Track coach found guilty of molesting teen athlete twice

Veteran track and field coach Loh Siang Piow was yesterday found guilty of two charges of molesting a teenage athlete in 2013.

The trial, which began more than three years ago, ended with District Judge Marvin Bay finding that Loh’s lawyers have “not been able to establish their alibi defence”.

Loh, 75, better known in the sports fraternity as Loh Chan Pew, was charged with using criminal force on the female athlete when she was 18 by rubbing her genitals on two occasions while massaging the back of her thighs.

Both incidents were said to have happened at the old Tampines Stadium on two Sundays between January and March 17 in 2013.

Loh, who was calm and composed after the verdict was read out, spent more than 30 minutes speaking to an eight-strong group of supporters outside the courtroom and was overheard telling them he was very sad. He also confirmed to The Straits Times that he would be lodging an appeal.

He stood trial for his deeds against one of his two accusers. Three more charges involving another accuser, who was 16 then, were stood down. The accusers cannot be named due to a court order.

Loh, a prominent figure in the local athletics scene, was a former national sprinter and coach of 35 years who mentored many athletes, including ex-national sprinters Margaret Oh and Amanda Choo. A former vice-president of Singapore Athletics, which governs the sport here, he was previously deputy superintendent of prisons.

In her testimony, the victim said Loh organised one-on-one training sessions for her in 2013, from the end of January to the middle of March. The first session was uneventful, with Loh offering a cool-down massage.

After the second session, he touched her groin over her tights as she lay on a bench. She felt uncomfortable but reasoned that it was accidental and did not object. She told her mother about her discomfort and her mother told her to say no (to the massage). Her father went with her to the third session, which was uneventful.

At the fourth session, she turned down Loh’s offer of a massage, but relented after he persisted as she felt he was her coach and “had authority over her”. He was said to have molested her, telling her to “just relax” when she told him to stop.

On March 17, 2013, the victim confided in the second accuser – her friend and training partner – about her experience. She later texted a male friend about this.

The victim later told her track teacher Michelle Eng about the incident, but said only that Loh had massaged her legs and she felt uncomfortable training alone with him. Three years later, she texted Ms Eng with more details, stressing she was not trying to be vindictive, but was concerned that the teacher would send juniors to train under Loh.

On July 30, 2016, the two accusers lodged a police report.

In his defence, Loh denied the incidents took place as he had never conducted any individual training sessions with the victim. His alibi was that he was otherwise engaged on the dates the two incidents were said to have occurred.

The defence sought to cast doubt on the credibility of the victim’s evidence as she was unable to recall specific details of the venue, but the judge noted that she was in 2018 trying to recall events from several years ago.

Loh will return to court on June 26 for sentencing. For each charge of outrage of modesty, he can be jailed for up to two years and/or fined. He cannot be caned as he is more than 50 years old.

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