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Woodlands double murder: Man facing death sentence for killing pregnant wife and daughter mounts appeal

Woodlands double murder: Man facing death sentence for killing pregnant wife and daughter mounts appeal

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: A man who strangled his pregnant wife before killing his four-year-old daughter in the same manner appealed against his double-murder convictions on Wednesday (Oct 13).

The panel of five judges reserved their verdict and will issue it at a later date.

Teo Ghim Heng, 46, was sentenced to death in November 2020 for murdering Ms Choong Pei Shan, who was six months pregnant, and their daughter in their Woodlands flat.

He strangled his 39-year-old wife with a towel in January 2017 after quarrelling with her about finances and after she purportedly insulted him, calling him a "useless" father in front of their daughter.

He then continued strangling her with his bare hands until she died, before asking his daughter to sit on his lap. He strangled her with the towel while she cried, telling her to "go find Mummy already".

In the days after the murders, Teo laid the two bodies on his bed and slept with them for a week. He tried to kill himself repeatedly in various ways but failed each time. He eventually set fire to the bodies and tried to lie next to them but "chickened out" because of the heat.

The charred bodies were found on the first day of Chinese New Year in 2017, when Teo's brother-in-law came knocking at the door and detected an acrid smell coming from the windows.

THE DEFENCE'S CASE

Teo's lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam opened by telling the court on Wednesday that there were three undisputed facts: First, all the witnesses who came to court including Ms Choong's family testified that Teo loved his wife and daughter very much.

Second, he was previously a successful property agent who could no longer earn what he used to at the time of the offences due to a market downturn.

Third, he owed the bank and his friends about S$120,000 and was earning much less than what he used to, and owed two months' worth of his daughter's preschool fees.

For the appeal, Mr Thuraisingam and fellow defence counsel Johannes Hadi dropped the partial defence of grave and sudden provocation, which they had pursued at trial but was rejected by the trial judge.

Instead, they focused on the partial defence of diminished responsibility: They argued that the trial judge was not correct to find that Teo did not suffer from Major Depressive Disorder at the time of the offences, and that Teo's mental responsibility was not substantially impaired.

The appeal was heard by a panel of five judges: Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, as well as Justices Judith Prakash, Steven Chong, Belinda Ang and Chao Hick Tin.

Chief Justice Menon pointed to the findings of the trial judge - Justice Kannan Ramesh found that Teo had not proven that he was suffering from Major Depressive Disorder at the time of the offences.

He ran through all the diagnostic criteria, compared it against evidence at trial and found that there was no basis that Teo suffered from any disease, and that his mental responsibility was not substantially impaired.

Teo continued to function at work, gambled regularly in the months preceding the murders and suffered no loss of libido. He surfed pornography after the killings and left for food regularly, and the judge considered that Teo's symptoms were self-reported.

"It's extremely convenient for an accused person to report symptoms," the Chief Justice told Mr Thuraisingam.

He said it was not enough to say Teo had a lot of problems, but it had to be shown whether these impacted his ability to function.

The trial judge had found that Teo's suicide attempts were "half-hearted", and that he did not make any serious attempt to take his life.

Teo had testified at trial that he did try to jump from his flat, with his "whole body" already out of the window, but said he stopped when two children came out of a car parked below.

The verdict for the appeal will be released at a later date.

Source: CNA/ll(ac)

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