SINGAPORE – He called her Princess Xiang Xiang, while her nickname for him was God of Food, because he loved eating.
He had never asked her to be his girlfriend, felt too “embarrassed” to hold her hand or kiss her, and his proposal of marriage was met with silence.
But cafeteria worker Boh Soon Ho, 51, considered 28-year-old Zhang Huaxiang to be his girlfriend because the nurse fed him popcorn at the movies and sought his opinion outside the fitting room when he went with her to shop for clothes and undergarments.
When asked why he kept paying for her purchases, he replied: “Because as a man, I should be more generous.”
Details about the relationship between Boh and Ms Zhang were revealed when he took the stand for the first time on Tuesday (Oct 8) in his ongoing trial for murdering the Chinese national.
He has admitted that he strangled her in a jealous rage in his rented bedroom in Circuit Road on March 21, 2016, and tried to have sex with her corpse, after she rejected his sexual advances and told him about her relationships with other men.
Testifying through a Mandarin interpreter, Boh said that putting a towel around the victim’s neck and crossing the ends “was a very natural thing to do” because he felt very angry and hurt by her revelations.
As his lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam took him through the sequence of events, Boh’s constant refrain was: “I didn’t think too much. It was a moment of impulse. I had no intention to kill her. I only wanted to scare her. I did not expect things to turn out this way.”
At one point, Boh told the court: “I did not expect the towel to kill her.”
When Mr Thuraisingam asked him how he felt as he was pulling the towel around the victim’s neck, he replied: “I did so many things for her, I didn’t expect her to treat me this way.”
Boh added: “For many years, I bought her things and gave her money to gamble. Two men suddenly came into the picture and at that moment, I could not accept it.”
Boh and Ms Zhang got to know each other some time in 2011 or 2012, while they were working part time at a staff cafeteria. After graduating from her nursing course, she started working at the National University Hospital.
He regarded her as his girlfriend and paid when they went out for meals, shopping and gambling at casinos. “I liked her too much so I was willing to give her everything. I just felt happy when I went out with her.”
Boh said he held her hand only once, in Chinatown during Chinese New Year because it was crowded. He once asked her to marry him if she did not have a boyfriend, but she kept quiet, he said.
In early 2016, he suspected that she was seeing someone else and would go to her flat to spy on her. On March 18, 2016, he saw her getting into a taxi with a man. “My mind was in a mess,” he said.
He then invited her to visit his place for a steamboat lunch on March 21.
In the flat, she asked him for $1,000 to gamble, he said. She called him “useless” when he told her he did not have so much money, said Boh.
Boh said he then asked for sex and kissed and touched her, but she told him he was crazy.
After some time, he asked her about the man who he had seen with her. She told Boh she had met him at the casino and had gone out with him several times.
On further questioning, Ms Zhang also revealed that her former boyfriend had come to visit her from China and that it was normal for them to be intimate.
Boh said he understood “being intimate” to mean that they had sex.
On hearing this, Boh said he began sweating and shaking in anger. He took a blue towel hanging on the door to wipe his sweat and claimed that, in a moment of impulse, he strangled Ms Zhang with it.
Boh also revealed that after he fled to his home town Melaka, he tried to kill himself by jumping into a river but backed out as it was too smelly. He also bought toilet cleaning solution, which he decided he would drink if he felt upset enough.
He also offered minute details of what transpired after he was nabbed by the Malaysian police on April 4, such as the meals he had while in custody.