SINGAPORE – A convicted robber, who absconded from court during a break in his hearing, was sentenced on Thursday (Sept 26) to 11½ years’ jail.

Singaporean Visvanathan Vadivelu, 50, had pleaded guilty to committing armed robbery at a Shell petrol station in Upper Bukit Timah Road in 2017.

He had also admitted to two counts of drug consumption and one count of drug possession.

Visvanathan, who was unrepresented, told District Judge Kan Shuk Weng on Thursday that he was “mentally unwell” and that he fled from the court on Sept 17 after he “heard voices” telling him to go home.

He added that his mother later alerted the police, who arrested him in their flat. He was hauled back to court on Sept 19.

Visvanathan told Judge Kan that he wanted to be “sentenced” to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH). She replied that being sent to IMH is not a sentencing option.

Visvanathan robbed a petrol station on July 31, 2017, as he was “desperate for money”. He was unemployed at the time.

At around noon that day, he rode his motorcycle to Upper Bukit Timah Road, stopped near an overhead bridge and used grey masking tape to cover the rear registration plate.

After that, he put on a jacket, gloves and a pair of sunglasses to conceal his identity. He retrieved a kitchen knife from the bike’s storage box and entered the petrol station.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Chong Yong had said in an earlier hearing that Visvanathan entered the area behind the cashier counter and pointed the knife at the cash register, while shouting at the cashier to open it.

The woman complied out of fear and he took more than $1,000 from the register before riding away. Police arrested him about four hours later.

Visvanathan was charged in court with armed robbery two days later and was out on bail when police rearrested him on Sept 15, 2017, for suspected drug-related offences.

He had a packet of powdery substance which was later found to contain diamorphine or pure heroin. His urine samples also showed traces of the drug as well as methamphetamine, commonly known as Ice.

He appeared in court on Sept 17 this year for his sentencing before absconding that day. Judge Kan then issued a warrant of arrest against him.

Offenders convicted of armed robbery can be jailed for up to 10 years and given at least 12 strokes of the cane. Those over 50 years old cannot be caned.