SINGAPORE: A former teacher sent distressing anonymous letters to a school following the death of a student, calling the principal a murderer over a phone call and telling him: “You have blood on your hands.”
The offender also harassed a lecturer at an institution that was not named in court documents, by sending her anonymous text messages telling her that she “can’t even teach to save (her) life”.
Lee Lit Meing, who is now a private tutor, pleaded guilty on Monday (Sep 19) to one count of sending WhatsApp messages containing abusive words with intent to cause distress, and another charge of using abusive words in an anonymous phone call to cause distress.
The names of the institutions involved cannot be named due to gag orders protecting the victims’ identities.
The court heard that Lee worked at a school under the first victim, who was the principal of the school. Lee was unhappy with the principal’s management style and felt he was a difficult boss to work with.
After Lee left the school in 2017, he began sending the principal anonymous WhatsApp messages, letters and emails to harass him. He would use significant events involving the school to harass him and did so on at least three occasions between 2018 and 2020.
Lee came across news reports of a fatal incident involving a student from a school and became unhappy, blaming the principal for the fatal incident.
He prepared 20 similar anonymous letters with the words: “Heavy is the head which weareth the crown, eyes tained with guilt. Tongue defiled by lies. Bloody are thy hands which are stained with a child’s blood.”
Lee placed the letters in official envelopes belonging to the National University of Singapore, that he had found at a void deck of a block of flats sometime before 2018.
He used the envelopes to make the offences more difficult to be traced back to him, and sent 19 letters to staff at four schools and one letter to a church elder.
HE CALLED THE PRINCIPAL TO HARASS HIM
Lee decided to cause further distress to the principal and travelled from his home in Boon Keng to Sengkang, where he found an unattended public phone. He used the phone to call the principal on his personal mobile phone, and said: “You have blood on your hands.”
He also said: “You are a murderer. You killed a child. You are lucky that (redacted) forgave you.”
The principal felt stunned and explained to the caller, whose voice he did not recognise, that the fatal incident was under police investigation and it was inappropriate for him to comment.
The principal hung up and felt shocked. He told a colleague about the call, and the colleague told him that the school had received 10 anonymous letters that day.
The principal read one of the letters and found it to be like an epitaph from a tombstone, the court heard. He was told that the first line of the note was a quote from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, and that the subsequent lines cast the blame for the death of the student on him.
The last line was a death threat, giving the impression that the principal was born in the 1970s and would die that very year. As a result, the principal felt “devastated, scared and threatened”, the prosecutor said.
The principal was already feeling distressed about the fatal incident and felt scared that someone who knew his personal phone number and birth year was threatening him. He lodged a police report.
The anonymous call and letter caused significant alarm to the school’s management, said the prosecutor, and the police conducted a briefing on how the management should deal with it.
As a result of Lee’s actions, the principal became more cautious whenever he received calls or messages from unknown numbers, and worried for the safety of his family. He made sure that someone would accompany his children to and from school.
HE ALSO HARASSED FEMALE LECTURER
Lee also sent harassing text messages to a female lecturer at an institution, which was not named in court documents.
He was her student when he was a trainee teacher and disliked her as he felt she was “quite high-handed” and “unkind” to trainees. He decided to send anonymous messages to cause distress to her and let her know to be more supportive to trainees around April 2020.
On Apr 2, 2020, Lee sent WhatsApp messages to the woman’s phone number. He said: “Your … stint is testament that those who can’t do, teach. But, come to think of it. You can’t even teach to save your life.”
He also wrote: “After knowing you, I am now enlightened why some women are destined to stay single for life. Just saying.”
The woman felt scared when she received the messages. She did not recognise the number they were sent from, and the sender knew intimate details about her personal life, including her marital status, previous job posting and her mobile number.
She was worried about what the sender would do with such information, and fretted about the safety of her loved ones, her colleagues and herself. She lodged a police report the next day.
According to court documents, Lee has been a private tutor since 2019.
The prosecutor called for three weeks’ jail, noting that harassment cases committed via anonymous communication would ordinarily warrant jail terms as such communications produce greater uneasiness in victims than when the author is known.
Lee will return to court for sentencing next month.