Suspect in Jurong flat fire arrested
A SUSPECTED runner for loan sharks who was caught on camera before setting fire to the front of two flats over the weekend in Jurong East has been arrested, reported local Chinese evening dailies.
The man, who looks to be in his early 30s, was taken into police custody on Monday evening from his house in Toa Payoh Lorong 5, reported Lianhe Wanbao.
Police identified the suspect after viewing images from a closed-circuit television camera (CCTV), said the newspaper.
It is not known whether the camera was the one that the police had installed at the front of a flat which Wanbao said was apparently the actual target of the suspect.
Presumably deterred by the camera at the unit, the suspect could have resorted to making an indirect threat, moving one floor up to set fire to the doors of two other flats, as well as objects along the corridor, said Wanbao.
The owner of the untouched flat on the 11th floor of Block 272, Toh Guan Road, was earlier reported by Wanbao to have told the two households affected by the fire that loan sharks were going after his son. He claimed that his son was a guarantor for a debt owed by a friend.
The suspect was escorted back to the scene yesterday, where he re-enacted how he had carried out his alleged arson act just past midnight on Saturday, said Wanbao.
He was then taken to the 11th floor, where he spoke for a while to police officers in a low voice before leaving with them.
Police investigations revealed that the suspect was involved in 10 other cases of harassing people who had borrowed from illegal moneylenders.
At least five of the cases involved setting fire to property, said the police.
When arresting the suspect, the police also seized buckets of paint, bicycle locks and markers for writing posters, said Wanbao.
A 20-year-old student who lives with his parents in one of the affected flats told Shin Min Daily News that the case is not closed yet, as the alleged loan sharks are still at large.
"I'm considering installing a CCTV camera too," said the student, who said his surname was Lin.
Liu Xiuzhi, 76, who lives in the other affected flat, said she was relieved to learn that an arrest had been made in connection with the fire.
She recounted that she was shocked on Saturday night when she returned home to find smoke in the lift and police officers gathered in front of her house.
The suspect will be charged in court today.
First-time offenders found guilty of performing an act of harassment on behalf of illegal moneylenders face a maximum jail term of five years and a fine of between $5,000 and $50,000.
They could also receive three to six strokes of the cane.