A Singaporean man accused of strangling his 31-year-old Chinese girlfriend to death and burning her body has claimed he was not in control of his actions at the time and did not intend to murder her.
Leslie Khoo Kwee Hock is on trial at Singapore’s High Court after pleading not guilty to the murder of Cui Yajie, an engineer from Tianjin, on July 12, 2016.
But government prosecutors argue that the 50-year-old laundry manager murdered Cui to silence her after she threatened to expose him for cheating money out of her and several other women.
On Wednesday, the second day of the trial, the government psychiatrist who had interviewed Khoo after his arrest, Dr Kenneth Koh, said he could not establish the extent of the pair’s relationship.
But based on his assessment, he said he did not think that Khoo had “intermittent explosive disorder” – which is characterised by sudden outbursts of unwarranted anger and violence – as had been stated in a previous report by a private psychiatrist.
Koh said Khoo did not satisfy the diagnostic criteria, according to a report in The Straits Times, as he would flare up at his wife and workers to achieve specific outcomes but did not express the same anger to his superiors.
The grisly details of the case have captured the public’s attention in Singapore since they first emerged on Tuesday when the trial began. Khoo was arrested on July 20, 2016 and charged one day later under Section 302 (1) of Singapore’s Penal Code, Chapter 224, which carries the death penalty.
He is accused of driving to a secluded spot and strangling Cui in the front passenger seat of his car. Local media reported Khoo as saying on Tuesday that he waited for Cui to stop moving before lowering the seat and covering her body with laundry bags.
He admitted buying charcoal and kerosene to burn the body and returning to it over the next few days to add fuel to the fire. The body was never recovered, and only a few pieces of charred fabric and a brassiere hook were found.
Defence lawyer Mervyn Cheong said Khoo does not dispute killing Cui and contends that his client was provoked into a “sudden fight” with his lover, so should not be found guilty of murder on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
Singapore’s High Court heard that Khoo, who is married and has a son, smiled and said there was “nothing left” after leading the police to Lim Chu Kang Lane 8 where the body was burned, according to a report in The Straits Times.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Wen Hisen portrayed Khoo as a serial con artist who had deceived Cui, telling her that he was single and the owner of a family laundry business. “He had every intention of silencing her,” Tan said.
In addition to the S$20,000 (US$14,750) Khoo allegedly stole from Cui, prosecutors say he also defrauded four other women of S$65,000 and misappropriated S$24,000 from his employer, The Straits Times reported.
Cui’s parents told Chinese-language newspaper Lianhe Wanbao in July 2016 that they were unaware of her relationship with Khoo and had a “hands-off approach” to their daughter’s love life.
The trial continues this week. A Singapore-based lawyer whose firm has defended murder suspects said the case was of public interest because Cui’s body was never recovered.
“In murder trials where the body is not recovered, there may be issues with evidence and the cause of death may be difficult to ascertain. In such cases, the prosecution may have to rely on circumstantial evidence to prove its case.”