JUST months after his release from prison, serial cat abuser David Hooi has been arrested for the third time.
According to police, 44-year-old Hooi was picked up on Wednesday at 10.15pm for a suspected act of cat abuse.
Cat lovers had spotted Hooi playing with cats near his Bedok home and in Geylang soon after his most recent release. Last week, residents suspected that he was keeping cats in his flat, according to neighbour Abdul Rahim. But when they did a check of Hooi's home on Oct 22, a Monday, they did not find any cats.
Three days later, Mr Abdul Rahim saw Hooi carrying a black-and-white kitten.
"(Hooi) told me he wanted to keep it as a pet and would not abuse it," said Mr Abdul Rahim. The 58-year-old security guard had tried to stop him. "But some neighbours did not support me and said that (Hooi) was a changed man."
The next morning, Mr Abdul Rahim alleges, he noticed the kitten meowing pitifully in front of Hooi's door. It had a bloody eye, so he immediately made a police report and notified the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
"I feel so guilty for not stopping him," the bachelor told Today. That same day, a Friday, he applied for a week off work, just so he could "keep an eye" on Hooi.
Mr Abdul Rahim and a few other neighbours like Madam Sharifah Khamis have formed an informal network that keeps tabs on Hooi. Mdm Sharifah was one of several Bedok residents who had conducted nightly patrols that led to Hooi's first arrest in November 2005.
"Some neighbours are afraid of him," she said. But she gave her number to others and told them to call her if they saw anything "suspicious".
It was through a tip-off like this, Mdm Sharifah said, that she was alerted to a kitten being kept in Hooi's home last month. When she went to Hooi and asked him to release the cat, she was relieved to see it was unharmed.
Last year, animal lovers were up in arms over what some saw as a mere slap on the wrist, when Hooi was sentenced to three months' jail for abusing a kitten (see box).
In Singapore, the penalty for animal abuse is a maximum fine of $10,000, a jail term of up to 12 months, or both, under the Animals and Birds Act.
But animal lovers think that jail time alone is not enough for habitual abusers like Hooi, who was given the maximum jail term for his second offence.
"The sentences now are too lenient," said Mr Abdul Rahim, who thinks that mandatory caning should be enforced.
But Cat Welfare Society director of operations Dawn Kua said: "Punishment cannot be just punitive because it may not be very useful. Some animals abusers may have underlying problems." Rather, she felt, there should be alternative means of dealing with animal abusers, such as mandatory psychiatric evaluation to see if the offender needs counselling or treatment.
Ms Sandy Lim of one of the Bedok cat lover groups suggested preventive detention — detaining a repeat offender who is unlikely to change, for a certain period without chance for early release, to stop him from doing further harm.
However, Community Court Judge Bala Reddy, who presided over Hooi's last trial, had noted that while he would otherwise qualify for preventive detention, it can be invoked only if the offence carries a jail term of two years or more.
Animal lover Goh Boon Choo thinks the current laws must be given more flexibility so that habitual animal abusers can get the help they need. Hooi, she said, "is as much a victim as the cats and kittens he abuses. Society has a responsibility to help him as well".
Hooi had confessed to killing cats from as early as age 15.
11th March 2006
Bedok residents started night patrol to nab man killing strays.
By Tanya Fong.
FOR five months, a group of Bedok residents took turns to patrol their neighbourhood over seven hours every evening. Their mission - to catch the man they suspected of torturing and killing the area's stray cats.
KEEPING A HEAD COUNT: Madam Sharifah Khamis, 40, a member of the Bedok neighbourhood cat patrol, started taking a census of the area's strays.
One of them, Miss Ngiam Mui Wah, 46, finally caught him in the middle of another attack and had enough evidence to make criminal charges stick.
That ended David Hooi Yin Weng's reign of terror. The 42-year-old packer was this week jailed three months for animal abuse.
The first attack on the neighbourhood's strays began last June, when a retired school teacher, Madam Jeya, 58, saw a man pick up a kitten from a drain and throttle it.
Recalling her horror, she said: 'I saw him strangle it - he was pressing the cat's neck between his thumb and fingers. Its eyes were almost going to pop out, and it started to bleed from its nose and mouth.'
She rushed home and called the police, but he got away with that one.
The episode gave her nightmares for weeks after that. She told her neighbour, fellow stray-cat feeder Miss Ngiam, about it.
All at once, the bloodied bodies of kittens in the neighbourhood's void decks and drains started to make sense. A 'cat killer' was definitely on the loose.
They set up a neighbourhood patrol. Ten residents - backed up by young boys who often cycled in the area - came forward. Each team did a two-week shift from 6pm to about 1am.
Team member Sharifah Khamis, 40, also started taking a census of the neighbourhood's strays. If one cat or kitten went missing, patrol members were asked if they saw it.
STRANGLED CATS: Hooi was jailed three months for animal abuse. -- ST READER SANDY LIM
The killings continued. Last October, a 58-year-old therapist who wanted to be known only as Mr Bakri stumbled upon an attack in progress in the void deck of Block 545. The man was strangling a kitten and kicking its mother away.
Mr Bakri said he shouted at the man, who challenged him in Hokkien to a fight and dared him to call the police. When he took out his mobile phone and began dialling, the man dropped the mangled kitten and fled. Mr Bakri chased after him, but lost him.
By this time, the patrol already knew the man's name and that he lived in Block 544 - but for months, the man continued with the attacks and managed to give the patrol the slip.
Then, Miss Ngiam got her break in November.
Perhaps he was complacent that day - but he merely sauntered away still holding the animal, and challenged her to call the police.
She said: 'I was so angry. I knew if I let him walk away, another kitten would surely die.'
She called the police and led them to Hooi's 11th-floor flat. There, they saw all the evidence they needed - the six-week-old kitten, bleeding from the nose and its eyes bulging from their sockets. Hooi's neighbours then piped up to say that they had seen dead cats along the corridor outside his flat.
News of his three-month jail term gave a sense of relief to the residents, but they think the sentence is too light. The law provides for a maximum sentence of 12 months. Most who spoke declined to give their full names for fear that Hooi might seek revenge after serving time.
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) attended to 708 complaints of animal abuse last year. Of these, fewer than five were cases that involved extreme cruelty resulting in police action.
SPCA executive officer Deirdre Moss said: 'Many times, people hear about abuse cases and it just stops there. We commend the women who blew the whistle on the abuser in Bedok. Thanks to their vigilance and persistence, he was caught in the act.
'The SPCA depends on the public to follow their example and be willing to stand up and testify.'