All names have been changed
Faye recalls the Wednesday afternoon on 6 February 2013 when she was spat on by Shi-jie’s mother as she was walking past the unit to get home. “It was the first time I was spat on during this long dispute. Previously, apart from the noise Shi-jie inflicts, his mother would just stand by the door and hurl vulgarities at me.” Faye was 19 years old then.
Still, that would not be the only time when Shi-jie’s mother would assault Faye in this fashion. It would happen again three years later, almost to the date of the first incident, on 17 February 2016 at 10 p.m. Faye was on the way back to her university dorm when Shi-jie’s mother spat at her while she was waiting for the lift, rounding up the assault with a string of colourful expletives.
“I didn’t make a police report this time around because I was too shocked by what had happened and, having just come back from a university exchange, was in a rush to go back to school,” she wrote in a 27-page document compiled in 2016 on her mother’s behalf to the Community Disputes Resolution Tribunals (CDRT).
The evidentiary tome was submitted in support of a claim filed by Faye against her neighbour, 41-year-old Shi-jie, and his mother, who has been inflicting noise nuisance, verbal assaults, and outright harassment on Faye and her family since 2011.
It’s a story that spans over a decade from when Faye was a teenager taking her ‘O’ level exams through to her undergraduate studies at NUS, and now as a working adult at 28 years old.
The intense banging Shi-jie inflicts on the block occurs every night, set to a predetermined, almost predictable schedule that lasts until the wee hours of the morning. Only when he’s away at work as an employee of the Republic of Singapore Armed Forces or out running errands would the neighbourhood enjoy some peace.
There’s a pattern to his banging—ten rapid successions of thuds, ending with one definitive hit that brings the etude to a close—that seldom deviates.
On weekends, the banging knows no concept of time, as Shi-jie bangs throughout the day, pausing at 7 p.m. when he would make his way out of the home. He would then come back, as always, at 1 a.m., and the banging resumes.
At the floor of Shi-jie’s and Faye’s units, I saw neighbour after neighbour gesturing and pointing the Shi-jie’s flat out to me every time the hammering started. As if to say, “This is the unit you’re looking for. It’s this one.”
Then, I saw Mr E from the 8th floor, a resident of the block for five years, dressed in blue T-shirt and shorts, appear at the end of the corridor, his ears craning to know where the noise was coming from.
I gestured to Shi-jie’s unit, which then saw us taking up station outside the flat’s bedroom, its windows half drawn, the thick and suffocating smell of chlorine wafting past our N95 masks. I’ll explain the chlorine smell later.
“I’ve been hearing this for five years already,” Mr E shared. “Every night, I hear it, and I’ve endured it throughout. But this is the first time I decided to come up.”
The 22 police reports
To date, Faye and her mother have filed 22 police reports against Shi-jie and his mother. The earliest documented was in 2011, with the latest one being filed in 2021. Many others exist, though these were not kept or adequately documented.