SINGAPORE: Angered by a minor dispute stemming from his son's marriage troubles, a 59-year-old man tightened a plastic bag around his wife's neck, repeatedly telling her to die.
After she fainted and slumped to the floor, Govindarajan Thiruvengadam Uthirapathy removed a gold chain from her neck, took other valuables from her purse and went shopping for gifts for his mistress.
Govindarajan was sentenced to three years and three months' jail on Monday (Nov 25), after pleading guilty to one charge of attempted culpable homicide with hurt caused.
A second charge of stealing from the victim, 56-year-old nurse Ellapur Selvi Chanthenatever, was taken into consideration.
The court heard that Govindarajan, now 61, married the victim in 1985 and divorced briefly five years after, before remarrying. They have three children together.
The couple lived together in an HDB flat, but Govindarajan had an affair with a 44-year-old woman, Tanalechumi Subramaniam.
On Apr 6, 2018, Govindarajan's wife asked him to speak to his daughter-in-law, who believed her husband was having an affair.
Govindarajan spoke to the daughter-in-law over the phone, before his wife took over the conversation and began quarrelling with the daughter-in-law.
After the call, Govindarajan's wife complained to him about the problems in their son's family. This angered Govindarajan as he felt his wife was pressuring him to resolve the problems she had with their daughter-in-law.
HE TOOK PLASTIC BAG TO KILL HIS WIFE
He decided to kill his wife, and went to the kitchen to retrieve a plastic bag from the washing machine area to suffocate her, said Deputy Public Prosecutors Wong Woon Kwong and Kong Kuek Foo.
Govindarajan approached his wife from behind where she was seated on the sofa, watching television, and covered her head with the plastic bag.
He pulled it tight around her neck, choking her and intending to kill her. As he did this, he repeatedly told her to die and said there was no point in living, the court heard.
His wife pleaded with him and struggled to free herself, but could not as the bag was pulled tightly around her neck.
She began wheezing, but her husband kept the pressure up around her neck, until she fainted and fell to the floor.
Govindarajan removed the plastic bag from his wife's head, and tried to rouse her, but she did not come to.
He then changed his clothes, removed a S$4,250 gold chain from his wife's neck, and searched her purse.
He took valuables from it including cash of about S$300 and various credit cards, before leaving the flat without checking on his wife.
He pawned his wife's gold chain and went to meet his mistress and her aunt, before heading to Tekka Centre together.
BOUGHT GIFTS FOR MISTRESS, INTENDED TO LEAVE COUNTRY WITH HER
He bought five tops, a pair of slippers and two gold studs for her using the cash he had obtained from pawning off his wife's stolen chain.
He also gave his mistress S$300 in cash, and stayed at her aunt's place that night with his mistress, intending to leave for Malaysia with her the next day.
Meanwhile, his wife regained consciousness and called her daughter, crying while telling her how her husband had tried to kill her with a plastic bag.
She told her daughter not to report the matter to the police, and decided to go to work that night as she was on night shift at the hospital.
However, her pain intensified when she was in hospital until she began crying in pain and nearly fainted, telling a doctor only later about what had happened.
She was hospitalised for seven days and suffered tenderness over her chest and neck pain, as well as other medical conditions unrelated to the offence.
Govindarajan was arrested at Woodlands Checkpoint while trying to leave the country with his mistress.
Psychiatric assessment found that Govindarajan suffered from adjustment disorder, but found no link between this and his offence, the prosecution said.
"STARTLINGLY COLD" ACTIONS AFTER OFFENCE: PROSECUTION
They had asked the court to impose at least three years and three months' jail on Govindarajan, saying his decision to kill his wife over a minor grievance was "a disproportionate response that demonstrated utter disregard for the law".
He had attacked her from the back, and his actions after doing so "were also startlingly cold", stealing from her and meeting his mistress "to share his spoils", said the prosecutors.
The hurt caused to the victim was low, but "the fact that the assault occurred in the victim's home enhances the accused's culpability", they added.
Govindarajan's defence lawyer Raphael Louis said his client has had a history of hearing voices and speaking to imaginary people, and was previously diagnosed with severe psychotic depression.
He said problems had been brewing in the family when Govindarajan's son's affair came to light, with multiple arguments breaking out.
When Govindarajan "impulsively" grabbed a plastic bag and placed it over his wife's head, he "did not know why he did it or thought of killing her", he said.
He knew his wife was still alive after he suffocated her, as she was still breathing, said the defence counsel.
Govindarajan had been "happily married to the victim" for about 33 years, with his family members looking up to him "as he has always been a caring and responsible husband and father", said Mr Louis.
He added that the victim had stated in a letter that "my husband has always been very loving towards me and has always taken care of me".
WIFE FORGIVES HIM
Judicial Commissioner Vincent Hoong agreed with the prosecution that "it was only fortuitous that the victim escaped death", and said Govindarajan's conduct after the offence was callous.
"He exhibited a blatant disregard for the victim's well-being: after pawning away the victim's jewellery, he then made purchases for the woman with whom he was having an affair," said the judge.
However, the judge said he gave "some mitigating weight" to the remorse Govindarajan showed in a letter of apology that he wrote to his wife after.
His wife has also forgiven him, and wrote that Govindarajan's absence has caused her many sleepless nights and affected her health and performance at work.
"I therefore find that some mitigating weight ought to be given to the fact that the victim has forgiven the accused person, and craves his return," said the judge.
For attempted culpable homicide not amounting to murder with hurt caused, Govindarajan could have been jailed for up to 15 years, fined, or both. He cannot be caned as he is over 50.