SINGAPORE — He was her former colleague who spent time with her and saw her as his girlfriend, although she did not reciprocate his feelings and was never physically intimate with him.
But when he heard that she had been intimate with her ex-boyfriend, cafeteria worker Boh Soon Ho strangled nurse Zhang Huaxiang with a towel till she died, then tried unsuccessfully to have sex with her corpse.
He later attempted to stuff her body into a suitcase, planning to dump it in some bushes, but gave up once rigor mortis set in.
These details surrounding Zhang’s death were presented by the prosecution at the High Court during the first day of Boh’s murder trial on Wednesday (18 September).
Boh, a 51-year-old permanent resident from Malaysia, faces the death penalty or life imprisonment if convicted of his charge of causing sufficient bodily injury to Zhang such that it was likely to cause her death.
Most of the prosecution’s claims concerning the alleged murder are undisputed by Boh. His lawyers are likely to argue that he had not intended to cause her death or that he had diminished responsibility at the time.
Besides the capital charge, Boh also faces one count each of attempted sex with a corpse and dishonest misappropriation of property from a dead person. The maximum penalty for these crimes are up to five years’ jail and a fine, and up to three years’ jail and a fine, respectively.
He bought her gifts
Boh and Zhang got to know each other in 2011 or 2012 when they worked as servers at the staff cafeteria in Marina Bay Sands Resort.
Zhang worked there part-time while studying for her nursing course at Nanyang Polytechnic. She had reportedly received a scholarship to study nursing in Singapore in 2009, and joined the National University Hospital in 2013 after she graduated.
Over time, the two went shopping and for meals together. He also bought her gifts, and regarded her as his girlfriend although they were never physically intimate.
According to the prosecution, Zhang did not reciprocate Boh’s feelings. In early March 2016, he felt that she was distancing herself from him and grew suspicious of her behaviour.
He went to the HDB block opposite her flat to spy on her on four to five occasions, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Wong Kok Weng.
On 18 March, he saw her leaving her block with a man in a taxi. Boh felt jealous and unhappy, as he believed that she was “cheating” on him.
Forced himself on victim
Boh arranged to have a steamboat lunch with Zhang at his rented flat in Circuit Road on 21 March 2016.
She arrived at about 1pm and they ate and chatted. Afterwards, Boh went to wash the dishes while Zhang watched the television in the living room.
Later, Boh went to his bedroom and saw Zhang combing her hair in front of the mirror. He wanted to have sex with her, but she rejected his advances.
According to the prosecution, Boh hugged Zhang from behind and, pushed her to his bed and climbed on top of her. He tried to kiss her but she warned him that she would bite his tongue off. She also threatened to shout for help.
When he tried to kiss her again, she screamed, prompting him to use his hand to cover her mouth. They then sat on the edge of the bed in silence.
About 10 minutes later, Boh forced himself onto Zhang again, the prosecution said. He put his hands under her clothes and caressed her breasts, prompting her to leave the room to get away from him.
Still wanting to have sex, Boh wrapped his arm around Zhang’s neck and dragged her back into the bedroom and onto the bed.
He let go of her when she said she was out of breath. He then saw her trembling and knew that she was afraid.
Strangled victim with towel
Boh then asked Zhang about the man he had seen her with on 18 March. She said she had met him at the casino and they had gone out on four to five occasions.
When Boh asked Zhang about her ex-boyfriend in China, she said she it was normal for her to be intimate with the latter.
Angered by what he heard, Boh took a bath towel and allegedly strangled her from behind for about two minutes till she died. He then placed her body on his bed.
Shortly after, Boh undressed himself and then removed Zhang’s clothes. He took six to seven photos of her naked body and licked her private parts. He then tried to have sex with her, but failed to achieve an erection.
Boh then made preparations to flee Singapore, and pocketed Zhang’s money and mobile phone.
Tried to put body in suitcase
Later that day, Boh sent a text message to his supervisor saying he was returning to Malaysia for a month and would be leaving the next day.
He also called his landlord to say he was going to Malaysia to do business and would be vacating the bedroom. The landlord said he would return the next day, on 22 March.
Boh then left the flat and returned after purchasing a piece of luggage. He attempted to put Zhang’s body into his old suitcase, planning to discard it in the undergrowth somewhere in the Sembawang area.
When he tried to bend Zhang’s body, he found that it had stiffened due to rigor mortis. He thought about chopping it up, but didn’t do so. Instead, he spent the night sleeping next to the corpse in the bedroom.
The next morning, Boh dressed Zhang, covered her with a blanket, and told her to rest in peace. He then went to meet a friend for breakfast, leaving the air conditioner in his bedroom switched on to prevent her body from decomposing. He also left the bedroom lights on.
Later, the friend came by the flat to collect Boh’s portable massage chair. He had lied that he was leaving as he did not feel like working in Singapore anymore. After the friend left, Boh went to his company at Far East Shopping Centre to collect his salary.
He then went home to repack his belongings. Boh kissed Zhang on the forehead and left the flat at about 11.15am with the air conditioner and lights in his bedroom still turned on.
Boh took a taxi to Woodlands Checkpoint and made his way to his sister’s home in Malacca via another taxi. He told his sister that he had killed someone in Singapore and that Zhang’s body was still in his bedroom.
Landlord found body
Boh’s landlord came by the flat at about 7.30pm that day. He observed a figure lying in Boh’s bed and assumed that it was Zhang sleeping.
The landlord then went out for dinner and returned at about 8.20pm. When he didn’t get a response after calling out to Zhang, he pulled away the blanket to find her darkened face.
He immediately called the police. Paramedics pronounced her dead at the scene.
The next day, Boh called the landlord from a Malaysian number and told him that he had strangled Zhang. In the presence of a police investigator, the landlord later contacted Boh once more and their conversation was recorded.
Over the next two weeks, the landlord communicated with Boh via text messages and kept the police in the loop.
Boh was arrested by Malaysian police at about 8pm on 4 April while he was having dinner at a restaurant. He was brought back to Singapore the next day.
A government psychiatrist found that Boh does not have any mental disorder or illness and was not of unsound mind at the time of the alleged offence.
In six statements to the police between 5 and 13 April, Boh admitted to strangling Zhang for about two minutes with a towel and that he “was furious with (her) and wanted to kill her”.
In the prosecution’s opening address, DPP Wong said Boh’s “conduct in sexually violating (Zhang) – which he could not do when she was alive as she was resisting him – and the methodological steps he took to flee Singapore after the killing, make it clear that (Boh’s) mental capacity was not diminished in any way and (he) was clearly aware of and appreciated what he was doing”.
“This is a case of a murder driven by jealousy, rage and unrequited desire,” said the prosecutor.
Boh is defended by lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam.
The trial before Justice Pang Khang Chau continues on Thursday.
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