SINGAPORE: Angry and jealous over his girlfriend's new relationship, a Bangladeshi worker allegedly strangled her in a hotel in which they regularly met.
The victim, Indonesian maid Nurhidayati Wartono Surata, was found motionless on a hotel bed in Geylang by a receptionist on the night of Dec 30, 2018.
Ahmed Salim, 31, went to trial on Tuesday (Sep 15) for one charge of murder. His lawyers claim that the last words the victim uttered to Ahmed were that the other man was "better than you in bed and better financially".
They claim also that Ahmed was suffering from an adjustment disorder at the time, with his girlfriend's repeated infidelity and "harsh and humiliating words" a stressor.
The court heard that Ahmed was a painter living in a dormitory in Choa Chu Kang, while the 34-year-old Ms Nurhidayati worked as a domestic helper in a Serangoon flat.
They met in May 2012 and exchanged phone numbers and began dating, going out on alternate Sundays and having regular sexual relations. In November 2017, they agreed to marry in December 2018.
THE VICTIM HAD AFFAIRS
However, around mid-2018, Ms Nurhidayati had an affair with a Bangladeshi plumber working in Singapore, meeting once a month on Sundays.
Ahmed found out about the relationship and asked his friend and mother in Bangladesh to help him look for a wife. His mother arranged for him to marry another woman in Bangladesh in February 2019.
However, Ahmed and Ms Nurhidayati reconciled and continued dating despite the woman knowing about Ahmed's pending arranged marriage.
They began quarrelling over Ms Nurhidayati's relationship with the plumber, and on one occasion, Ahmed pressed a towel over Ms Nurhidayati's mouth at the Golden Dragon Hotel in Westerhout Road, which they frequented.
This was part of the agreed statement of facts both the defence and prosecution agreed on.
In late 2018, Ms Nurhidayati began another affair with a Bangladeshi worker named Hanifa Mohammad Abu. She told him she was in a relationship with Ahmed, but that Ahmed was betrothed to someone in Bangladesh.
After promising Mr Hanifa that she would have a clean break with Ahmed, Ms Nurhidayati continued dating Mr Hanifa.
In early December 2018, Ahmed suspected Ms Nurhidayati had a new boyfriend. She admitted to it and told him to return to Bangladesh for his arranged marriage.
They met at the Golden Dragon Hotel on Dec 23, 2018, where Ms Nurhidayati returned a loan of S$500 to Ahmed and said she would continue to meet Ahmed.
Ahmed then arranged to meet her again on Dec 30, 2018. He withdrew the bulk of his savings from his bank account before checking into the hotel with Ms Nurhidayati.
THE DAY OF THE ALLEGED CRIME
They had sex and Ahmed tried persuading Ms Nurhidayati to break up with Mr Hanifa, before they quarrelled about her relationship with the other man.
The prosecution said Ahmed had a "dastardly and deadly motive" and would kill Ms Nurhidayati unless she agreed to leave her new boyfriend and reconcile with him.
He brought a drawstring to the meeting to strangle her, which he had kept since discovering her latest relationship, said Deputy Public Prosecutors Hay Hung Chun, Senthilkumaran Sabapathy, Soh Weiqi and Deborah Lee.
They alleged that Ahmed repeatedly threatened to kill Ms Nurhidayati after having sex with her at the hotel unless she ended her new relationship.
When she refused, he "brutally strangled her with a towel around her neck", not stopping even when blood flowed from her ear.
He then wound and tightened the drawstring around her neck several times with a few knots and pressed a towel on her face, said the prosecution.
Ahmed allegedly twisted the woman's head to ensure she would not survive even with medical treatment, before dressing her and heading out to buy a can of Red Bull.
When he returned, Ms Nurhidayati was still in the same position and Ahmed was satisfied that she was dead, said the prosecutors in their opening statement.
He allegedly took her cash, her phone and EZ-Link card before leaving. He then went to his dormitory and gave S$1,000 in cash to his roommate, asking him to help remit the money to Ahmed's father in Bangladesh. He also told his roommate that he had killed somebody.
At about 10.15pm, a hotel receptionist entered the room as the two-hour extension on the room had expired, and found Ms Nurhidayati lying on the bed and unresponsive.
Paramedics saw blood coming out of her nose and ear, and her face swollen, with a drawstring tied around her neck. She was pronounced dead.
An autopsy found that the cause of death was strangulation and cervical spine injury.
Ahmed was arrested the next morning and given a psychiatric assessment at the Institute of Mental Health.
He was diagnosed with adjustment disorder but the psychiatrist found no contributory link between his mental disorder and the crime. He also found that the disorder did not impair Ahmed's self-control or his judgment of what was right or wrong.
THE DEFENCE'S CASE
Defence lawyers Eugene Thuraisingam, Chooi Jing Yen and Hamzah Malik said they will argue that Ahmed has diminished responsibility due to his mental disorder and that he acted out of grave and sudden provocation.
"The agreed position between both (defence and prosecution) experts is that the accused became jealous, angry and anxious when he found out that the victim was seeing another man," said Mr Thuraisingam.
"Both experts also agree that he had periods of anger and depression. The victim and the accused were in a six-year relationship. Our case here is that, in relation to the adjustment disorder, the stressor in question was his girlfriend's repeated infidelity and utterance of harsh and humiliating words shortly before he killed her.
"We will seek to prove that the words uttered by the deceased were that 'the other man was better than you in bed and better financially. If you don’t believe, I will take a video next week to show you'," he said.
In response, the prosecution said they would show that the adjustment disorder did not impair the accused's responsibility, and said the harsh words "were not uttered at all" and instead were "an afterthought" conjured up by Ahmed.
If convicted of murder, he faces the death penalty.