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Man sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering his ex-wife at ITE campus

Man sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering his ex-wife at ITE campus

Police officers seen at the scene of the murder in ITE College Central on Jul 19, 2018. (Photo: TODAY/Jason Quah)

SINGAPORE: A man who murdered his ex-wife by stabbing her multiple times at her workplace at the Institute of Technical Education College Central was sentenced to life imprisonment on Wednesday (Sep 22).

Seet Cher Hng, 69, was found guilty last week of one count of murder, after he said an hour into the opening of the trial that he wanted to plead guilty. His lawyer said this was to shield Seet's daughter, whom he “loves dearly”, and other loved ones from re-living the tragedy.

He had married 56-year-old Low Hwee Geok, a divisional director of the examinations division at ITE College Central, in 1993.

They divorced in June 2011, but Seet was unhappy with the division of matrimonial assets and believed that the divorce had occurred because of Ms Low's alleged infidelity.

Between 2011 and 2018, Seet sent numerous demands to his ex-wife, seeking a sum of S$200,000 to S$500,000 from her.

Before Chinese New Year in 2018, he left a letter on Ms Low's car at ITE College Central, demanding S$500,000 and threatening to commence legal proceedings. 

His ex-wife did not respond to his letters or emails, and Seet grew increasingly isolated, upset, and depressed.

On Jul 19, 2018, Seet drove a shared car to Carpark K of ITE College Central, taking with him a haversack containing three knives, a spanner and a note to the police. 

One of the knives was engraved with "010609" and "020609", a reminder of the dates he believed he had caught his ex-wife having an affair.

He waited for Ms Low to end work. When he saw her walking towards her car about 7.30pm, he approached her and entered the front passenger side of the vehicle just as she sat in the driver's seat.

Ms Low screamed when she saw Seet. They struggled and Ms Low fell while stepping out of the car.

Seet then began attacking his ex-wife, knifing her thrice in the chest and back. He left eight stab and incised wounds on her before stabbing himself repeatedly and collapsing on top of her.

Paramedics pronounced Ms Low dead at about 8pm. Seet was taken to hospital under police escort.

Ms Low's cause of death was certified as stab wounds to the chest and abdomen, while Seet was found with 13 stab wounds on his body.

He was placed in the Intensive Care Unit and his condition later improved. A medical report from the Institute of Mental Health later found that Seet was not suffering from any major mental disorder and was not of unsound mind at the time of the stabbing.

Seet's lawyer Wendell Wong sought life imprisonment for his client, pointing out that the prosecution was not objecting to this.

DEFENCE: WHAT DRIVES A HUMAN BEING TO WANT TO DIE?

"What drives a human being to stab himself repeatedly with a knife, to want to die?" he asked.

Mr Wong said his client understands that he cannot turn back time "in this painful family tragedy that has resulted in a loss of life".

He described Seet as being "like most Singaporeans", wanting to live a simple, happy and complete life with his then-wife and daughter, working hard to build a retirement nest and provide for his family.

"From his perspective, his life was crushed and he felt betrayed. In that regard, Mr Seet spiralled into depression and he felt he was trapped in his own prison of despair and isolation and this happened after he found out about the extramarital affair between the deceased and a third party," said Mr Wong.

He said Seet's life story and circumstances highlight "the stressors of life for many of us Singaporeans".

"May we stress how loneliness can have a profound effect on one's mental wellbeing," he added.

He said Seet wanted to live out his retirement years with a measure of financial independence, and felt his ex-wife owed him about S$330,000 over the sales proceeds of their apartment as a result of divorce proceedings.

When passers-by approached Seet, he told them "Don't save me", claimed Mr Wong. He asked the court for mercy, so Seet "has a chance to live on to seek forgiveness" from his daughter and see her face someday.

SEET WROTE: I'M GOING TO THE DEVIL, TO HANDLE THE DEVIL IN HER

Deputy Public Prosecutor Hay Hung Chun said the prosecution was leaving the sentence to the court but was not objecting to life imprisonment.

However, he highlighted several letters and notes Seet wrote to friends and the police.

In one letter, he wrote that he had "decided on another action - to take her with me", adding that his ex-wife had made him "a killer".

"If her lover is with her on that fateful day, then it's fated that all three will be together. Ending my existence had been in and out of my mind all these years. Now I'm counting down the days. I'm going to the devil, to handle the devil in her," wrote Seet.

In another note to the police, he said he did not want to "waste more time" taking his wife to court to "expose her doings". He added that "it's murder and suicide" and that he "did warn her she would lose big time if she refuses to return my money for my decent old age survival".

In a note to his daughter, Seet said he hoped to see her one last time and "you may not forgive me for what I'm going to do but that's my decision". "I took your mummy away for hurting daddy," he added.

Mr Hay said: "We would say that after many years of prevarications, Mr Seet had more or less ... decided to take matters into his own hands."

Justice Aedit Abdullah rapped defence counsel Wendell Wong, stating that "this is not a forum for airing of grievances".

"The various allegations against the victim are not made out, and she's not in court to answer these, so I would urge strongly in future that ... mitigation should be limited to matters that go towards (the) sentence available to the court," he said.

The judge added that the killing of the victim "is to be deplored" and that any grievances Seet had against her did not justify the actions or his "killing responsibility".

However, he said there was nothing in the case that would call for the imposition of a death penalty and that the prosecution did not object to life imprisonment.

"It would be rare for the court to impose a sentence not sought by any party," he said.

For murder, Seet could have been sentenced either to death or life imprisonment. He cannot be caned as he is above 50. 

Source: CNA/ll(gr)

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