13-Day Jail Time for Man Who Set Fire to Neighbor’s Door Over “Prayer Altar” Dispute


In a recent court hearing held on Thursday (Aug 10), Patrick Francis, 50, was handed a 13-day jail sentence after admitting to a charge of committing mischief involving a destructive act of arson.

The incident was the result of an escalating dispute between Francis and his neighbour, Mr Dharam RD, 63, over a prayer altar that had been maintained by Francis’ family on behalf of Mr Dharam’s girlfriend, Tang Yee Peng, 50.


According to the reports, the altercation originated when Ms. Tang requested a small space within Francis’ mother’s Housing and Development Board (HDB) flat for a Chinese prayer altar, which was initially agreed upon. The arrangement continued until the Covid-19 pandemic struck in 2020, and Ms. Tang had to return to Malaysia. During her absence, Francis’ family continued to look after the prayer altar.

Trouble arose when Ms. Tang noticed that the lock on the prayer altar had been changed upon her return. She confronted Francis’ mother, leading to an exchange of words that angered Francis. The situation escalated the following day when, in the early hours of the morning, Francis poured kerosene on the front door of Mr. Dharam and Ms. Tang’s flat before setting it ablaze.

Fortunately, the police arrived promptly upon being alerted by Mr. Dharam, and the fire was extinguished before it could spread further.

Despite the limited extent of physical harm caused, Deputy Public Prosecutor John Lu highlighted the potentially catastrophic consequences, emphasizing that the act of arson had the potential to cause extensive damage to not only the unit but the entire housing block.

Francis later compensated Mr. Dharam with S$1,000 for the damage caused.

Francis’ defense lawyer, Mr. Divanan Narkunan of Phoenix Law Corporation, acknowledged Francis’ wrongdoing but argued that the actual harm caused was relatively minimal. He revealed that the altercation between Ms. Tang and Francis’ mother involved offensive language, which fueled Francis’ anger. Despite assurances of an apology, none was provided.

Ultimately, Francis was sentenced to 13 days in jail and had also compensated Mr. Dharam with S$1,000 for the damages. The act of arson, which could have resulted in a two-year prison term or a fine, highlights the potential consequences of unresolved conflicts and the importance of peaceful resolution.

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