SINGAPORE — Attracted by a female tourist's looks, a hotel housekeeper forced his way into her room and molested her while covering her mouth with a towel.
Isa Ahmad only stopped after the then 27-year-old Thai national claimed that someone was returning to the room.
Instead of leaving the hotel afterwards, Isa, a 56-year-old Singaporean, returned to the victim's room to ask for his towel, which he had dropped during the struggle.
Isa, a recalcitrant offender, was sentenced to 12 years preventive detention on Friday (14 May), bringing a close to a case which has seen Isa vacillating on his plea repeatedly.
Isa had previously pleaded guilty to a charge each of attempted aggravated rape and robbery in October 2019, but a judge set aside the plea after Isa objected to the facts during the sentencing stage. The judge sent the case back to a pre-trial conference in November 2019.
Isa underwent a trial and had his attempted aggravated rape charge downgraded to aggravated molest after the prosecution reviewed the case details. Isa pleaded guilty to the downgraded charge and robbery midway through his trial.
Another attempt to retract plea
On Friday, the prosecution started off by saying that Isa had once again sought to retract his plea by disputing material facts in his latest preventive detention report and urged the court to reject this latest attempt to retract the plea.
District Judge Bala Reddy then asked Isa's lawyer, Dhanwant Singh, to confirm that his client was not qualifying his plea, and Isa told the court through an interpreter that he was not.
The victim, who cannot be named due to a gag order, came to Singapore for a holiday on 11 March 2017. She stayed alone in The Hilton Hotel in Orchard. On the second day of her visit, the victim was returning to her room after after having coffee nearby in the morning when Isa caught sight of her.
Isa was then a housekeeper at Orchard Hotel. Attracted by the victim's dress and her looks, Isa tailed the victim as she went back to her room. As the victim stepped into her room, Isa grabbed her from behind and covered her mouth with a purple towel.
During their struggle, the victim asked Isa why he was acting in that manner and he told her that he wanted to “make love” to her. The victim tried to distract Isa by asking if he had condoms. But he responded by pulling her neck towards him and tried to kiss her.
Isa then dragged the victim onto the bed by pulling her hair. He also used his free hand to grab a pillow and pressed it against the victim’s face.
When she was finally able to speak, the victim lied that someone was returning to the room. Alarmed, Isa left the room.
The victim then closed the door and called hotel security. But shortly after, she heard a knock on the door and saw that Isa wanted his purple towel back.
The victim closed the door and called security again. She also called a friend for help. Two hotel staff went to her room and the police were called at around 12.50pm.
The victim had finger marks on her chin, a bruise over her right elbow and a small graze over her right forearm.
Robbed another woman
After fleeing, Isa loitered around Orchard Road and stole a white towel. He then tried to rob another woman, then 48 and a tourist from Myanmar, in a lift at Tang Plaza.
He covered the victim’s neck and mouth with the white towel. She was carrying a handbag and mobile phone and tried to fend him off by hitting him with the items while shouting for help.
Isa managed to steal her phone, worth between $600 and $700. The victim sought help from passers-by and met her husband before calling the police. Isa was arrested outside Orchard Hotel the next day.
Isa committed the offences barely five months after being released from a 14-year preventive detention term for robbery with hurt. Preventive detention is usually given to recalcitrant offenders who must serve their full sentence, with no possibility of an early release for good behaviour.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Gregory Gan referred to Isa's criminal history to seek a preventive detention term of 15 years.
"The accused's antecedent record is an appalling one, he has served corrective training and preventive detention and yet he reoffended barely five months after he was released from last 14-year preventive detention term," he said.
"What is clear is that his previous sentences which were substantial failed to deter him from criminal conduct and there is a form of evolution from property to sexual offending, so the need for prevention is paramount and a lengthy term of preventive detention is necessary."
Isa's lawyer Dhanwant Singh sought preventive detention of between 11 and 12 years.
Singh said, "I don't know... the towel seems to be some sort of weakness for him. The moment the towel is in his hand, there is something wrong with him."
For aggravated molest, Isa could have been jailed between two and 10 years. He cannot be caned as he is above 50. Robbery carries a jail term of between two and 10 years with caning of not less than six strokes.
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