Gardens by the Bay murder: Man found guilty of killing mistress, burning her body to ash

PHOTOS: Facebook pages of Leslie Khoo (left), Cui Yajie (right)
PHOTOS: Facebook pages of Leslie Khoo (left), Cui Yajie (right)

SINGAPORE — The married man who strangled his mistress to death during a heated quarrel and burnt her body to ash over three days was found guilty of murder in the High Court on Thursday (18 July).

Judicial Commissioner (JC) Audrey Lim said in her verdict that she was satisfied the prosecution had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Leslie Khoo Kwee Hock, 51, had the intention for murdering his mistress Cui Yajie, a 31-year-old engineer from Tianjin, China.

“(Khoo) knew that compression of neck was likely to cause (Cui’s) death and that it was very dangerous, and he intended to grab and compress her neck and he knew what he was doing prior to her becoming motionless,” she said.

Throughout 11 days of trial, Khoo had maintained that his actions were provoked by Cui.

Khoo, a retail outlet manager at a laundry business, claimed that there was a sudden fight in the heat of passion and submitted a psychiatrist report to show that he had a disorder known as intermittent explosive disorder (IED).

A person who has IED would behave in an impulsive and violent manner or display anger through verbal outbursts in which the reaction is very disproportionate for a given situation.

Rejection of defence’s 3 arguments

JC Lim, however, rejected the defence's three arguments of sudden and grave provocation, of diminished responsibility due to his IED, and of sudden fight.

Of the defence’s argument of sudden and grave provocation, she said, “(Khoo) had not lost his control to the extent that he was no longer in control of his mind when reached out to strangle her.

“There was no fight, and he acted in cruel and unusual manner when he attacked her.”

While JC Lim noted that Khoo had developed a "lifetime diagnosis of IED around 2002", she said that she was "not satisfied that IED manifested at time of offence and it did not substantially impair his mental ability for the act”.

The judge also said that she found that Khoo had a motive to rid himself of financial pressure, as well as the threat that Cui presented.

She also rejected that Cui had physically abused Khoo or restrained him from leaving the car on the day of the murder.

Cheated victim for investment

Khoo had met Cui by chance in 2015 when the latter visited his condominium in an attempt to fix her relationship with an ex-boyfriend who stayed there. Her sobs attracted the attention of Khoo, who flattered her and gave her a lift in his car.

The pair began dating a month later despite Khoo being married with a son. Cui had believed Khoo was divorced.

At the time, Khoo was involved with several other women, cheating four of them to invest in his “business” and gold. He portrayed himself as the owner of Dryclyn Express when he was actually an employee.

Cui was one of the women who gave Khoo money for his “gold investment”. She demanded for the return of the money but only received half of it by the time she died.

During the trial, a friend of Cui testified that the victim had tried to get pregnant with Khoo’s baby to start a new family with him. This was despite Cui having undergone a surgery in May 2016 to remove a growth in her uterus. However, Khoo did not leave his wife.

Murdered and burnt

On 12 July 2016, Cui threatened to confront Khoo’s employer at his workplace. He intercepted her before she could reach his office and drove her to Gardens by the Bay.

Khoo said that Cui began hitting him. He gave different versions of his response in court, claiming to have held Cui’s neck to push her away in one version, and being unaware that his hand was on her neck until she became motionless in another. He also claimed that he had tried to leave the car during the fight but Cui had pulled him back.

When asked about the contradictions, Khoo alleged that his memory of the incident was hazy.

After Cui died, Khoo left her body overnight in his car at his condominium’s carpark.

The next day, Khoo brought the body to Lim Chu Kang Lane 8 where he burnt it with charcoal and kerosene over the next three days. The only things remaining of Cui were some hair, bits of fabric, and a brassiere hook. Khoo then scattered Cui’s ashes at sea.

It emerged during his trial that Khoo had tried to proposition and kiss a masseuse two days after killing Cui. He was also in a relationship with a hairdresser.

Khoo’s sentencing has been adjourned to a later date. He faces the death penalty, or life imprisonment with possible caning.

He also faces four cheating charges and two criminal breach of trust charges, which have yet to be dealt with.

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