After that, detainees from the different gangs banded together and talked about killing Dutton. One of the detainees, Chong Sek Ling, was an informer, and he warned Dutton.
But in his overconfidence, Dutton laughed it off, in the same way he disregarded earlier directives from the director of Singapore Prisons, Major Peter L James, who wanted the detainees’ working hours to be scaled back.
James also tried warning Dutton that he had been too harsh in sending the carpenters back to Changi.
“(Dutton) was absolutely confident that the majority of the detainees were with him,” said Tan. “You could say that this was probably Dutton’s delusion.”
THE FIERY, TRAGIC END
The rioters struck after lunch on July 12, 1963.
They picked up their machetes and hoes and went after their respective targets. “The rioters were shouting and running amok,” said Tan Sar Bee, who witnessed this from the island’s hospital. “They fought from the dining room to the office.”
Dutton ran into his office and shut the door. The rioters decided that if he did not come out, they would set the building on fire. Two of them chopped a hole in the roof, poured petrol through it and lit a match.
The place went up in flames, and Dutton ran out. Men with machetes and axes were waiting, and he was butchered with a “shocking” level of ferocity, said Brunero. His body was mutilated and burnt.
WATCH: Why did Singapore’s first prison island experiment fail? | Riot Island – Part 2/2 (48:03)