Gardens by the Bay murder: Married man burnt lover's body over 3 days after strangling her

Khoo’s lover and victim Cui Yajie, seen here in an undated photo. (PHOTO: yajie.cui/Facebook)
Khoo’s lover and victim Cui Yajie, seen here in an undated photo. (PHOTO: yajie.cui/Facebook)

He was a married man who was allegedly involved in affairs with several women when one of them threatened to expose his web of lies to his boss.

Determined to silence the woman from China, Leslie Khoo Kwee Hock, 50, allegedly planned a brutal murder with the aim of leaving no traces behind, according to the prosecution. Only bits of her hair, fabric and bra hook were found by investigators when they turned up at Lim Chu Kang Lane 8, where Khoo had allegedly burnt Cui Yajie’s body over three days.

On Tuesday (12 March), Khoo claimed trial to one count of murder by causing bodily harm, which he knew was likely to kill Cui. He allegedly strangled the 31-year-old woman, who was then a senior engineer at MediaTek Singapore, in his car at Gardens by the Bay on the morning of 12 July 2016.

Opening its case on Tuesday, the prosecution, represented by Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Wen Hsien, called the case a “cold and callous murder by a charlatan”.

Cui and Khoo’s relationship, which began in 2015, was based on “a bed of lies” perpetuated by Khoo, who first claimed he was single before changing his tale to that of a divorced man, according to a witness. He was in fact married with a son.

He also lied to Cui and other women that he owned a laundry family business, and was a rich businessman. In reality, he was an employee, working as a retail outlet manager with Dryclyn Express.

But he wasn’t just contented with lying about his employment background.

Scammed women to invest in “business”

He asked Cui and the other women to invest in his “business” and in gold. For these alleged offences, Khoo faces four cheating charges and two criminal breach of trust charges – these six charges are not the subject of this trial.

Khoo has been an undischarged bankrupt since July 2010.

As their relationship progressed, Cui became increasingly unhappy that Khoo spent much time with his “ex-wife” and son, or at work.

Cui wanted to spend more time with him and also wanted her investment monies back. The couple had frequent heated quarrels, which were heard by Cui’s housemates and colleagues, according to the prosecution.

On 11 July 2016, around 12.44pm, Khoo discovered that Cui had sent his wife a Facebook message saying, “You hv (sic) been already divorced, so please leave Leslie Far … …away!!! Don’t cheat everybody & show off as a family any longer!!!”.

When Khoo’s wife confronted him and said he had been cheating on her, Khoo denied knowing the sender of the message.

Cui also demanded that Khoo return her the $20,000 she gave him for “gold investment”. By the time of her death, she had only received half the sum.

On 12 July 2016, things came to a head when Cui threatened to confront Khoo’s employer at his workplace.

“(Khoo) saw the house of cards he built crumbling. He knew that if (Cui) turned up at his workplace, his lies would be exposed and his career and his family would be jeopardised,” said DPP Tan.

The prosecution said that by then, Khoo had misappropriated some $24,000 from the laundry business, and cheated four other women of around $65,000 by asking them to invest in his “laundry business”.

How alleged murder was carried out

Khoo was determined to stop Cui from carrying out her threat. He intercepted her by picking her up in his car before she reached his workplace.

“Whilst in the car, he strangled her with great force until she stopped moving,” said DPP Tan. “After he strangled her, he coolly covered his tracks by disposing of her body and her personal effects.”

Khoo allegedly burnt her body with charcoal and kerosene at Lim Chu Kang Lane 8 over the next three days. At one point, he dragged the half-burnt body into a drain, so that it would continue to burn away from sight.

During police investigations, Khoo brought the police to the scene and admitted that he had killed her and burnt her body until “nothing left”. Only some hair, bits of fabric, and a brassiere hook belonging to Cui were left.

On Tuesday, a close friend of Cui, Wu Wenjuan, told the court how the lovers had met, according to what the victim had told her.

Wu testified that Cui had gone to a condominium in the hopes of patching up a relationship with an ex-boyfriend. Cui’s sobs attracted the attention of Khoo, who emerged from a nearby unit. Later, while Khoo was giving Cui a lift in his car, he asked her to be his girlfriend.

“(He) told her, you’re such a good girl, if (your ex-boyfriend) doesn’t know how to appreciate you, it’s his loss,” said Wu, who was speaking through a Mandarin interpreter.

Cui did not accede to the request that day but entered into a relationship with him within a month, against the advice of her friends, said Wu.

Cui found out shortly after that Khoo was married by doing an online search on his name. But Khoo claimed then that he had been divorced for three years.

Wu also testified that Cui had tried to get pregnant with Khoo’s baby to start a new family with him.

“(Cui) felt that if she could get a child with (Khoo), then he would spend lesser time with his own son and…would invest more time and energy in (their) new married life,” Wu testified.

In order to facilitate her planned pregnancy, Cui underwent a surgery in May 2016 to remove a minor growth in her uterus, according to Wu.

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