Gardens by the Bay murder: Police drained part of Sungei Buloh reserve to search for victim's remains

Gardens by the Bay murder: Police drained part of Sungei Buloh reserve to search for victim's remains

Leslie Khoo and Cui Yajie
Leslie Khoo is accused of murdering Ms Cui Yajie on Jul 12, 2016. (Photos: Facebook/Leslie Khoo, Yajie Cui)

SINGAPORE: Police had to drain part of the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in order to search for the remains of the Gardens by the Bay murder victim as her body had been placed in a drain that led to it, it was revealed on Friday (Mar 15). 

Giving his testimony on the fourth day of the trial, a police officer in charge of the case said in the High Court that the body of 31-year-old Cui Yajie had been placed in a small drain under a metal canopy in Lim Chu Kang, whose contents went into a monsoon drain leading to the reserve. 

After draining an area in the reserve, authorities searched for remains of the victim, retrieving several items. 

The suspect, 50-year-old Leslie Khoo Kwee Hock, had himself led police to Lim Chu Kang Lane 8, telling them that “there was nothing left” of Ms Cui, whom he called Meow Meow. 

READ: Man claims trial to killing lover, dumping burnt body in Lim Chu Kang

READ: Gardens by the Bay murder - Man accused of killing lover denies affair with victim

He had allegedly used charcoal and kerosene to burn Ms Cui’s body under the canopy, returning over a few days to check on the fire.

Asked to describe the scene, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Tan Lian Heng said: “It (was) a small lane branching out from the main Lim Chu Kang road. It was secluded, a very small lane and right at the end (there was) no through-road, (it was) a dead-end road.”

He explained that there were no vehicles coming into the small lane that day and no human traffic either. “There’s no reason anybody would have any business there in a small lane,” he said.

He said there was no smell of burning, but he could smell accelerants under a canopy.

"NO PROGRESS" UNTIL KHOO TALKED TO WIFE: POLICE

Police were alerted to the scene at Lim Chu Kang only after Khoo was allowed to talk to his wife in person. 

According to Superintendent Roy Lim, head of the bomb and explosive branch at the Criminal Investigation Department, the police “were not making any progress” in interviews with Khoo after he was arrested on Jul 20, 2016.

He initially said that he had pushed Ms Cui during an argument near Gardens by the Bay, and that she fell down and hit her head on the cement. However, when police visited the scene, they could not find anything of note.

Supt Lim also found Khoo to be "an arrogant man" due to the suspect's evasive nature.

READ: Gardens by the Bay murder - Accused lied to ex-lover that his wife was his sister

But things changed when Khoo requested to meet his wife

"He told me, 'I want to speak to my wife and be the one to let her know what's happening'," said Supt Lim, who granted Khoo his request to speak to his wife in person. 

Khoo also spoke to his son over the phone, asking him to behave himself and to study hard. 

“He told his wife that something happened, (that) he did something (and was) sorry about it,” said Supt Lim. “He asked the wife to take care ... and to take care of the son.”

After the meeting, Khoo told Supt Lim “something happened” and that he would bring Supt Lim to Lim Chu Kang.

“I asked him what he was going to find there and he said ‘nothing left’. I said if nothing left, why are you bringing me there?” said Supt Lim. “I clarified with him why that location and that’s when he told me ‘finished’.”

“I said, 'what do you mean finished?'. Do you mean you have discarded the body, chopped up the body, buried the body, burnt the body?” continued Supt Lim.

Khoo repeated: “Finished. I can bring you (there).”

FINDING A DRESS THAT MATCHED WHAT THE VICTIM LAST WORE

Police identified, as part of investigations, that Ms Cui had last been seen wearing a floral dress, based on footage from a lift at an HDB block and a train station she was at. 

They determined that she was wearing the "Fiana" dress from online store Love, Bonito, but it was sold out. 

"We located dresses that (Love, Bonito) previously sold and obtained a dress from (one) owner," said DSP Tan. The dress was submitted to a forensic laboratory at the Health Sciences Authority.

A forensic scientist found that pieces of partially burnt fabric taken from the scene were "very likely" or "could have been" part of a dress similar to the Fiana dress.

AFTER STRANGLING LOVER, KHOO HAD SAT IN HIS CAR, SCARED

DSP Tan also relayed to the court what Khoo had told him on the day they visited the scene. 

On the morning of the murder, Khoo had allegedly strangled his lover until she stopped moving. He then grew frightened and tried to wake her up, pumping her around her chest, but she did not respond, said DSP Tan. 

“He told me that Meow Meow said she would go to Westin (Hotel) and create a scene and make everyone know how bad a man he was, to ruin his reputation,” said DSP Tan.

According to him, Ms Cui kept shouting at Khoo and the quarrel continued while they were in the car, with Khoo in the driver’s seat and Ms Cui in the front passenger seat.

“Meow Meow started to use something to hit him but he (did) not know what it was and he (did) not feel the pain,” said DSP Tan. 

Khoo was so "agitated and angry" that he gritted his teeth, and "used one hand to strangle her, then two hands", DSP Tan added. 

When Ms Cui stopped moving, Khoo became frightened and tried to shake her to wake her up, but she did not respond, DSP Tan testified. Khoo tried pumping the area around her heart, but she still would not wake up.

“He was scared and waited in the car for some time, thinking how to settle this problem,” said DSP Tan.

The prosecution closed its case on Friday. The defence will open its case on Tuesday, with the accused taking the stand.

Source: CNA/ll(hs)

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