Woodlands deaths: Verdict reserved as defence argues accused was depressed when he killed pregnant wife, daughter

Woodlands deaths: Verdict reserved as defence argues accused was depressed when he killed pregnant wife, daughter

Teo Ghim Heng Choong Pei Shan
Teo Ghim Heng (in red) is accused of killing his pregnant wife Choong Pei Shan and their four-year-old daughter. (Photos: TODAY/Wee Teck Hian)

SINGAPORE: The judge presiding over a double-murder trial where a man is accused of strangling his pregnant wife and four-year-old daughter reserved his verdict on Friday (Jul 3), after the defence argued for the charges to be lowered.

Teo Ghim Heng, 44, faces two counts of murder for killing his wife Choong Pei Shan, who was six months pregnant, before doing the same to their daughter in their flat in January 2017.

After this, he laid their bodies on a bed and slept beside them for seven days, trying to kill himself repeatedly in that time but failing. Eventually, he set fire to the corpses and they were found on the first day of Chinese New Year in 2017, when his brother-in-law came knocking at the door.

The prosecution and the defence agree on several facts - Teo admitted strangling his wife first with a towel, then with his bare hands, until she died. He did the same to his daughter and he intended for them to die.

READ: Woodlands double murder: 'Go find your Mummy first, Papa will come soon,' accused told daughter

His motive for the killings is also not disputed - Teo was previously a top property agent earning about S$20,000 a month before facing financial difficulties and struggling to pay the bills as an employee at a renovation company.

These money problems led to frequent quarrels with his wife, who humiliated him in front of their daughter, said the prosecution.

Teo found his wife in the master bedroom with another man in October 2014 and slashed him with a chopper as he fled for his life. After this, he started suspecting that his daughter was not his.

During the trial, the court heard that Teo quarrelled with his late wife on the morning of Jan 20, 2017, as she wanted their daughter to go to school but he told her that he could not pay her school fees.

Madam Choong screamed out loud and called Teo "a useless fool" who could not feed even one child, and asked their daughter to look at her father, "your father is so useless".

Teo testified that he hated this and had told his wife before that he hated being scolded in front of his daughter. He said his mind went blank and he strangled her with a towel from the toilet.

Teo was heavily in debt at this point, owing more than S$100,000, and testified that he thought "the best way is for my whole family to die". However, his suicide attempts did not succeed. He tried lying beside the corpses after setting on them on fire but "chickened out" because of the heat.

TEO LIED TO AUTHORITIES: PROSECUTION

The prosecution, led by Deputy Public Prosecutor Han Ming Kuang, urged the court to convict Teo of both charges of murder, arguing that he fed lies to the police and defence psychiatrist to support a defence of diminished responsibility.

They argued that his defence must fail as he was not suffering from Major Depressive Disorder at the time, and that even if he had been, it did not cause him to kill his wife and daughter.

For a defence of diminished responsibility to stand, the accused must be suffering from a specific abnormality of mind that substantially impaired his mental responsibility for causing the deaths.

READ: Woodlands double deaths: 'Your sister is dead,' accused told brother-in-law

The prosecution argued that Teo retained his mental capacity to perceive events at the time, as he was able to describe in great detail his wife's scoldings and how he strangled her and their daughter.

His conduct both before and after the killings also indicate that there was "nothing wrong" with his capacity to understand events, as he had a good work performance, fulfilled his domestic obligations, lied calculatedly to his creditors and made elaborate efforts to conceal the killings, said the prosecution.

"The accused’s claims that his mind went blank and that he did not know what he was doing when he strangled his wife and daughter are clearly just another two of his many lies," they added.

READ: 'They are my dearest': Man on trial for murdering pregnant wife and daughter tears up on the stand

The defence, led by lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam, urged the court to convict Teo of culpable homicide not amounting to murder instead.

He said Teo was very loving to his wife and daughter, and he must have had a reason to kill them.

"We say it's because he was suffering from Major Depressive Disorder, or there was grave and sudden provocation," said Mr Thuraisingam.

He argued that the defence had shown that Teo fulfilled the required criteria for Major Depressive Disorder at the time, and said that Teo had "killed his wife in a fit of violent rage".

When she asked their daughter to "look at how useless your father is", Teo reached "a palpable breaking point", said Mr Thuraisingam.

He had "clearly lost his mind and self-control", and there was "no evidence of premeditation", argued the lawyer.

Justice Kannan Ramesh reserved judgment and the verdict will be given at a later date.

If found guilty of murder, Teo could be sentenced to death.

A third charge of causing the death of the unborn foetus was stood down or set aside for the time being.

Source: CNA/ll(ac)

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