Jail for man with schizophrenia who jumped out of minibus, causing fatal ECP accident

Jail for man with schizophrenia who jumped out of minibus, causing fatal ECP accident

SINGAPORE: A man was jailed for seven months on Monday (Apr 1) for jumping out of a minibus on an expressway, which led to the death of a motorcyclist last year.

Eldaniz Ibishov’s actions on the East Coast Parkway (ECP) caused a collision between a lorry and motorcycle and the motorcyclist, Mr Muhammad Nurhilmi Atan, died from his injuries.

Ibishov, 39, pleaded guilty to a charge of causing grievous hurt to Mr Nurhilmi through a rash act, and a charge of remaining on a part of the expressway that is not a footway.

The Russian national had appeared in court with crutches during a December hearing, but was able to stand and walk unaided on Monday.

The court heard that Ibishov flew to Singapore from Azerbaijan and arrived on Nov 8, 2023 – the day of the incident.

He had asked a travel agent to arrange transport from Changi Airport to his hotel, and was the only passenger on the minibus. Ibishov sat at the front, close to the door on the left.

The minibus driver was travelling on the ECP when he responded to two calls on his mobile phone.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Joseph Gwee said that Ibishov saw a photo of a man with a cap on the driver’s phone, which was placed in a phone holder.

Ibishov became agitated, and the driver noticed that he was trying to unbuckle his seatbelt and open the passenger door.

The driver slowed the minibus down from about 70 to 80 kmh to 30 to 40 kmh, and told Ibishov he would let him out at the road shoulder.

But Ibishov, who did not understand English, ignored the driver and jumped out of the moving bus onto the second lane of the ECP.

This led a lorry to apply emergency brakes to avoid hitting Ibishov. The lorry driver tried to move off, but was again blocked by Ibishov when he walked into the third lane, and had to brake.

The victim, Mr Nurhilmi, was riding his motorcycle and collided into the rear of the lorry when this happened. The police were alerted to the accident at about 11am.

Mr Nurhilmi suffered fractures to his torso and right arm and leg, and was haemorrhaging at his head, neck, cardiovascular system, liver and thyroid. He was pronounced dead at about 12.40pm.

Meanwhile, Ibishov retrieved his belongings from the expressway and the minibus, which had stopped at the road shoulder.

He walked along the ECP towards Sheares Bridge for about 30 minutes to an hour, before boarding a taxi for his hotel. He was arrested there by the police later that afternoon.

A psychiatric evaluation at the Institute of Mental Health found that Ibishov suffers from schizophrenia and that this had a contributory link to his offences.

However, he was not of unsound mind at the time, was aware of his actions, and understood their potential consequences, the prosecutor said.

Mr Gwee asked for eight to 12 months’ jail for Ibishov, arguing that the degree of rashness he showed and harm he caused were both high.

“Although the accused was influenced by his schizophrenia to believe that he was the intended victim of an abduction, he made the decision to jump out of the moving vehicle although he was aware of the risks of doing so and the potential consequences,” said the prosecutor.

Defence lawyer Barry Douglas Delaney said that Ibishov’s mental health worsened during his last week in Azerbaijan, and that he had increased his medication.

He said Ibishov was suffering a relapse at the time, and his mental state could have been exacerbated by his 18-hour flight to Singapore.

His client perceived jumping off the bus as an “act of self-preservation”, said Mr Delaney.

The lawyer added that Ibishov was remorseful, and that his family had offered Mr Nurhilmi’s family S$2,000 (US$1,482) to show their goodwill, which the victim’s family had accepted.

On whether Ibishov was suffering a relapse at the time, Mr Gwee responded that psychiatric reports from the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) stated he was in partial remission.

In sentencing, District Judge Toh Han Li noted the causal link between Ibishov’s schizophrenia and his conduct, but also the psychiatrist’s finding that he was not devoid of self-control or restraint.

For instance, Ibishov only jumped from the minibus when it had slowed down and refrained from doing so when it was travelling at high speed, the judge noted.

The penalty for causing grievous hurt through a rash act is jail for up to four years, a fine of up to S$10,000, or both.

A first-time offender who remains on foot on a part of an expressway that is not a footway can be jailed for up to three months or fined up to S$1,000.