Man who set fire to Hotel 81 towels after spat with staff jailed

Wan Ting Koh
·Senior Reporter
·3 min read
Lau Sheng Shiun, 34, had visited Hotel 81 Violet on the night of 12 September 2017 with another man, Chua Wen Hao, and a Vietnamese woman but became upset when the hotel staff told them that the room was for only two people. (PHOTO: Google Street View screengrab)
Lau Sheng Shiun, 34, had visited Hotel 81 Violet on the night of 12 September 2017 with another man, Chua Wen Hao, and a Vietnamese woman but became upset when the hotel staff told them that the room was for only two people. (PHOTO: Google Street View screengrab)

SINGAPORE — A Navy officer who set fire to four hotel room towels after being informed that the room could only accommodate two people instead of him and his two companions was jailed three months on Wednesday (21 April).

Lau Sheng Shiun, 34, had visited Hotel 81 Violet on the night of 12 September 2017 with another man, Chua Wen Hao, and a Vietnamese woman but became upset when the hotel staff told them that the room was for only two people.

He left the room and was seen in CCTV footage smoking in a back alley behind the hotel. The footage also captured the towels stored in a cage in the alley catching fire after Lau turned away from them. In total, $60 in damage was done to four of the hotel's towels.

Lau was convicted of a charge of mischief by fire after a trial. He intends to appeal against his conviction and sentence. His defence was that he was too drunk at the time of the incident to form the intention for the offence or that he was so drunk that he could not remember the events of the night.

In a statement recorded by the police, Lau said that he burnt the towel that was “left at the alley” while he was smoking. He explained in the same statement that he probably did so as he was “frustrated that there wasn’t a room for three persons”.

During his trial, Lau tried to “explain away his admissions” in his statements on the basis that he did not want to have his integrity questioned, which is why he agreed to what the investigation officer suggested had happened, said the prosecution.

“However, it does not make sense that the accused would agree to committing a serious offence when he (supposedly) has no memory of the night, and when he did not want to jeopardise his Navy career,” said Deputy Public Prosecutor Zhou Yihong.

Zhou also pointed out that Lau’s demeanour as seen in the CCTV footage showed that he was acting with intent. Lau was captured circling the area twice and then looking upwards before approaching the cage containing the towels.

While Lau’s counsel argued that her client suffered from “alcoholic amnesia” so that he could not recall what happened that night, DPP Zhou argued that what mattered were Lau’s intentions and actions on that night.

The prosecutor also submitted CCTV footage showing that Lau had behaved normally prior to the incident and was able to walk to hotel from his previous location, a KTV lounge. Zhou noted that Lau also faced no trouble opening the hotel's door, had the presence of mind to call the hotel's lift and avoid people exiting it.

Meanwhile, Chua – who is Lau's subordinate in the Navy – lied to an investigating officer that he did not know Lau and had not allowed him to enter the hotel room. He was earlier handed a 10-day short detention order but successfully appealed against the sentence and received a $2,500 fine instead.

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