Man jailed 13 years for killing ex-stewardess with whom he had casual relationship

Amir Hussain
Senior Reporter
Neo Chun Zheng and Soh Yuan Lin began a secret and non-exclusive relationship in September 2014. But Neo got jealous about Soh being intimate with others. (Photo: Getty Images)

They were colleagues who were in a non-exclusive relationship for a year before she ended it because he was too possessive and over-controlling.

Resentful and jealous that she was dating other men after they broke up, Neo Chun Zheng, 29, manipulated his former lover Soh Yuan Lin by telling her how much she had hurt him and harassed her with texts and calls.

But a quarrel outside Neo’s flat after he made the 23-year-old get him dinner resulted in Neo, then 26, stabbing Soh once in the neck with a folding knife in November 2015. She died in hospital three hours later.

On Monday (12 November), Neo was sentenced to 13 years’ jail, having earlier pleaded guilty to one count of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

Couple dated secretly and non-exclusively

Neo and Soh were working as customer relations executives at the Marina Bay Sands casino when they got acquainted around April 2014. She was previously a flight stewardess.

They began dating in September 2014 but Soh wanted the relationship to be secret and non-exclusive. Neo agreed to the arrangement.

However, Neo found out in March 2015 that Soh had been dating another colleague of theirs and that they had been intimate. Angered, he circulated compromising messages and photos of Soh and the man to their other colleagues.

Neo told his colleagues that he would circulate such photos of Soh to others if she were to cheat on him again. Neo would also constantly check on Soh’s whereabouts and forbade her from dating other people.

Soh later found out that Neo had been accessing her e-mails, phone messages and photos on her phone without her permission.

They quarrelled in September 2015 after Neo found out that she was texting a man she had met and kissed at a club.

Soh broke up with Neo at the end of the month because she felt he was too possessive and controlling. She told him that she wanted to remain single for a while.

But Neo became angry when he found out that Soh was using dating app Tinder to meet various men. She was also planning a holiday with friends to Bangkok and had asked a male friend along. He then told colleagues that he wanted Soh to die an “ugly death”. He also said to a friend that he thought of using acid to disfigure her.

He wanted to get even with her

Neo told Soh repeatedly that she needed to make things up to him by returning favours he had done for her in the past. Soh relented and would buy meals for him or go out with him.

On 25 November 2015, Neo asked Soh to watch a movie with him, but she told him she had already watched it with someone she met on Tinder.

Neo texted and called Soh multiple times that evening till the early morning the next day. He also asked her to buy dinner for him. Soh told him she was out with friends and ignored his subsequent messages and calls.

Later that evening, on 26 November 2015, Soh relented to Neo’s multiple messages and calls and said she would buy him dinner. She left her Bishan home and took a taxi to Neo’s flat in Boon Lay.

When Soh reached Neo’s flat, she hung the packet of food she got for him on the front gate and tried to leave. But Neo stopped her, saying he wanted to talk. The they began quarrelling outside the flat.

Neo’s 62-year-old mother heard the commotion and told him to let her leave. Soh also called her own mother and asked for a lift. Neo then snatched Soh’s phone away and hid it.

He took a folding knife from his bedroom, flipped the blade out from the knife, and hid it behind his back and went back outside. Neo also queried his mother if she knew how many men Soh had slept with.

When Soh saw the knife, she began shouting for help. When Neo’s mother saw the knife, she stood between Neo and Soh, and tried to wrestle the weapon away from her son.

But Neo pushed his mother to the floor, and then swung the knife towards Soh’s neck, stabbing her once. Soh collapsed to the floor and began bleeding from the neck and mouth.

Neo and his mother shouted for a neighbour to call the police while Neo threw the knife down the rubbish chute. He then went to get a towel to try and stop Soh’s bleeding. Neo was subsequently arrested when the police arrived.

Apology to victim’s family

Deputy Public Prosecutors Wong Kok Weng and Dwayne Lum asked for 15 years’ jail while defence lawyers R. Thrumurgan and Tan Jun Yin asked for 10 years’ imprisonment.

Said the prosecutors in their submissions, “There must be a deterrent message sent that no partner in a relationship, no matter how tumultuous the background, should be allowed to resort to emotional manipulation of their partners or inflict violence on them.

“At the time of the offence, the accused was clearly still angry over the deceased sleeping with other men…He was still nursing what he perceived as ‘hurt’ the deceased had dealt to him by her actions and he was looking to punish her for that.”

Neo also addressed the court before he was sentenced by Judicial Commissioner Pang Khang Chau. He said words could not express his “eternal regret” for the loss that he had caused.

Said Neo, “I have completely failed her. And never can I forgive myself for all that had happened. It was a toxic relationship but this would not take away my love for her. I miss Yuan Lin dearly and I will always love her with all my heart each and every day.”

Apologising to Soh’s family, who were not in court, Neo said, “I am truly very sorry for causing you such tremendous grief, sorrow and suffering…I can only hope that someday you may find it in your heart to forgive me.”

For culpable homicide, Neo could have been jailed for life and caned, or jailed for up to 20 years and fined and caned.

Related story:

Man who killed ex-girlfriend after quarrel was not of unsound mind: psychiatrist