Web Stories Friday, February 23

SINGAPORE: After a 27-year-old waitress agreed to give her colleague a ride home from work, the man developed feelings for the woman and thought she reciprocated them.

Wanting her to be his girlfriend, the man sent her unsolicited text messages, waited for her outside the workplace and followed her home on multiple occasions.

He also stole a jacket from outside the woman’s flat and went to look for her to “return” it, but she wanted nothing to do with him.

Even after being arrested, the man continued to stalk the woman and ceased his distressing behaviour only after his bail was revoked and he was remanded.

Indian national Veeramani Venkatesh, 29, was sentenced to jail for three months and one week on Monday (Jan 22).

He pleaded guilty to three counts of stalking under the Protection from Harassment Act and one count of theft. Another five charges were considered in sentencing.

The court heard that he met the victim at a restaurant at Marina Bay Financial Centre when they worked there together.

Veeramani worked there only briefly for three months as a part-time dishwasher, while the victim had been working there for several years as a waitress when he joined the company.

In late December 2022, the victim ended work past midnight and booked a Grab car back home. She agreed to give Veeramani a lift.

During the journey, Veeramani asked for the victim’s handphone number. He also asked her to take a photo together with him.

Regarding Veeramani as a mere colleague, the victim obliged to both requests.

After this, Veeramani began professing his love for the victim. He told her he could not live without her and began sending her unsolicited texts in early 2023.

The victim ignored Veeramani and blocked his number on her phone. However, he began stalking her.

On Jul 20, 2023, Veeramani went to the restaurant to look for the victim. He was no longer working there himself, but loitered there nonetheless.

He spotted the woman walking out. The woman also saw Veeramani and felt alarmed, and quickly walked to the Downtown MRT Station to head home.

But Veeramani followed her, asking her to talk to him. She ignored him, but Veeramani continued following her on the train to Boon Lay and sat behind her on a bus.

When the victim alighted near her home, Veeramani followed her all the way into the lift.

Inside, Veeramani asked the woman: “What (sic) your problem?”

The woman continued to ignore Veeramani and rushed home once the lift door opened.

Veeramani stalked the woman again the next day, lying in wait for her at the restaurant.

When the woman saw him, she again felt alarmed and stayed at work for a little longer. She later left the restaurant and ignored Veeramani on her way to a bus stop.

Veeramani tried to ask the victim to talk to him, to no avail. When the bus arrived, he boarded it with the victim.

The victim sat at the back of the bus and avoided eye contact with Veeramani.

After alighting, she managed to gain some distance between herself and Veeramani, but he followed her to her block and called out her name.

The victim picked up her pace, but when she neared a car park, Veeramani shouted at her and told her he wished to return a white jacket to her.

The victim said it was not hers, and Veeramani snatched her phone out of her hand to get her attention. The victim was afraid and warned Veeramani that she would call the police.

Veeramani then fled.

Investigations later revealed that Veeramani had stolen the jacket – it was hung outside the victim’s flat on Jul 21, 2023 – as he was unhappy at being ignored.

Veeramani was arrested on Jul 22, 2023 and released on personal bond the next day.

CONTINUED TO REOFFEND

However, he did not relent his pursuit of the victim. He asked a friend to help him send an envelope to the victim’s unit on Oct 25, 2023.

The friend handed over an envelope to the victim’s mother at the flat. The victim’s brother opened it and found two love letters addressed to the victim, two selfies of Veeramani, the photo Veeramani had taken with the victim in the car and a photo of the victim taken from her Facebook page.

The victim was at work when her brother called her about the hand-delivered envelope. Her brother sent her photos of the contents of the package, and the victim felt alarmed and scared.

She feared that Veeramani might resort to other forms of harassment, since he knew where she lived.

Veeramani continued to reoffend until he was remanded on Dec 22, 2023, after the prosecution applied for his bail to be revoked.

The prosecutor asked for five months and a week’s jail for Veeramani.

In mitigation, Veeramani said through an interpreter: “I saw the victim and I liked her. I thought that, based on our interactions, she too liked me. I wasn’t aware of the rules and regulations in Singapore and thus I did not realise the consequences of my actions.”

He asked for the court’s forgiveness for his “mistake” and said he had told the police that he wished to apologise to the victim.

He said he also asked her to withdraw the charge but said he was unsure if this was conveyed to her due to the language barrier.

“I’m hoping for the lowest possible sentence, your honour,” he said.

The judge noted the “nature of persistent stalking” for each charge faced by Veeramani, and applied the “appropriate sentencing discount” for his plea of guilt.

For each charge of stalking, he could have been jailed for up to a year, fined up to S$5,000 (S$3,728), or both.

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