SINGAPORE: A Bangladeshi man on trial for murdering his Indonesian girlfriend of six years testified on Tuesday (Sep 22) that he loved her and had killed her after losing control of his temper over an argument about her new boyfriend.
He also said that he had treated the victim as his wife and accepted the fact that he would face the death penalty for killing her, and wanted to face the punishment "fast".
Ahmed Salim, 31, gave this testimony when he took the stand to open the defence's case in the murder trial on Tuesday morning.
He is accused of murdering 34-year-old Indonesian maid Nurhidayati Wartono Surata on the night of Dec 30, 2018, in the Golden Dragon Hotel in Geylang.
At the time of the incident, Ahmed was a painter who lived in a dormitory in Choa Chu Kang, while Ms Nurhidayati worked as a domestic helper in a Serangoon flat.
They met in May 2012, exchanged numbers and began dating. They would meet on alternate Sundays and have regular sexual relations. In November 2017, they agreed to marry in December 2018.
VICTIM CHEATED "MANY TIMES"
However, said Ahmed, Ms Nurhidayati began cheating on him.
The prosecution's case is that Ahmed had brought a drawstring to the hotel to strangle the victim if she refused to leave her new boyfriend, Mr Hanifa Mohammad Abu, and reconcile with Ahmed.
According to the prosecutors, Ahmed strangled the victim with a towel after they had sex, before tightening the drawstring around her neck and twisting her head from left to right "for good measure".
Ahmed was arrested the next morning after a hotel receptionist discovered Ms Nurhidayati's body.
He was given a psychiatric assessment at the Institute of Mental Health and diagnosed with adjustment disorder but the psychiatrist found no contributory link between his mental disorder and the crime.
The psychiatrist also found that the disorder did not impair Ahmed's self-control or his judgment of what was right or wrong.
On Tuesday, Ahmed explained the sequence of events on the day of the incident.
He said he had been angry at Ms Nurhidayati for a long time due to her infidelity.
"She has cheated me many times, but I used to go to her again and again, because I loved her," he said through an interpreter.
"I never intend to kill her. The last day, she said some very hurtful words which I could not take anymore and that is why I killed her. I never intend to kill her before."
Ahmed said that they had an argument at the hotel after Ms Nurhidayati confirmed that she had a new boyfriend.
"I first asked her what is my problem. 'Why do you have a new boyfriend. What's wrong with me?' She said that people don't really know why people do certain things," he said.
He then questioned Ms Nurhidayati on her broken promise to be faithful to him.
Ahmed also said that even though they were not married, he considered her to be his wife. He had given her rings on two occasions, and they had made a promise at a mosque to get married.
"She said that she was a woman, and why a woman changes her mind, she can't say," said Ahmed.
The victim then asked Ahmed to return to Bangladesh and get married there. He had been betrothed to a woman in Bangladesh, after asking his loved ones to help him find a wife upon discovering that the victim had cheated on him with another man.
"Then I understood that I could not change her mind with nice words and I needed to scare her, so that's why I put the towel around her neck," he said.
He said he told the victim to wait for him to return to Bangladesh in a month's time before having a relationship with Mr Hanifa.
The victim then purportedly replied: "If you want to kill me, kill me. With you, this is my last (meeting). I don't want to see you again and I will not leave Hanif."
SHE STARTED SAYING BAD THINGS TO ME: ACCUSED
"She started saying bad things to me, then I slapped her. When I slapped her, she got angrier," said Ahmed.
Ahmed initially declined to specify the "bad things" Ms Nurhidayati had purportedly said, saying he did not want to say vulgar things in front of "so many people" in court.
He said later that she had made a vulgar reference about him and his mother.
During the argument, Ahmed also said he placed a towel over Ms Nurhidayati's mouth and asked her why she was so interested in Mr Hanifa after he had "given (her) so much" during their six-year relationship.
"She said - 'yes I met Hanif. Hanif is not stupid like you. Hanif is better than you'," said Ahmed.
He claimed that Ms Nurhidayati also told him that she had had sexual relations with Mr Hanifa, who she said was better in bed than Ahmed.
She also purportedly told Ahmed that she would film her next encounter with Mr Hanifa and send it to him.
"She was talking and talking. I just tied the towel around her neck. I just could not control my anger anymore," said Ahmed, who cried at two points during his testimony.
He said he did not remember how much strength he used, but said Ms Nurhidayati stopped moving very quickly. Explaining the use of the drawstring, which he called a "rope", Ahmed said he tied it around the throat of Ms Nurhidayati until she became silent.
Defence lawyer Chooi Jing Yen questioned Ahmed on several statements he gave to the police, in which he admitted to the acts.
THE DEFENCE'S CASE
One of the defences Mr Chooi and his colleagues Eugene Thuraisingam and Hamzah Malik will be advancing is that of grave and sudden provocation, and that the victim had uttered harsh and demeaning words to Ahmed before the killing.
If successful, the murder charge could be reduced.
The prosecution has dismissed the claims as "an afterthought" conjured by Ahmed only months before the start of the trial.
Mr Chooi asked Ahmed why his account of the incident during the trial was different from what he had told the police.
"The (investigating officer) was a very kind person," answered Ahmed. "So in that room, under those circumstances, I didn't want to say all those bad words. I didn't want to repeat all those vulgar words in that room."
He said he had accepted the fact in the interview room with the police that he had killed someone and would be hanged.
"I also want to be hanged. She has died. And I also want to die. I don't want to live. Everything is finished for me," he said.
He said that when he first came to Singapore in 2010, he took a course where he was told that if he got into a fight in Singapore and someone died, he would be hanged.
"Did anyone ever tell you that if you kill someone in Singapore, there are possible defences or ways you will not be hanged?" asked Mr Chooi.
"No. Singapore is not like Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, if you do something, you can get away with it. In Singapore, if you do something, there is no reprieve from it. Nobody will pardon you," said Ahmed.
"BECAUSE OF A WOMAN, I DESTROYED MY LIFE"
He said that during one questioning session, an investigating officer that resembled the victim entered the room.
"When I saw her, I hated myself so much, that because of a woman, I destroyed my life, I destroyed that person. I came to Singapore and destroyed everything. I hated myself and hated everything," said Ahmed.
"When they were asking me questions, I wanted everything to be done very fast. So whatever they are asking, I answered them very fast. And yes, I am a murderer. I murdered somebody so I will face the punishment. I wanted everything to be done and over with fast," said Ahmed.
During his testimony, Ahmed also said that his life was "over" after killing Ms Nurhidayati.
"... Singapore law - since I killed somebody, they will hang me and my life will be over," he said. "I have killed somebody. My parents are very ashamed of the fact."
The trial resumes in the afternoon with Ahmed on the stand. If convicted of murder, he faces the death penalty.