SINGAPORE — A man who was convicted of killed his former girlfriend during a heated quarrel had his appeal against his 13-year jail sentence dismissed by the Court of Appeal on Monday (15 July).
A panel of three judges found that 29-year-old Neo Chun Zheng had not been suffering from morbid jealousy. The psychiatric condition is characterised by a patient suffering from one or more occasions of delusion that last for at least a month.
“The evidence is equivocal in demonstrating that (Neo) was indeed suffering from the condition at the time of the offence, and even if he did suffer from morbid jealousy, the evidence does not bear out a substantial contributory link between the condition and the offence,” said Judges of Appeal Andrew Phang, Tay Yong Kwang and Justice Woo Bih Li.
Appealing for a sentence of not more than 10 years for their client, lawyers Tan Jun Yin and Thrumurgan Ramapiram sought to argue that the High Court judge had erred in finding that the defence had failed to prove that Neo had suffered from morbid jealousy.
Neo had met his former lover Soh Yuan Lin in April 2014 while both were working as customer relations executives at the Marina Bay Sands casino. Soh was previously a flight stewardess.
The two began dating in September 2014 but their relationship was fraught with arguments. Soh wanted the relationship to be secret and non-exclusive. Even though Neo agreed with the arrangement, he often lashed out in jealousy when Soh saw other men. Soh ended the relationship in September 2015.
Things came to a head on 26 November that year when Neo stabbed Soh in the neck outside his flat.
Neo pleaded guilty to one count of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and a newton hearing was convened to determined whether Neo was suffering from morbid jealousy. The judge then found that Neo had not been under the psychiatric condition and sentenced him to 13 years on 12 November last year.
However, Tan said that the judge’s finding that there was one occasion of delusion was inconsistent with his ruling that Neo had not suffered from morbid jealousy.
Neo had reasoned to a psychiatrist that blood stains found on Soh’s bedsheets proved that she had been intimate with another man, showing that he had morbid jealousy for nearly two years, said Tan.
While Neo was convinced that Soh had sex with another man on her bed, he knew that Soh was not a virgin and that she was having her period.
What followed were incidents of obsessive behaviour shown by Neo who started checking the dustbins in Soh’s room for tissues with secretions of semen, and stalked her on social media. He also called her incessantly on the phone.
Neo logged into Soh’s Facebook account and blocked her male friends on Facebook, and even checked her Uber receipts to track her whereabouts.
To prevent her from going overseas with a group of friends, which included one man, Neo went to Soh’s house while she was at work and threw her passport away.
However, Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang questioned if Neo’s reaction could be considered a psychiatric condition.
“One must be careful to see if jealousy can be morbid jealousy, it’s a very slippery slope.”
The judge added that the jealousy manifested from the incidents must be “emblematic and symptomatic” of the medical condition, or risk being “equivocal at best”.
Neo could have been fishing for information when he lashed out at Soh over the incidents, Judge Phang suggested. This implied that Neo was quite rational then rather than delusional, he added.
In response, Tan said that Neo’s actions to find out more were not at odds with his delusional thinking.
Judge Phang also pointed out that on the day Soh was stabbed, Neo’s actions appeared to result from provocation, rather than a situation that was slowly boiling over.
Tan replied that her client had been responding to Soh’s actions at the time but his disorder was still present.
Responding to Tan’s submissions, Deputy Public Prosecutor Wong Kok Weng argued that Neo’s association of the blood stains with sex was not delusional. Instead, it was in line with Neo’s pattern of challenging Soh and getting her to admit that she was having an “affair”.
Even if Neo was delusional, Neo’s actions on the day of the killing were on the spur of the moment and nothing to do with his disorder, added the prosecution.