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The Hanging Of Kho Jabing

Originally published on on 20 May 2016.

It has been convention that executions of convicted criminals be carried out before dawn on a Friday. The State deviated from that convention today, the first time this has been done since independence.
Kho Jabing was hanged at 3.30pm today, after the Court of Appeal lifted the stay of execution. His sister was due to celebrate her birthday today. She will have to commemorate it instead, with her brother’s demise.

Back in 2008, a heavily intoxicated Kho had picked up a piece of wood while approaching to rob Cao Ruyin of his money and mobile phone in a Geylang lane. He used this piece of wood – a tree branch – and attacked Cao with it.

Cao fell after Kho’s first blow was delivered from the back, and Kho continued to attack him around his head. Kho’s accomplice then joined in the attack on Cao. It was later found that Cao had 14 fractures in his skull, which ostensibly caused his death.

In 2011 Kho Jabing was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. However, because of legal reform allowing the court to decide between the death penalty and life imprisonment in murder cases, Kho appealed and was re-sentenced to life imprisonment.

The prosecution appealed, and in January last year, the Court of Appeal upheld the original sentence of death.

Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin, Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang and Justice Chan Seng Onn were “completely satisfied” that the way Kho rained blow after blow on the head of Chinese national Cao Ruyin, even after he was lying on the ground, meant he deserved the death penalty.
“The sheer savagery and brutality displayed by (Kho) shows that during the course of the attack, (he) just simply could not care less as to whether the deceased would survive although his intention at the time was only to rob,” said Justice Chao.
– See more at:
Kho Jabing had been due to be executed this morning at 6am. At 11pm last night, a notice of appeal was lodged, and a stay of execution was granted until the hearing of the appeal at 9am this morning. Some time around noon today, the court of appeal lifted the stay of execution.
It was then directed that Kho Jabing be hanged at 3:30pm today, which he apparently was, promptly.
The executioner and his colleagues would have prepared for this in advance. Kho Jabing’s height and weight would have been recorded a short time before he was due to be executed, so that the correct length of a newly procured rope could be measured and cut.

Execution by hanging is apparently carried out in two ways:

Standard drop

The standard drop, which arrived as calculated in English units, involves a drop of between 4 and 6 feet (1.2 and 1.8 m) and came into use from 1866, when the scientific details were published by an Irish doctor, Samuel Haughton. Immediately, its use spread to English-speaking countries and those where judicial systems had an English origin. It was considered a humane improvement on the short drop because it was intended to be enough to break the person’s neck, causing immediate paralysis and immobilization (and probable immediate unconsciousness). This method was used to execute condemned Nazis under United States jurisdiction after the Nuremberg Trials including Joachim von Ribbentrop and Ernst Kaltenbrunner.[7] In the execution of Ribbentrop, historian Giles MacDonogh records that: “The hangman botched the execution and the rope throttled the former foreign minister for twenty minutes before he expired.”[8] An article in Life magazine dated 28 October 1946, merely says of Ribbentrop’s execution:[9] “The trap fell open and with a sound midway between a rumble and a crash, Ribbentrop disappeared. The rope quivered for a time, then stood tautly straight.”

Long drop

This process, also known as the measured drop, was introduced to Britain in 1872 by William Marwood as a scientific advance on the standard drop. Instead of everyone falling the same standard distance, the person’s height and weight[10] were used to determine how much slack would be provided in the rope so that the distance dropped would be enough to ensure that the neck was broken, but not so much that the person was decapitated. The careful placement of the eye or knot of the noose (so that the head was jerked back as the rope tightened) contributed to breaking the neck.
Prior to 1892, the drop was between four and ten feet (about one to three metres), depending on the weight of the body, and was calculated to deliver a force of 1,260 lbf (5,600 newtons or 572 kgf), which fractured the neck at either the 2nd and 3rd or 4th and 5th cervical vertebrae. However, this force resulted in some decapitations, such as the infamous case of Black Jack Ketchum in New Mexico Territory in 1901, owing to a significant weight gain while in custody not having been factored into the drop calculations. Between 1892 and 1913, the length of the drop was shortened to avoid decapitation. After 1913, other factors were also taken into account, and the force delivered was reduced to about 1,000 lbf (4,400 N or 450 kgf). The decapitation of Eva Dugan during a botched hanging in 1930 led the state of Arizona to switch to the gas chamber as its primary execution method, on the grounds that it was believed more humane.[11] One of the more recent decapitations as a result of the long drop occurred when Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti was hanged in Iraq in 2007.[12] Accidental decapitation also occurred during the 1962 hanging of Arthur Lucas, one of the last two people to be put to death in Canada.[13] It is unknown if many of these decapitations resulted despite adequate calculations and precautions such as a properly boiled, oiled and pre-stretched rope.

It is important that we know the State uses either of these meticulous methods (I don’t know for sure?—?I don’t think the executioners are allowed to talk about it) of dispatching criminals we deem to be deserving of death, because we kill them in the name of preventing others from committing the same heinous crimes. And because if it is in deterrence that we preserve and persevere with capital punishment, then we must show for all to see, the process of how we kill those who deserve to die. We should also announce for all to see and hear that someone is about to be executed, for that would further the purpose of deterrence.

And if a person deserves to die for killing another person, why should the State even try to execute him in punishment, in a ‘more humane’ way? It defies logic.

But if you, like me, cringe at these thoughts, then you know there is something very wrong about a State-sanctioned, premeditated, killing of a person.



The Serious Business Of Dengue Prevention

Dengue 2016 Launch

Minister Masagos Zulkifli and others help hold up the banner showing the 5-step Mozzie Wipeout

It’s been a few years since I’ve been involved with the dengue prevention campaign, and you would think with a couple of years, the disease would have been controlled, or even eradicated.

Unfortunately, dengue fever is still prevalent. In fact, the number of dengue cases in Singapore is expected to hit 30,000 this year – higher than the record in 2013 when 22,170 cases were reported. And it’s come with a couple of challenges:

  • The Zika virus now making news around the world and akin to dengue fever, Zika is also carried and transmitted by the Aedes mosquito;
  • Campaign fatigue among people who are so accustomed to hearing about dengue this and that, that they become blasé about what needs to be done to prevent the disease from causing harm to them and our community.

But here’s the thing about dengue – prevention is, quite practically, in our hands. Essentially, the best way to prevent dengue is to prevent the breeding of its carrier, the Aedes mosquitoes, through the 5-Step Mozzie Wipeout, which can be incorporated into our daily household routine. The steps entail removing stagnant water in our homes, which are ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes, to break the Aedes mosquito’s breeding cycle. By doing that, we can stop dengue transmissions through the bite of these pesky insects.

This year’s dengue campaign launch repeated previous campaigns’ exhortation to do the Mozzie Wipeout, but this time to consciously do it for 14 days – to effectively break the breeding cycle of the Aedes mosquito. To take effective control of the dengue situation, a penalty for households found to be breeding mosquitoes was also announced.

A few things of interest about the Aedes mosquitoes and dengue:

  • Only the female Aedes mosquito bites (because it needs the protein in our blood to develop its eggs).
  • The mosquito becomes infective about 7 days after it has bitten a person carrying the virus.
  • The mosquito is more prone to biting at dawn and dusk.
  • The average lifespan of an Aedes mosquito is two weeks, and during this time, it can lay eggs about three times.
  • Eggs can remain dormant in dry conditions for up to 9 months, after which they can still hatch if exposed to favourable conditions, i.e. water and food.

With that in mind, I’m going around the house to check for and remove potential breeding spots – like on our BBQ canvas sheet cover at the balcony, potted plant bases, our (not used often enough) bicycles, which may have tiny nooks where leftover rainwater may accumulate.

The other thing I’m concerned with is that many of us delegate our household chores to our hired help, and dengue prevention tasks like the 5-Step Mozzie Wipeout may be one of the chores that can be overlooked at times. I’m quite keen to make sure that this is done myself even if we have help at home.

For us, dengue prevention is a serious business, as I’ve reminded everyone over the years, our now 7-year-old son had to have two blood transfusions at 8 weeks old due to dengue fever. So he’s going to go around our apartment and do the Mozzie Wipeout with me regularly as well.

It’s no joke – there have been more than 5,900 reported cases of dengue since the beginning of the year. So get on it now, and make the Mozzie Wipeout part of your household routine.



Enough With The Nostalgic Videos Already

I watched the LTA Bus Story Virulent Video and disliked it very much. I’ve had it with these nostalgia exploiting commissioned stories. But let me tell you my memory of buses from when I was a child.

I lived on Pasir Panjang Road, across from the police station, behind which was a beach. It was an idyllic place – there was a little jetty where fishing boats unloaded their catch, which was sold at Ah Heng’s fish shop on the corner of Pasir Panjang and Clementi Roads.

Right outside our bungalow on Pasir Panjang Road was a bus terminus. In those good old days, this was simply where buses stopped at the end of their assigned routes. There was a little structure where bus conductors busied themselves, I believe, with replenishing their bus tickets and other administrative matters. Bus drivers, who weren’t called captains then, would smoke, standing or squatting on the five-foot way on the other side of our garden’s brick wall. I could hear them clearing their throats and spitting. Sometimes, cigarette butts would end up in our garden.

Often, there would be too many buses that had finished their route and had to stop at this terminus, and our gate would be blocked. My father then had to go to the police station to complain and the policemen, yes, who wore shorts, would have to coax the bus drivers to move their buses so we could leave or enter our driveway.

One day, while we were going out, there was a terrible crash, and some frightening wailing, and I saw, lying on the ground in a growing pool of blood, an elderly man with a horrific head wound. Our path was blocked by the accident, and I was transfixed as I saw the SBS bus reverse away from the dead man.

So yeah, that’s my earliest memory of our buses. Now go make that a viral video.