SINGAPORE: Six days after she told her lover she would “leave sooner or later", Ms Nguyen Thi Thu Trang was likely bludgeoned to death by a dumbbell.
Her bloodied body was found in minibus driver Ang Poh Hwa’s flat at Block 16, Marsiling Lane on May 18 this year.
A forensic pathologist’s report detailed Ms Nguyen’s injuries from blunt force trauma to the head: Her skull had literally been smashed in.
The 31-year-old divorcee and mother of one had suffered a wound “tearing” through the scalp, shattering her skull.
A bone-deep laceration on her cheek, bruises on her eyelids, and an 11cm-long wound extending from her forehead to the top of her head were also documented.
Forensic pathologist Dr George Paul concluded Ms Nguyen probably died about two to three days before he conducted an autopsy on May 19, the day after her body was found.
However, when – and how – she was murdered will remain a mystery, since the person who killed her then killed himself.
“The evidence points to Mr Ang assaulting Ms Nguyen with the dumbbell … causing traumatic brain injury, leading to her death,” State Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam said on Monday (Nov 6).
“The evidence also points to Mr Ang … (then) causing himself to fall from height in a deliberate act of suicide,” the coroner added.
The two seemed to be in a relationship, although Ms Nguyen was engaged to an Italian man and planning to move to Italy.
Text messages from both their phones revealed an “affectionate relationship” and messages “peppered with endearments", the coroner said.
Mr Ang knew this, as evidenced by a screenshot found on his mobile phone of Ms Nguyen’s Facebook post dated December 2016 announcing she was engaged.
Mr Ang, 58, was pronounced dead at the foot of Block 17, Marsiling Lane at 1.53am on May 18.
Police officers at the scene searched the man’s body, and found a bunch of keys and his NRIC in his pocket. They also noticed multiple cuts on both wrists.
Two policemen went to Mr Ang’s flat on the fifth floor. The main gate was locked with a padlock, but the officers realised the front door was unlocked.
They pushed open the door to find the flat covered in blood.
The policemen used the bunch of keys found on Mr Ang’s body to let themselves into the flat, where they found Ms Nguyen’s naked, bloodied body lying on a mattress in the bedroom.
Investigators found a handwritten note under the coffee table. In English, Mr Ang had written “Vicky Sorry Sorry”.
Ms Nguyen, a Vietnamese who was working in Singapore as a bartender at Ce La Vi, was also known as Vicky.
The note also contained a message he penned in Chinese addressed to his family.
“I have let mother … younger brother, daughter and son down. Pay you all next life. Sorry.”
Investigators found a knife near the suicide note, although they believed a dumbbell – found next to a pool of blood in the living room – was the murder weapon.
It tested positive for blood found at the scene; Dr Paul also stated Ms Nguyen’s injuries were the result of a large, heavy object.
Investigators also found a penknife lying in a pool of blood which Mr Ang used to slit his wrists. According to Dr Paul, Mr Ang had inflicted these wounds on himself, but did not die from them.
He died of injuries consistent with a fall from height, Dr Paul stated.
Ruling the deaths a murder-suicide, State Coroner Ponnampalam said there was no basis to suspect foul play in Mr Ang’s death, or any third-party involvement in Ms Nguyen’s.
“Evidently, Ms Nguyen was withdrawing from the relationship with Mr Ang,” Coroner Ponnampalam said, citing a text message from Ms Nguyen to Mr Ang six days before her death, which read: “Dont do silly thing. Im gonna leave sooner or later. U have ur life n family. U must take care of urself (sic).”
“In the circumstances, I find that Mr Ang had perpetrated the unlawful killing of Ms Nguyen before causing his own fall from height in a deliberate act of suicide,” the coroner said.
Mr Ang worked for a logistics firm which had a contract with Ce La Vi to transport employees home after their shifts. Ms Nguyen’s colleagues noticed she was close to the driver, although Ms Nguyen insisted they were just friends.
According to Mr Ang’s neighbour, the divorcee had been living alone for about eight years, although he would sometimes observe a young lady believed to be Vietnamese visiting Mr Ang and staying overnight.