The State Coroner on Thursday (27 Oct) has ruled the death of 70-year-old Tan Woon Teck in the fire incident in a Geylang carpark as a suicide.
Earlier on May 30 this year, the elderly man had fatally set himself on fire in a Geylang carpark.
At around 10pm that night, Tan, who had been fired as an assistant at a coffee shop three weeks earlier, doused himself in petrol from a metal container and burned himself alight at an open carpark in Lorong Bachok, Geylang.
He burned for minutes with arms outstretched, as passers-by rushed to douse him with a fire extinguisher and water in pails.
Tan suffered extensive burns over 97 per cent of his body, only part of his groin was spared from the fire.
The Coroner’s Court heard that he died from his injuries six hours later.
State Coroner Marvin Bay stated that Tan’s medical history and criminal record showed that he was prone to ‘contemplate extreme measures’ to express his mounting grievance and despair from the affliction and misfortunes in his life.
Tan had been diagnosed with depression in 1976, after he was referred to Changi Prison Hospital for attempted suicide. He had been suffering from low mood and insomnia.
In 1986, he was charged with rape and again found to be depressed. The outcome of this case was not revealed in court.
A psychiatric assessment three years later recorded improvements in Tan’s sleep and mental state.
An hour before committing himself that night, Tan paid a visit to his long-term benefactor, Madam Teo Kim Hong, to thank her for all that she had done for him.
The court heard that five years ago, Mdm Teo had offered him shelter at the Nam Yeo Qigong Centre after Tan was evicted from his previous residence in Lorong Bachok.
During their meeting, Tan told Mdm Teo that he wanted to die because he was ‘in a very bad state’. He also vaguely told her to read the next day’s newspapers, the court heard.
Mr Bay said, “Being terminated from employment was a major reversal in his life that evidently weighed heavily on him.”
What makes sure that there was no foul play, Mr Bay said a recording from an in-car camera of a TransCab taxi, where Tan stood next to before setting himself on fire, showed him walking across the carpark to the spot where he committed suicide.
Also a closed-circuit television footage from an Esso petrol station in Geylang showed Tan buying petrol.
Mr Bay said, it was also highly unlikely for the blaze to have been set off by accident, the petrol from the metal can must has been used to accelerate the start of the fire.
“Or Tan’s clothes would not have been spontaneously consumed with such intensity,” he added.