Dave Teo

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Dave Teo Ming
Born Singapore
Allegiance Singapore
Service/branch Singapore Armed Forces
Years of service 2005–2007
Rank Corporal
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Teo.
Dave Teo Ming
Traditional Chinese 張銘
Simplified Chinese 张铭

Dave Teo Ming is a Singaporean former soldier who gained national headlines when he went absent without official leave (AWOL) on 2 September 2007 from Mandai Hill Camp with a SAR-21 assault rifle and eight live 5.56mm rounds.[1][2] Before he went AWOL, he was serving as a Full-Time National Serviceman (NSF) in the 1st Singapore Infantry Regiment and held the rank of Corporal.

Teo was arrested by the police 20 hours later in the Orchard Road shopping district with the assault rifle, the eight rounds and a knife in his possession.[3][4] Facing charges in the High Court, Teo was sentenced in July 2008 to nine years and two months' imprisonment and 18 strokes of the cane for various weapon charges.[5][6] The incident has also led to the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) reviewing and tightening security procedures in its camps.[7][8]

AWOL and arrest[edit]

On 2 September 2007 at 11.59 pm, Teo was discovered missing from Mandai Hill Camp with his SAR-21 assault rifle and five live rounds issued to him for guard duty. The Military Police Command was called in at 3.30am on 3 September to conduct a search within the camp premises. After finding that he was no longer in the camp, the Singapore Police Force was contacted at 5.45am to initiate an island-wide manhunt with 200 officers.

20 hours after Teo went AWOL, he was captured by the police's Special Tactics and Rescue unit in the washroom on the third level of Cathay Cineleisure Orchard. The arrest occurred so quickly that the security guards were not aware of it.[3] Eight 5.56mm rounds (the extra three live rounds were found to be taken from a live-firing exercise in August)[5] and the SAR-21 assault rifle were recovered from him. A 40 cm knife was found later and was believed to have belonged to Teo.

It was believed that Teo and an accomplice, Ong Boon Jun, spent the night in a hotel in Geylang. Ong was also arrested later and he faced similar charges. Shortly after both arrests, the room was raided by the police for evidence.[9]

The Ministry of Defence released a press release shortly after his capture acknowledging the incident, and revealed that he was due to complete his National Service stint in October 2007, barely less than a month.[10] This was the first time in more than 20 years when a serviceman went AWOL with a rifle and live rounds. The last time such an incident occurred was on 6 August 1984, when Teo Yong Kuan from the 30th Singapore Combat Engineering Battalion in Khatib Camp was involved in stealing an AR-15 and 30 live rounds. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years' jail and 12 strokes of the cane on 12 May 1986.[3][11]

Investigation and conviction[edit]

Initially after his arrest, there were online speculations on the reasons as to why Teo went AWOL. Background checks on blogs suggested that he might have had a failed relationship with his girlfriend Crystal Liew.[12] On 5 September 2007, The Straits Times published on its cover page an interview with Liew on her relationship with Teo.[13] In the interview, Liew claimed that they broke off because Teo was possessive, and that subsequently death threats were made by him against her and her family.[13]

An investigation into the incident revealed lapses in camp security that concerned the Singapore Parliament.[7][14] Teo was believed to have climbed out of a second floor window and escaped from the sight of sentries and CCTVs, exploiting a weakness in the guardroom's design.[8] The physical security of all camps have since undergone review and reinforcement, with Mandai Hill Camp, in particular, now filled with metal grilles and fish-eye mirrors.[8]

Teo and Ong faced multiple charges under the Arms Offences Act. Two more charges were added from the original, which involved the 40 cm knife and the eight 5.56mm rounds.[5][15][16] As Teo pleaded not guilty to the charges, the trial continued in the High Court for months.[17] Ong was sentenced in February 2008 to six years and six months' imprisonment and six strokes of the cane after he was found guilty of failing to report Teo's possession of the rifle to the police,[18] while Teo was subsequently sentenced in July 2008 to nine years and two months imprisonment and 18 strokes of the cane.[6]


  1. ^ "NSF arrested for leaving camp with rifle, bullets", The Straits Times, Singapore, 4 September 2007.
  2. ^ Valarie Tan, "Missing armed NSman caught in Orchard Road", Channel NewsAsia, Singapore, 3 September 2007.
  3. ^ a b c David Boey and Jermyn Chow, "Nabbed in Orchard Rd after hunt: NSF with rifle, ammo", The Straits Times, 4 September 2007.
  4. ^ "Armed and AWOL: Nabbed NS man's story unfolds", The Straits Times, 5 September 2007.
  5. ^ a b c David Boey, "AWOL soldier charged with stealing weapon", The Straits Times, 6 September 2007.
  6. ^ a b "NSman who stole rifle gets more than 9 years' jail, 18 strokes", Channel NewsAsia, Singapore, 7 July 2008.
  7. ^ a b Reply by Minister Teo Chee Hean to Parliamentary Questions on CPL Dave Teo, Teo Chee Hean, Ministry of Defense Singapore, 17 September 2007.
  8. ^ a b c David Boey, "Several lapses led to missing rifle incident", The Straits Times, 18 September 2007.
  9. ^ Leong Wee Keat, "His Geylang hideout", Today, Singapore, 6 September 2007.
  10. ^ Missing SAF Serviceman Apprehended, Ministry of Defense Singapore Press Release, 3 September 2007
  11. ^ Ben Davidson, "NS man gets 5 years and 12 strokes for theft of rifle, bullets", The Straits Times, Singapore, 13 May 1986, p. 7.
  12. ^ Valarie Tan, "Internet abuzz with speculation over armed NSman arrested in Orchard", Channel NewsAsia, Singapore, 4 September 2007.
  13. ^ a b Jermyn Chow and David Boey, "Failed relationship may have led soldier to go AWOL with rifle", The Straits Times, 5 September 2007, p. 1.
  14. ^ Leong Wee Keat, "Questions raised as NSman faces charges", Today, Singapore, 5 September 2007.
  15. ^ Leong Wee Keat, "NSman found with knife, too", Today, 13 September 2007.
  16. ^ "AWOL armed NSman faces two new charges Teo", Channel NewsAsia, 12 September 2007.
  17. ^ Jermyn Chow, "Soldier not expected to plead guilty to stealing weapon", The Straits Times, 12 September 2007.
  18. ^ Wong Mun Wai, "AWOL NSman Teo's accomplice gets 6.5 years' jail, 6 strokes of cane", Channel NewsAsia, Singapore, 25 February 2008.