SINGAPORE: The mother of Teo Ghim Heng, who is accused of murdering his pregnant wife and child, took the stand for the prosecution on Wednesday (Jul 3) and told the court that her son loved his wife and daughter.
"He loves his wife and his child," said Madam Cheong Goik Keow. In particular, the four-year-old girl, who cannot be named as she is a minor, was "adored by everyone" in the family.
"She was very cute and outgoing. She would always perform for my family when she came over for dinner on Sundays and was especially close to my daughter," said Mdm Cheong, who has three children.
Mdm Cheong was testifying in the trial against her son, 43-year-old Teo, who is also known as Eric.
He is contesting two murder charges of strangling his 39-year-old wife Choong Pei Shan with a towel on Jan 20, 2017, following a dispute over finances, and of killing his daughter in the same manner.
Speaking through a Teochew interpreter, his elderly mother told the court that she had not been aware of any marital unhappiness between her son and daughter-in-law.
She also did not know if her son had any financial difficulties. In fact, Teo had incurred debts of about S$70,000, and was struggling to pay his daughter's monthly school fees of S$850.
Teo had switched from his long-time trade as a property agent in October 2016, taking up a job as a sales coordinator at renovation firm Carpentry Design Works, drawing S$1,500 in basic pay.
Mdm Cheong told the court that her son was soft-spoken and did not usually tell her about what was troubling him, except that he told her that his wife and daughter were unwell and he had to spend money because of this.
When he fell ill himself, he would not seek medical treatment, said the elderly woman.
She last saw her son with his family on Jan 8, 2017, 12 days before he allegedly murdered his wife and daughter in his Woodlands flat.
"When they came over for dinner, Eric and Pei Shan appeared loving and I did not notice anything amiss between them," she said in a statement read to the court.
Even though she could not get through to her son when she tried calling him a few days before Chinese New Year, she did not think much of this as there were times that he failed to answer his phone.
However, when the extended family gathered for reunion dinner at a coffee shop in Ang Mo Kio on Jan 27, 2017, the eve of Chinese New Year, Teo's family did not turn up.
Mdm Cheong tried calling him and he later told her that his wife was having severe stomachaches and he might be taking her to KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) for a check-up.
"He told me he had to take care of Pei Shan and (their daughter), and would not be able to visit me on the first day of Chinese New Year," said Mdm Cheong. "He promised me that he would come visit me in the afternoon of the second day of Chinese New Year."
Mdm Cheong's account was corroborated by her younger son, Mr Teo Nam Thia, who also took the stand.
Mr Teo told the court that when his brother did not turn up for the reunion dinner, he tried calling him, but his brother said he could not talk to him and ended the conversation.
He thought the accused was "engaged in some urgent matter", and he did not attempt to contact his brother after his mother said that Teo was at KKH with his family.
Teo had borrowed money from his brother only on one occasion in 2016 and did not speak of any financial difficulties.
The trial continues on Thursday morning with a psychiatrist expected to take the stand for the prosecution.