SINGAPORE – A brothel operator, originally sentenced to death for murdering a pimp who worked for him, avoided the hangman’s noose on Tuesday (July 30) after the Court of Appeal allowed his appeal and sentenced him to life imprisonment instead.

The three-judge court said the totality of the circumstances showed that Chan Lie Sian, 55, did not have a specific intention to kill 35-year-old William Tiah Hung Wai.

Chan was convicted in the High Court in 2017 of committing murder with the intention of causing death, which carries the mandatory death penalty.

The apex court on Tuesday downgraded the charge to murder with the intention of causing bodily injury which could cause death.

The court sentenced Chan to life imprisonment, and not death, as the manner in which he acted did not show a blatant disregard for human life.

On January 14, 2014, Chan discovered that $6,500 of his money was missing and suspected that Mr Tiah was responsible.

He summoned Mr Tiah to the brothel, a lodging house in Lorong 18 Geylang, intending to force a confession out of him.

Chan repeatedly struck Mr Tiah on the head with a metal dumbbell rod even as the pimp fervently denied stealing the money, until he lost consciousness.

Mr Tiah died a week later in hospital, a day short of his 36th birthday.

A post-mortem found that there were 10 impacts to the victim’s head.

On appeal, defence counsel Wendell Wong presented reports from a forensic pathologist from Australia, which said two of the impacts could have been caused by the victim hitting his head on “intervening objects”, and not attributable to blows by Chan.