On Nov. 19, 2018, at about 3:43pm, then 64-year-old Tan Tian Chye called the police and said, "I just harmed my daughter. Police please come."
After calling his brother, Tan called the police for the second time to report, "I just killed my daughter. I grab the pole and whack her. I think she die already."
When the police arrived in about 20 minutes, they found 35-year-old Desiree Tan Jiaping lying face up on the floor, with a pool of blood at her head region, according to court documents seen by Mothership.
She was pronounced dead by a paramedic on the scene.
Provided for daughter her entire life
The lead up to the incident was a tragedy more than 10 years in the making.
CNA reported that Tan was described as a loving father who had taken care of Desiree her entire life, as the latter was afflicted with mental illnesses.
Court documents revealed that Desiree graduated from university in 2006, but was unable to hold down a full-time job.
Tan and his wife continued to look after and provide for her.
In 2012, Desiree fainted at an MRT station and was brought to Changi General Hospital (CGH).
She was then assessed to have “panic attacks with agoraphobia” and “hypochondriacal preoccupations”.
Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder where patients fear places or situations that might cause them to feel trapped, helpless, or embarrassed. It is commonly misunderstood as simply a fear of open places.
Hypochondria, on the other hand, is a condition where the patient is "excessively and unduly worried" about having a serious illness.
Grew demanding towards family and boyfriend
Since then, Desiree was very anxious about leaving the house on her own, and became very dependent on her parents and her boyfriend.
Her boyfriend also moved in to stay with her at around that time.
Subsequently, Desiree became more particular and demanding towards her family members and her boyfriend.
If she felt that any item in the flat was dirty, she would ask her parents to clean the items repeatedly until she was satisfied.
If they got her food order wrong, she would make them go back to the food stall to change the order.
Otherwise, she would scold them continuously.
Tan was working at a Grab driver then, and would often take time off from work to bring Desiree out, to help her overcome her anxiety issues.
The father later bought a second-hand car so that Desiree's boyfriend could also bring her out.
Asked for large sums of money
In 2017, Desiree told her parents that wanted to apply for a Build-To-Order (BTO) flat with her boyfriend, and asked them for more money.
Court documents indicated that she became more insistent and abusive, blaming her parents for not loving her and not providing enough for her.
She would also constantly berate her parents over small matters.
For the BTO flat, Desiree pestered her parents to borrow money from their relatives to give to her.
They complied to her demands, asking their son to return the S$50,000 they spent on his education.
The sum was given to Desiree.
Tan also borrowed S$10,000 from his brother, which he also gave to Desiree.
In addition, the daughter demanded to be named the sole beneficiary of her parents’ CPF.
She had scolded her parents incessantly when she found out that she was not the sole beneficiary of her mother’s CPF.
Her parents apologised, and the mother changed her CPF nomination to list Desiree as the sole beneficiary.
The older woman even sent a photograph of the nomination printout to appease her daughter.
In mid-2018, Desiree's behaviour got worse, and she would constantly find fault with her parents and use vulgarities on them.
She also started to complain about the smell of cigarette smoke in the flat, becoming agitated whenever she smelt it and demanding that her parents confront the neighbours and find the culprit.
She also made her parents to use cardboard to manually fan away the smoke and buy powerful fans.
Tan and his wife gave in to Desiree repeatedly, apologising and even bowing before her whenever they got scolded.
On one occasion, Tan slapped his wife in order to appease Desiree.
His wife had urged him to do so.
Moved to aunt's place
In late 2018, Tan brought his daughter to CGH for her distress over the cigarette smoke.
She was diagnosed with “Unspecified Anxiety Disorder”, but declined psychiatric medication over self-perceived fears that she might grow dependent on it.
After being discharged from the hospital five days later, Desiree moved to her aunt's place to escape the smoke.
However, even after moving, Desiree continued to ask her parents for money.
She also told Tan that he needed to drive more frequently, so that he could earn more.
As Tan's wife could not handle their daughter anymore, she left it mostly to Tan.
Tan was very stressed out by Desiree's constant demands and scolding, and felt that she had pushed him and his wife to the verge of suicide.
The day of the incident
On Nov. 19, Tan went to fetch Desiree from her aunt’s place at Bukit Panjang, at his daughter's instruction.
At 7am, Desiree called Tan and told him to cancel any Grab bookings he had and pick her up.
As Tan went home before going to fetch Desiree, he reached Bukit Panjang sometime before noon.
Desiree then scolded Tan for coming late, and said he was a "lousy" parent as he helped her to pack her belongings.
Tan apologised and drove her to a nearby mall for lunch.
Over lunch, Desiree continued to nag and scold Tan, and at one point, clenched her fork and told Tan that she felt like killing him with the fork.
Frightened, Tan kept apologising to his daughter to pacify her.
On the way home, Desiree continued to scold and curse her father.
Upon reaching the flat, she went into the kitchen.
As Tan was afraid that the Desiree may take something from the kitchen to harm him, he went into a bedroom and armed himself with a metal pole.
The pole had come from a partially dismantled drum set, which belonged to Tan's son when he lived there.
Tan then walked to the kitchen holding the metal pole.
There, he saw Desiree holding onto a knife and pointing at him.
Tan then used the metal pole to hit her until she fell to the floor, before grabbing a nearby cloth and using it to press down on her neck, strangling her.
After a while, he realised that Desiree was motionless, and released his grip.
The court heard that he felt shocked at what he had done.
Tan made the police reports at this point.
Major depressive episode and caregiver stress
In November 2018, Tan was remanded in Changi Prison Complex’s Medical Centre, where he was assessed to be having a major depressive episode of at least moderate severity.
This had substantially impaired his mental responsibility in causing his daughter's death.
Tan was also under significant caregiver stress, which similarly qualified him for the defence of diminished responsibility.
In mid-2018, Tan reported difficulty in sleeping, lost about 5 to 6kg in weight and had blood in his sputum.
His relatives noticed that he had also changed a lot, by keeping to himself and being less jovial than before.
The prosecution said that it was a "tragic case", and noted that Tan has no prior record of violence, as well as a low risk of re-offending.
For his actions, Tan was sentenced to two years and nine months in jail for culpable homicide not amounting to murder, backdated to his date of remand (Nov. 20, 2018).
Those found guilty of the offence are liable to imprisonment of up to 10 years, fine, caning, or any combination of such punishments.
Tan cannot be caned as he is over 50 years old.
SOS 24-hour Hotline: 1800-221-4444
Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
Institute of Mental Health: 6389-2222 (24 hours)
Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788 (for primary school-aged children)
Top image via Sulaiman Daud