Singapore

Man gets death sentence for killing pregnant wife, 4-year-old daughter

Judge rejects argument ex-property agent had depression and was provoked

A former property agent was sentenced to death yesterday after he was found guilty of murdering his pregnant wife and their four-year-old daughter.

"This is a tragic case. It is a case of lives lost, a family torn asunder," said High Court judge Kannan Ramesh in delivering his decision.

Teo Ghim Heng, 45, had strangled his wife Choong Pei Shan, 39, a housewife who was six months pregnant, and daughter Zi Ning at their Woodlands flat on Jan 20, 2017. He spent a week with their bodies in the flat before setting the corpses on fire, the court heard in a trial that started in July last year.

Justice Ramesh convicted Teo of two counts of murder, which carry the mandatory death penalty.

The judge rejected the defence's arguments that Teo was suffering from depression and he had been provoked and lost control after his wife called him "useless" in front of their daughter.

Teo and Madam Choong married in 2009, and it was the second marriage for both. He used to be a successful property agent, but in 2015, his income dropped because of a downturn in the market. In late 2016, he took on another job as a sales coordinator. But the family's expenses remained unchanged and Teo had a gambling habit.

By the end of 2016, he was saddled with a debt of about $120,000 and had even listed the flat for sale.

On Jan 18, 2017, the couple argued again over the finances. During the quarrel, he brought up an extramarital affair that Madam Choong had in 2014.

On Jan 20, 2017, Teo decided not to send Zi Ning to school as her fees were overdue.When Madam Choong learnt this, she berated Teo for being useless.

According to Teo, a "red mist" descended upon him and his mind went blank. He strangled her with a bath towel, before using his bare hands to make sure she was dead. He then strangled his daughter.

Yesterday, Justice Ramesh said Teo's behaviour before and after the offences did not paint a picture of someone who was suffering from depression.

Among other things, the judge said Teo's frequent visits to pornographic websites before and after he killed his wife and daughter did not square with his claims that he had lost interest in sex. The judge also noted Teo's multiple lies.

To buy time when Madam Choong's family was looking for her, Teo changed her Facebook cover photo to keep up the facade that she was alive.

Justice Ramesh said the sequence of events clearly showed that Teo was in full control of his faculties.

After Teo's double murder conviction, a third charge of killing his unborn son was withdrawn by the prosecution. His lawyers said he intends to appeal against the court's decision.

COURT & CRIME