Gambling addict jailed 7 years for trying to kill wife
He used to earn $1,500 a month as a security officer, but he would blow about $1,000 a week feeding his gambling addiction.
John Gee Tze Chiang could do this because he had his wife's ATM card and would take all of her $3,000 monthly earnings, including overtime pay.
In return, he gave her only $50 every week or fortnight as pocket money.
But even this could not save him from falling into debt. By August 2012, he owed $40,000 to relatives, friends, credit companies and illegal moneylenders.
Most of the loans were taken in the name of his wife of eight years, Madam Koh Poh Lian, who worked as a warehouse assistant.
When all these became too much for him to cope, Gee decided to end his life, but not before deciding to kill his wife first.
On Aug 11, 2012, he stabbed her four times in their Clementi home before turning the knife on himself.
But both of them survived.
Yesterday, Gee, 38, was sentenced in the Supreme Court Gee to seven years' jail for attempting to commit culpable homicide not amounting to murder. A separate charge of attempting to commit suicide was taken into consideration.
Justice Lee Seiu Kin described the case as a "tragedy" that affected not only Gee but also his wife and parents.
The court was told that Gee had gone to a casino on Aug 10 in a desperate attempt to recoup his gambling losses.
Instead, he lost more money and decided to end his life.
He went to Clementi Central and bought a knife from a hardware shop, ignoring calls and text messages from his wife and his mother asking where he was.
He later messaged Madam Koh to meet him at a karaoke outlet in Clementi Central. He wanted to spend his last few hours happily with her.
He lied to her that a friend was willing to help him pay off his debts and resolve their financial problems.
While they were at the KTV lounge, Madam Koh became worried after finding out that a creditor's letter of demand had been sent to her parents' home. Gee managed to calm her down.
After they got home, Gee's plan to kill himself failed when he fell asleep before his mother.
At about 8am the next day, he apologised to his wife for all the trouble he had caused her.
But she brought up the letter of demand as well as the text messages and calls she had been getting from creditors.
When she told him she could not take it any more, Gee decided to kill her before killing himself.
He took the knife from his shorts pocket and stabbed her twice in the chest and told her: "Is okay now."
She fell back on the bed, screaming in pain. She asked him what he was doing, but he held her down while holding the knife with the blade facing down.
Madam Koh tried to push his hand away and in the struggle, he stabbed her in the neck.
But then, his father, Mr Gee Say Teck, had woken up and heard the commotion.
As he knocked on the bedroom door, Madam Koh cried out feebly: "Father, jiu jiu wo." ("Father, save me" in Mandarin).
Mr Gee went down to a coffee shop to get his wife, Madam Teo Sia Kiang, who was working at a food stall, in the hope that she could persuade their son to open the door.
As Madam Koh struggled to get to the bedroom door, Gee stabbed her in the back. As he pulled her away from the door, she asked him: "Why?"
He told he was sorry and then stabbed himself in the chest.
When his parents got back, Madam Teo heard Madam Koh saying: "Mi, jiu jiu wo."
Mr Gee discovered the door was unlocked. The couple were on the floor, covered in their own blood.
Mr Gee called for an ambulance and Gee and Madam Koh were taken to National University Hospital, where Madam Koh's heart stopped and she had to be revived during emergency surgery. She was hospitalised for 39 days.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Isaac Tan told the court: "The physical wounds caused by the accused's attack may have healed, but the psychological harm caused to the victim may persist indefinitely."
Madam Koh's victim impact statement revealed that her limbs were weak and her vision was blurred for nearly six months after the attack, which prevented her from returning to work.
She also had nightmares and found it difficult to sleep - she was afraid that she might not wake up from her sleep.
Added Mr Tan: "Significantly, the victim now bears scars on her chests and back and these will continue to serve as a grim reminder of the horrific episode."
The prosecution recommended a sentence of between five and seven years. It took into account that Gee had a gambling disorder and "depression of moderate severity which significantly impaired his mental responsibility for his actions".
Gee's lawyer, Mr M. Ferhad Johari, said his client had believed he was "acting out of kindness" when he attacked Madam Koh as he did not want her to be burdened by his death or debts.
He said Gee, who had no previous criminal record, was truly remorseful for the violent and brutal act.
In a letter addressed to Justice Lee, Gee said he was ashamed for getting the better deal compared to his wife and his family.
"They are the ones facing the creditors... They are the ones facing the relatives and friends during the festive period. Whereas I just bury my head in the sand like an ostrich, waiting for time to pass," he wrote.
When The New Paper visited his parents' three-room flat in Clementi last evening, Madam Teo got worked up when asked about the case.
She said: "How would you feel if it was your son being sent to jail?"
Marriage records show that Gee and Madam Koh got married on Oct 10, 2003.
Chinese evening daily Shin Min Daily News reported Mr Gee as saying that his son had met Madam Koh while they were working as packers in a factory and that the couple, who hardly argued, shared his Clementi flat.
He said that he had no idea about the scale of his son's debts as he had only once seen a letter from a debt collection company addressed to Gee.
- Additional reporting by Elizabeth Law
They are the ones facing the creditors... They are the ones facing the relatives and friends during the festive period. Whereas I just bury my head in the sand like an ostrich, waiting for time to pass.
- John Gee Tze Chiang, In a letter addressed to the judge
Don't lend money to gamblers
You're making things worse when you lend money to problem gamblers, especially when they try to quickly recoup their losses.
Thye Hua Kwan Problem Gambling Recovery Centre director Maximilian Koh said that families need to set conditions when helping gambling addicts, especially when it comes to clearing their debt.
"The family can keep all documents which can be used for moneylending, even his ATM card and credit cards. It's almost like the person is a child and has to be given an allowance," he told The New Paper.
The family can also spend time with the addict to distract him from gambling when the craving arises.
EXCLUSION ORDER ALONE NOT ENOUGH
Mr Dick Lum, executive director of Hope Centre, which provides counselling for 530 problem gamblers a year, said while families can apply for casino exclusion orders for problem gamblers, it is only a temporary solution.
That is because gamblers may have other avenues, such as online gambling and football bookies, from which to get their fix.
"An exclusion order alone is not good enough. You need to couple it with therapy as well as good family support," he said.
Mr Billy Lee, founder and executive director of the Blessed Grace Gamblers Recovery Centre, said that families need to look out for warning signs.
"Gamblers will never see that they have a problem and need to seek help unless they are in a dire situation," he said.
He added that family members and friends can help to encourage them to visit a recovery centre. - Elizabeth Law
- National Council on Problem Gambling
- Thye Hua Kwan Problem Gambling Recovery Centre
- One Hope Centre
- Blessed Grace Gamblers Recovery Centre (Mandarin and Hokkien)