Veteran coach Loh Chan Pew guilty of molesting teen athlete while massaging her

PHOTO: Singapore Athletics Facebook page

SINGAPORE — A veteran track and field coach was on Wednesday (3 June) found guilty of molesting a trainee during two massage sessions, more than three years after he was charged with the offence.

Loh Siang Piow, also known as Loh Chan Pew, now 75, was convicted of two charges of molesting the female trainee, then 18, on two occasions in early 2013.

In one incident, he molested the teen at a bench along the corridor at the now defunct Tampines Stadium. He had touched her private parts in the course of massaging the back of her thighs.

On a separate occasion, he molested the girl inside an equipment room in the same stadium by rubbing her private parts while massaging the back of her thighs.

The victim only lodged a report on 30 July 2016, and investigations commenced after that.

Loh, a prominent figure in the local athletics scene, had held high office in the Singapore Athletic Association. He had coached for 35 years, taking up to 700 athletes under his wing.

The victim, an aspiring national level athlete, started an intensive training programme from January to 17 March 2013 under Loh’s tutelage, after completing her A levels. These included one-on-one sessions with the veteran coach.

The offence occurred during the second one-on-one training with Loh, which was around 24 February 2013.

After the training session, Loh had offered to give the victim a cool-down massage. While she rested on her stomach on a bench beside the track, Loh began massaging her with his bare hands from the back of her calves to her thighs. His thumb touched her private parts multiple times, making the girl feel uncomfortable. However, she did not object as she believed the contact was accidental.

On the final one-on-one session on 15 March 2013, Loh had insisted on a massage despite the victim’s reluctance. The two then proceeded to the equipment room where the victim lay on a massage bed in the same position.

As Loh massaged the victim and molested her again, the girl asked him to stop. But Loh simply asked her to relax.

The victim tried to squeeze her thighs together to prevent Loh from touching her again, but he still managed to molest her. The girl then testified she felt a “sick feeling” of being unable to control her body, such that all she could do was to hold the sides of the massage bed to wait for the sensation to stop.

After the incident, the girl went to the toilet to change and later accepted a meal with Loh, as she wanted to pretend everything was normal. From then on, the victim only had group training sessions with Loh before ceasing contact with him in 2014.

In finding Loh guilty, District Judge Marvin Bay said Loh’s evidence was “beset by certain incongruities”. The judge agreed with the prosecution that the victim had been “unusually convincing” due to the clarity and consistency of her evidence. The judge also took into account the victim’s background as an 18-year-old who was naive in sexual matters as a result of her cloistered upbringing in convent schools.

The judge also referred to text messages the victim had sent to a female training partner, and a male senior at her junior college, where she revealed the incident and her discomfort about it.

“Given that there had been no enmity between her and Mr Loh at this point, it would seem implausible that (the victim) would have ‘created’ these messages with a long term view to frame Mr Loh three years later,” DJ Bay noted.

Loh will return to court for his sentencing on 26 June.

For molest, Loh faces a jail term of up to two years and/or a fine.

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