SINGAPORE: A man accused of murdering his mistress and burning her body over three days was found guilty on Thursday (Jul 18) after an 11-day trial that began in March this year.
Leslie Khoo Kwee Hock, 51, was convicted in the High Court of strangling 31-year-old engineer Cui Yajie on Jul 12, 2016, in the front passenger seat of his car at Gardens by the Bay.
The Chinese national had been on the verge of exposing his lies about his marriage and job and had been chasing him to return S$10,000 she had lent him for “investment” in gold.
Khoo then burned the body in Lim Chu Kang over three days, returning to replenish the charcoal and kerosene.
Judicial Commissioner Audrey Lim said the prosecution had proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and that the defence had failed to show provocation, sudden fight or abnormality of mind.
She said Khoo “knew of what he was doing”, and rejected his explanation that he had disposed of the body as he wanted to give the victim a proper send-off.
“I also found that he had a motive for killing her to rid himself of the financial pressure and threat of exposure and ruin that she posed,” said the judge.
MARRIED MAN MET VICTIM WHEN SHE WAS CRYING OVER EX
Over the course of the trial, the court heard accounts of how Khoo, who worked at a laundry outlet, purportedly met Ms Cui when she was crying outside the home of her ex-boyfriend, who was Khoo’s neighbour.
According to witnesses, the pair began dating, but Khoo presented an image of himself as a divorcee who owned a laundry business.
Khoo had denied having an affair with the MediaTek senior engineer, saying that she was not among the mistresses he had as she was “not his type”.
READ: Accused lied to ex-lover that his wife was his sister
Instead, they were “just friends”, but he allowed her to tell her colleagues that he was her boyfriend as he “didn’t care” and knew that she wanted to “show off” to them.
Khoo testified during the opening of the defence’s case that he had woken up on the day of the murder to many missed calls from Ms Cui, who was angry and scolded him about always being so busy.
Although he was initially supposed to pick Ms Cui up and take her to his workplace to prove that his claim of a hectic work life was true, he drove her instead to a road at Gardens by the Bay.
They began quarrelling and struggled with each other, testified a sobbing Khoo. He claimed that he realised his hand was on Ms Cui’s neck only after she stopped moving.
He then drove aimlessly around Singapore with Ms Cui’s body in the front seat, then left her in the car at his condominium that night.
The next day, he decided to burn her body, claiming that he wanted either to bury or cremate it but had no strength to do the former.
He burnt Ms Cui’s body over a few nights at a deserted road along Lim Chu Kang Lane 8, before scattering the ashes into the sea. Her body was never recovered, and only some hair, a brassiere hook and bits of fabric matching the dress she had worn that day were found at the scene.
Khoo was arrested after police found that he was the last person who interacted with Ms Cui. He led officers first to Gardens by the Bay, before taking them to what was left of Ms Cui’s remains at Lim Chu Kang.
When he took them there, he smiled and told them that there was nothing left, according to the prosecution.
READ: Police drained part of Sungei Buloh reserve to search for victim’s remains
DEFENCE SAID KHOO WAS SUFFERING FROM DISORDER, PROVOKED
Khoo’s defence lawyers Mervyn Cheong, Andy Yeo and Chooi Jing Yen sought to prove that he had diminished responsibility, acted on grave and sudden provocation or that a sudden fight had broken out.
Mr Cheong said that if the prosecution’s theory that it was a premeditated murder committed in cold blood was true, then it was “a very clumsily executed one”.
He argued that Khoo’s actions resulted from grave and sudden provocation by Ms Cui. Khoo had told a police officer that Ms Cui had threatened to go to his workplace and create a scene to ruin his reputation.
Khoo had also testified that Ms Cui hit him with her hands during the quarrel in his car at Gardens by the Bay. Despite pushing her away, he claimed that she “attacked even more”.
READ: Gardens by the Bay murder: ‘She shout, I shout, I struggle … then she didn’t move’
His lawyers relied on a private psychiatrist’s assessment that Khoo had Intermittent Explosive Disorder, characterised by symptoms including violent outbursts, which substantially impaired his mental responsibility for his actions.
Dr Ken Ung had told the court how Khoo met the criteria for the diagnosis, with “long-standing” outbursts. His wife had taken a personal protection order against him for hitting her two years into their meeting.
Khoo had also kicked a wall at work, creating a hole, thrown a pen in anger while on the phone and shouted at his colleagues.
He added that Khoo said he had witnessed violence as a child, with his mother chasing his father around with a chopper, being threatened by his mother with the weapon himself, and receiving beatings from his parents.
On finding Khoo guilty, Judicial Commissioner Audrey Lim rejected his claims that he was not in a relationship with Ms Cui, and that she had abused him while they were in the car.
“I also disbelieve the accused that he had tried to open the car door to leave but was restrained by the deceased, who was smaller in size than him,” said the judge.
“I found that he knew he had grabbed her neck and consciously compressed it. I also found that he had done so with great force,” she added.
While the judge accepted that Khoo had developed a lifetime diagnosis of Intermittent Explosive Disorder around 2002, she said she was “not satisfied” that it had manifested at the time of his offence or impaired his mind.
For murder with the intention of causing such bodily injury as he knew to be likely to kill Ms Cui, Khoo could be sentenced to death, or life imprisonment. He cannot be caned as he is above 50 years old.
He will be sentenced at a later date.