Caretakers catch man stealing money from Bencoolen Street temple donation box since 2021

He was caught stealing on CCTV.

Daniel Seow | March 14, 2023, 02:08 PM

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For quite some time, a man used a hand-made contraption to steal from an offering box at a temple along Bencoolen Street. However, he was eventually caught in the act.

On Mar. 11 (Saturday) at around 6:30am, the man -- who typically used a long ruler with double-sided tape adhered to it to fish out notes from the offering box -- was caught by the temple's caretakers Mr Liu and Mdm Zhang.

Both caretakers, who are a married couple, had been lying in wait for the thief.

The man later admitted that he had been occasionally stealing money from the temple since September 2021.

Police are currently investigating the matter.

Culprit was identified by CCTV

Liu, 41, told Shin Min Daily News that for the past year and a half, people in the neighbourhood had warned them about the suspicious man.

They told him that the man would often pass by in the morning and steal money from the offering box.

Zhang added that after receiving these warnings, she and her husband installed a close-circuit television (CCTV) camera as a precaution. Twice, they made the opening in the offering box smaller to deter culprits.

The plastic sheet covering the opening of the offering box had been tampered with - via Shin Min Daily News on Facebook.

However, they found evidence that the plastic sheet used to cover the opening had been tampered with, so they decided to check the CCTV footage on Mar. 10.

They identified the culprit as a man who looked to be in his 60s and habitually visited the temple at around 6:30am.

The culprit was identified using CCTV - via Shin Min Daily News on Facebook.

Catching the culprit in the act

The next day, the couple dressed as ordinary passers-by and sat at the road near the temple from 6am onwards to ambush the culprit.

As they predicted, the man turned up, carrying a bag.

"He was behaving suspiciously and glancing around," Liu told Shin Min Daily News, "Then, I walked behind him and saw him fish out some notes from the offering box. Just as he was about to put them in his bag, I grabbed him by the arm, and my wife called the police immediately."

The money he tried to steal amounted to S$8.

Liu said that after the man was caught in the act,  he did not resist. Instead, he explained his financial difficulties, and begged them not to report him to the police.

Man said he stole out of desperation, returned S$500

The man told Liu that he stole the money to support his wife and two teenage children in Indonesia.

He claimed that he resorted to stealing as he was jobless and ill.

Apparently, he would send some of the stolen money to his family in Indonesia while spending the remaining on 4-D tickets.

The man admitted that he had been stealing occasionally from the temple since September 2021 but could not remember the exact amount he had stolen.

He returned S$500 to the couple after the Police accompanied him to an ATM to withdraw money.

Sympathetic couple offered him a job

Liu and Zhang told Shin Min Daily News that they felt sympathy for the man after hearing about his circumstances, and hoped that he could turn over a new leaf.

They even offered him a job at the temple, but the man told them he could not take it up due to his leg pain.

A 66-year-old man is assisting with investigations in relation to the case - via Shin Min Daily News on Facebook.

In response to Mothership queries, the Police stated that on Mar. 11 at 6.50am, they were alerted to a case of theft in dwelling at 180 Bencoolen Street.

A 66-year-old man is assisting with investigations in relation to the case, and Police investigations are ongoing.

Top image via Shin Min Daily News on Facebook.