SINGAPORE — A 45-year-old former property agent was on Thursday (12 November) sentenced to death for killing his heavily pregnant wife and their four-year-old daughter in 2017.
Teo Ghim Heng, who slept next to their bodies for a week and then set them on fire in his home before policemen knocked on his door, was found guilty on two counts of murder with intention by Justice Kannan Ramesh at the High Court.
The charges carry the mandatory death penalty.
Calling it a “tragic case”, the judge said lives were lost with “a family torn asunder," according to media reports.
A government psychiatrist found that Teo did not have any mental disorder at the time of the offences.
However, a defence psychiatrist said that Teo was suffering from major depressive disorder.
At trial, the court heard that Teo never fully forgave Choong for an affair she allegedly had a few years back, and strongly suspected that the child was not his biological daughter.
A third count of killing his unborn son was withdrawn by the prosecution after Teo’s conviction.
Strangled wife, then daughter
Teo married his wife Choong Pei Shan, who was two years younger than him, in 2009. It was both parties’ second marriage.
He had been a successful property agent with various companies for a decade. However, from 2015, he experienced a decline in income due to the weakening property market and marital problems.
Teo was an avid gambler who spent several hundred dollars a week on 4D while Choong was a homemaker. By the end of 2016, he had amassed over $120,000 in debts and his flat was listed for sale. Throughout this period, he kept his wife in the dark about his financial woes.
To get a consistent source of income, Teo started working as a sales coordinator with Carpentry Design Works in November 2016. He also worked part-time as a property agent.
On 18 January 2017, the couple quarrelled over money after Teo told Choong that he had $70,000 in debts and could not pay for their child’s kindergarten fees. Their daughter would have turned five that year. Choong was also six months’ pregnant with a male foetus.
Two days later, on the morning of 20 January, the couple had another argument about the school fees. Teo decided then not to take his daughter to kindergarten as the school had already reminded him about the overdue fees.
Angered by their quarrel, Teo took a towel from the bathroom, looped it around Choong’s neck and pulled both ends to strangle her for about 15 minutes. When he found Choong was still breathing faintly, he proceeded to strangle her with his bare hands instead.
Throughout the murder, their daughter was playing with her toys and watching television in the master bedroom.
Teo then went over to his child and asked her to sit between his legs with her back facing him. He then looped the same towel around her neck and strangled her for about 10 to 15 minutes till her body went limp. As she was still breathing, he then strangled her with his bare hands.
He later placed both bodies beside each other on the bed and turned on the air-conditioner.
Teo then slept next to the bodies for days, leaving the flat only to buy food and air fresheners. He also spent his time watching videos online, surfing the Internet and sleeping.
Cops found charred bodies
On 23 January, three of Teo’s colleagues knocked on the door of his flat but he did not respond.
He also lied to his family members and in-laws to explain his family’s absence from Chinese New Year reunion dinners and Chinese New Year visits.
On 27 January, the eve of Chinese New Year, Teo lied to both his and Choong’s family, saying that Choong had stomach pain and was going to visit the hospital. Pretending to be his wife, he used her mobile phone to message her family members as well as their child’s teachers.
The next day, Choong’s brother, Gordon, visited the flat but got no response. Teo later called his mother and mother-in-law to say that he had not visited them as Choong had kicked him out of the flat. He also told them that he would visit them the next day.
But Gordon became suspicious and, together with his brother-in-law Chris Lam Kwek Fah, went back to the Woodlands flat.
Again, there was no response. Gordon then forced open a small gap in a window and caught a whiff of a pungent odour resembling a gas leak. He then called the police.
Police officers who arrived at the scene smelled the same odour and called for firemen to break down the door. But just as they were about to do so, Teo opened the door.
When Gordon asked him where Choong was, Teo told him in a calm and soft voice that she was dead. Teo then tried to run towards the lift lobby but Gordon grabbed hold of his shirt.
At about the same time, firemen told policemen that they had found a charred body on the bed in the master bedroom, which was covered in soot. When a police officer asked Teo what happened, the latter replied in Chinese, “It was my fault.”
He also admitted to setting fire to the corpses of his wife and child. Another police officer then confirmed that there was a second body on the bed and Teo was placed under arrest for murder.
Teo intends to appeal against his convictions.
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