SINGAPORE: After suspecting that his girlfriend was lying to him about her job and thinking she had "cheated" him of the money he spent on her, a man stabbed his hostess girlfriend before biting off her earlobe.
China national Chen Jianhua, 32, was sentenced on Tuesday (Feb 23) to five-and-a-half years' jail after pleading guilty to three charges of attempted culpable homicide not amounting to murder, criminal intimidation and trespass to commit theft. A fourth charge of stealing the victim's items was taken into consideration.
The court heard that Chen was working as a cook while the victim, 38-year-old China national Ye Yuhuan, worked as a host at a "flower joint" or entertainment spot in Race Course Road.
They lived in the same hostel - each in their gender-assigned areas - and became friends on chat app WeChat in February 2019. Chen began buying Ms Ye gifts and helping her out financially. Although they were not physically intimate, they regarded each other as boyfriend and girlfriend, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Dora Tay.
Around July 2019, their relationship took a turn for the worse as Chen began suspecting that Ms Ye had been lying to him. He was suspicious of the nature of her job scope and tailed her when she refused to give him the exact location of her workplace.
On the night of Jul 7, 2019, Chen broke into Ms Ye's hostel room and stole her luggage bag. After forcing it open, he found a China train ticket and a Singapore disembarkation card with Ms Ye's particulars.
He was shocked to find out that the victim had lied about her age when she was really seven years older than him. He stole her phone and red packets containing S$800 as he felt that he had spent too much money on her and wanted to recoup some cash from her.
When returning Ms Ye's bag, one of her roommates saw Chen and complained to the landlord that he had entered the women's room.
Chen confronted Ms Ye over WeChat, accusing her of cheating him of his money and lying to him. He tabulated all the past expenditure he had made on her and demanded that she pay him back for it.
He threatened to hurt Ms Ye and said they would die together if she did not pay him his money back. In his messages to her, he said that he wanted her to repay the money in full even if she had to sell herself, or they would "die together".
After a few days of quarrelling, Chen bought a ceramic knife at a supermarket intending to stab Ms Ye if she insisted on reporting him for theft, as she had found out about the luggage bag.
After a dispute at their hostel, Ms Ye was evicted by the landlord and moved out to stay with a friend. She did not respond to Chen's multiple calls chasing her for payment.
On Jul 11, 2019, after Chen contacted Ms Ye's relatives in China to complain about her and said he would look for her at her workplace, Ms Ye filed a police report for theft and harassment.
When an investigation officer called Chen about the police report, he was enraged and called his family in China to say he had been cheated. His mother advised him not to do anything stupid, but he went to look for Ms Ye with the knife in his pocket.
HE FELT PREPARED TO KILL HER AND BEAR THE CONSEQUENCES
He felt he was prepared to kill her and die himself if he was later punished by the law, and was willing to bear the consequences of killing Ms Ye.
He spotted Ms Ye with a friend at a mobile phone shop in Race Course Road and confronted her about the police report. Ms Ye told him it was not possible to change what she had already told the police and tried to walk away.
While Ms Ye's friend was walking ahead on the pathway, Chen took out his knife, pulled Ms Ye to him and stabbed her in the front in a downward motion. At the same time, he bit off the victim's earlobe and spat out the torn flesh with an earring still embedded in it.
Because of his forceful stabs, the ceramic knife blade broke into two pieces. The victim struggled and began bleeding profusely before collapsing as Chen held her.
When he saw her bleeding, Chen felt he had been too impulsive and threw the knife into nearby bushes before calling the police. The attack had been witnessed by many people in the area, with several calling the police as well.
Paramedics and police officers responding to the scene found Ms Ye lying in a pool of blood. Chen turned himself in and showed the police where he had thrown the knife, and the police recovered the weapon along with the bitten-off earlobe before arresting Chen.
The victim was taken to hospital with a severed earlobe, a 6cm-long laceration at the back of her neck, a 15cm-long laceration in her back and multiple slashes on her hand. She was warded for seven days and given 14 days' hospitalisation leave, with her injuries assessed as unlikely to be life-threatening.
Her wounds are not expected to result in permanent disability, although some visible scars might remain. Her earlobe was reattached with surgery but she suffered cosmetic disfigurement.
SUFFERED FROM ADJUSTMENT DISORDER THAT CONTRIBUTED TO OFFENCE
Chen was assessed at the Institute of Mental Health and found to be suffering from adjustment disorder at the time of the offence, which contributed to the crime. He was suffering from an abnormality of mind that substantially impaired his mental responsibility for the acts.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Dora Tay asked for at least five years' jail, adding that the prosecution were not seeking caning due to the diagnosis of Chen's adjustment disorder.
She said the offence was premeditated, especially in the act of buying a knife beforehand, and the victim's injuries were serious.
Chen bit off the victim's earlobe entirely, showing the viciousness of the attack, said Ms Tay. The assault also took place in public and caused a lot of disquiet, as shown by the numerous phone calls the police received.
In mitigation, lawyer Chung Ting Fai, who had been assigned the case under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, agreed that five years' jail was sufficient.
He said his client soon realised he was too impulsive and called the police. He also helped the victim to stop the bleeding by pressing on her wounds with his hands before the paramedics arrived, and surrendered when the police arrived.
Justice See Kee Oon said significant force was used in the attack, which was committed in full public view and cannot be said to be an impulsive act.
"I do not accept that the attack was committed purely on the spur of the moment," said Justice See. "Crucially, the accused came to his senses quickly and relented."
He added that Chen's actions reflected "genuine remorse and assumption of responsibility". He considered that Chen had pleaded guilty and was a first-time offender, with the acts assessed as being "out of character" and with an impairment of his mental responsibility due to his disorder.
For attempted culpable homicide not amounting to murder, Chen could have been jailed for up to 15 years, fined, caned, or given any combination of these punishments.