National Serviceman Dave Teo Ming was often caned by his mother when he was a young schoolboy and his father was in and out of jail for various offences.
His mother would beat him sometimes for no discernible reason or whenever she lost money on gambling.
And the beatings were no “normal beating’.
‘The cane anyhow whack, whack until I got bruises,’ he said in a psychiatric report submitted by the Institute of Mental Health, which was tendered in the High Court on Monday, when he was sentenced to nine years and two months, with 18 strokes of the cane for unlawful possession of a rifle, bullets and a knife.
The report presented a picture of his disturbed upbringing, scarred by constant beatings, rejection by his own mother who left him in the care of his paternal grandparents when he was in Primary one or two, after she walked out on him with his younger sister.
Teo’s grandparents and aunt confirmed the beatings and remembered how traumatised Teo was as a child. They reported that his mother would even throw chairs at him.
After she left the family, the grandparents became the main caregivers to Teo and his brother who was two years younger.
Although he was not beaten as much, his paternal uncle, who lived with him, would punch and slap him if he misbehaved during his teens.
When he was 14, his younger brother was killed in a road accident.
This caused Teo ‘to spiral downwards with disciplinary problems’, said the IMH report. ‘He was filled with anger and ‘hated everybody”.
He became depressed and isolated himself from the family.
The behavioural problems and brushes with law continued, and he had to drop out of school at Secondary 3.
Teo started dating Ms Crystal Liew when he was 16. She was then 14. The relationship graduated to a sexual one when she turned 16.
By his own admission, Teo was a highly possessive boyfriend.
When she went out with her friends, he would feel extremely jealous and become abusive of her. He would call her up and demanded that she went home immediately.
There were times that he would hurl vulgarities at her and he also admitted that he had hit her several times, according to the IMH report.
In early 2007, Teo was posted for a short stint to Taiwan as part of his national service.
The couple continued to quarrel over the phone and in April last year, they broke up.
That was the final act and Teo snapped.
‘He had nightmares about dying or being killed and in his waking hours, thought of suicide,’ said the psychiatric report.
His sleep became disturbed, he lost weight over the next few months and he became withdrawn. His concentration became poor and ‘his libido also dropped’.
In camp, he became easily irritated, and vented his anger by kicking the cupboard and being rude to his superiors.
He also began to hear voices of people who were not there.
When he returned to Singapore from Taiwan, he started stalking Ms Liew, hanging out at her condominium and outside her school.
He even went absent without leave from camp to spend his nights at a stairwell at her condo. He was eventually caught and sent to the SAF detention barracks.
After he stopped contacts with Ms Liew, he went further downhill. He no longer cared about his appearance, became reclusive and started drinking to overcome his insomnia.
‘He became self-destructive and recalls exercising till the point of exhaustion and then denying himself water,’ said the report.
JUSTICE Tay Yong Kwang explained to Awol National Serviceman Dave Teo Min why he would have to impose a deterrent sentence before jailing him for a total of nine years and two months, with 18 strokes of the cane, for having a rifle, eight bullets and a knife.
In a display of compassion, the High Court judge on Monday told the 20-year-old, who had earlier pleaded guilty to the three charges: ‘My heart hurts for you that so young a man will have to spend some of the best years of his life in prison and have to undergo so many strokes of the cane, but I trust that you understand that a deterrent sentence is unavoidable in the circumstances.’
Justice Tay said Teo had committed a very grave offence by taking a rifle and ammunition out of camp for his ‘own purposes’ – ‘especially so in this age of increased security concerns everywhere’.
He told the NSman who sparked a 20-hour manhunt on Sept 2, 2007, when he walked out of Mandai Hill camp with an SAR-21 rifle and eight rounds of bullets, and was finally tracked down to a toilet in a shopping mall the following day: ‘Dave, you have had a very hard life.’
‘I hope that this unfortunate and traumatic wrong turn in your life will make you much more mature and a whole lot wiser and that you will spend the next few years reconstructing your young life.’
‘I hope that you will pursue your studies, listen to good advice from counsellors and learn many skills while in prison and that, upon your release, you will have a life full of meaning and purpose to honour the memory of your grandmother and your beloved younger brother.’
‘It has been written, ‘To everything there is a season.’ There was a time when you loved, there came a time when you hated. There was a time when you felt you wanted to kill, now is the time for you to heal.’
‘There was a time you were broken down, now is the time to build yourself up. There was a time when you were at war in your being, now is the time to restore peace within.’
‘In spite of your difficult childhood and in spite of what you have done, do not ever give up on yourself.’