Man jailed for whacking relative over sale of shop, causing severe eye injury

·Senior Reporter
·4 min read
A hand holding an umbrella. (PHOTO: Getty Images)
A hand holding an umbrella. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Agitated that a relative was selling a shop belonging to his wife, a man whacked the relative with an umbrella, causing a severe and lasting eye injury.

Karuppiah Jeyakkumar, 42, was sentenced to nine months’ jail on Wednesday (6 October) and ordered to pay a compensation of $315.70, despite impassioned arguments from his lawyer that included how there was no connection between the head trauma sustained by the victim and his eye injury.

Karuppiah, who is an Indian national and Singapore permanent resident, had pleaded guilty to a charge of voluntarily causing grievous hurt to distant relative Alangam Pillai Rajendran, 55. 

In a Newton hearing however, Karuppiah had claimed that the victim had provoked him first. District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan found that the claims of provocation were a “mere fabrication”. 

The dispute was over Pavai Stores, a provisions store along Clementi West Street 2, which belonged to Karuppiah’s wife. While Karuppiah had contributed some monies toward the setting up of the shop, he was not registered as a co-owner.

Could not reach agreement in selling shop

Around September 2017, Alangam and his wife informed Karuppiah that they wanted to sell the shop and split the proceeds of sale with Karuppiah. Karuppiah wanted them to sell the shop to him instead but they could not reach an agreement.

On 2 October 2017, Alangam met an interested purchaser of the shop to discuss its sale. They stood outside the shop, a few doors away.

Karuppiah arrived some minutes later, as he was supposed to pass Alangam an account book and a set of keys. Upon seeing Alangam and the prospective buyer, he became agitated.

He shouted “this shop belongs to me, what you all doing here” in Tamil, picked up an umbrella from the shop and began to hit Alangam’s head until the umbrella broke. Alangam started to bleed.

Karuppiah then picked up one of the slippers he was wearing and hit the victim twice before chasing him out of the area. Alangam then took a taxi to a police post before being conveyed to the hospital.

He was found with right-sided head trauma and referred to the Eye Surgery Centre due to a right eye closed globe.

According to the prosecution, Alangam’s right-eye vision was reduced for a significant amount of time and he needed to use eye drops for a prolonged period. His right eye also experienced significant discomfort and his activities of daily living were affected, and he took 148 days of medical leave.

His injuries required multiple and extensive eye surgeries, with the last one on 26 January 2018. The surgeries required regular monitoring. On 5 January this year, a superficial suture from the surgery broke loose and had to be removed. 

Alangam has since continued to visit the National University Hospital for routine checks and follow up care post-surgery. His last visit was on 23 July this year, some four years after he was assaulted.

No evidence victim didn't have eye-related issues before incident, argues defence lawyer

Based on the aggravating factors, the prosecution called for at least 12 months’ jail.

In arguing for a sentence of one month for her client, defence lawyer N K Anitha said that there was no evidence that the victim did not have any right eye-related issues prior to incident. She sought to argue that there was no evidence that each of Karuppiah’s strikes with the umbrella resulted in an eye injury being inflicted or aggravated, and that the prosecution had not proven that the head trauma caused the eye injury.

When asked by DJ Shaiffudin if she was arguing that grievous hurt was not made out, Anitha said it was not, based on medical memos that were produced in the Newton hearing.

However DJ Shaiffudin found that the hurt caused fell into the category of grievous hurt as the victim was in severely bodily pain and unable to follow his daily pursuits.

It was also aggravating that Karuppiah had used a weapon, targeted a vulnerable part of the victim’s body, and had attacked him while unprovoked.

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