to sleazy activities in Orchard Towers.[19] They argued that such murders could have occurred anywhere else. The article ends off with a condemnation of the people who caused the trouble, as opposed to the sex-workers who work there.

Official responses[edit | edit source]

Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA)[edit | edit source]

In a parliamentary sitting in August, several Members of Parliament voiced their concerns about the vice and crime in Orchard Towers. Mr Amrin Amin, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs, mentioned that more than 70 vice workers have been arrested during anti-vice operations in Orchard Towers.[20] Unlicensed massage establishments have also been shut down. Moreover, the MHA is looking to stop issuing new public entertainment licenses.

Singapore Police Force[edit | edit source]

The Singapore Police Force (SPF) is also looking to work with entertainment establishments to reduce the likelihood of crimes. Public entertainment outlets have been urged to stop serving alcohol to highly intoxicated patrons. These outlets have also been urged to set up holding areas for highly intoxicated patrons to sober up.[21] The SPF aims to create an initiative called the ‘Public Entertainment Industry Safety and Security Watch Group’. This initiative is a support network for neighbouring public entertainment outlets to look out for each other.

References / Citations[edit | edit source]

  1. Ng, Huiwen and Cara Wong. “Man dies from injuries after Orchard Towers pub brawl; 8 men and women arrested for murder”. The Straits Times. July 2, 2019. Accessed on 16 October 2019.
  2. The Must Share News Team. “We Fact-Checked The Orchard Towers Murder Case To Separate Fact From Speculation”. MustShareNews. July 14, 2019. Accessed on 16 October 2019.
  3. The Must Share News Team. “We Fact-Checked The Orchard Towers Murder Case To Separate Fact From Speculation”. MustShareNews. July 14, 2019. Accessed October 16, 2019. Retrieved from: https://mustsharenews.com/orchard-towers-murder-video/
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Wong, Cara. “Seven charged with murder of man, 31, at Orchard Towers”. The Straits Times. July 5, 2019. Accessed on 16 October 2019.
  5. "SWIFT ARREST OF EIGHT FOR MURDER AT ORCHARD TOWERS". Singapore Police Force. July 2, 2019. Accessed on 19 October 2020.
  6. Kok, Yufeng. “Four of seven murder accused taken back to Orchard Towers”. The New Paper. July 10, 2019. Accessed on 17 October 2019.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Alkhatib, Shaffiq. “Murder charges withdrawn for three men allegedly linked to Orchard Towers death”. The Straits Times. July 11, 2019. Accessed on 17 October 2019.
  8. Tang, Louisa. “Orchard Towers brawl: Murder charges withdrawn for three of the accused”. Today. July 11, 2019. Accessed 17 October 2019.
  9. Tang, Louisa. "Orchard Towers fatal brawl: New details emerge as one man gets 8 months’ jail and caning, another jailed 4 weeks". Today. March 4, 2020. Accessed on 19 October 2020.
  10. "AGC clarifies reduced charges in Orchard Towers murder case following queries". Channel News Asia. October 20, 2020. Accessed on 26 October 2020.
  11. Shaffiq Alkhatib. “Orchard Towers killing: Sole woman in case cries after murder charge reduced to assault”. The Straits Times. October 19, 2019. Accessed on 23 October 2019.
  12. Lam, Lydia. “Woman originally charged with murder in Orchard Towers case gets 5 months' jail on downgraded offences”. Channel News Asia. October 9, 2020. Accessed on15 October 2020.
  13. Ann, Danielle. “Fake Lawyer Offered pro Bono Defence Services to Natalie Siow Yu Zhen on Singaporean ForumAlvinology. July 8, 2019. Accessed on 17 October 2019.
  14. Kalco Law LLC. “Our Team”. Kalco Law LLC. Accessed on 17 October 2019.
  15. "[OFFICIAL] NATALIE SIOW YU ZHEN FAN CLUB". Hardwarezone. Accessed on 23 October 2019
  16. Yang, Calvin. “Orchard Towers: From family mall to sleaze and brawls”. The Straits Times. July 14, 2019. Accessed on 17 October 2019.
  17. Lim, Kimberly. “Thai discos: Cheap drinks, long opening hours and simmering aggression”. Today. July 12, 2019. Accessed on 17 October 2019.
  18. "About Project X". The Project X. Accessed on 23 October 2019.
  19. The Project X. “The Project X: Singapore: In Defense of Orchard Towers”. The Project X | Singapore. August 1, 2019. Accessed on 16 October 2019.
  20. Wong, Cara. “Parliament: 76 vice workers arrested last year at and around Orchard Towers, says Amrin Amin”. The Straits Times. August 05, 2019. Accessed on 17 October 2019.
  21. Wong, Pei Ting. “Police's ‘smart clubbing’ campaign switches focus to violent crime as number of cases spikes”. Today. October 15, 2019. Accessed 17 October 2019.