SINGAPORE: A man accused of murdering his 31-year-old lover in 2016 broke down on the stand on Tuesday (Mar 19) while recounting the events that led up to the alleged killing.
Leslie Khoo Kwee Hock, 50, was answering questions from his lead defence counsel Mervyn Cheong during the opening of the defence’s case when he began sobbing and shaking.
Describing the quarrel he had with Chinese national Ms Cui Yajie while they were in his car on a road at Gardens by the Bay on the morning of Jul 12, 2016, Khoo said in a mix of Mandarin and English that the engineer suddenly hit him.
“I told her that educated people do not resort to physical violence,” said Khoo.
“She said: 'I just want you to die', and something else about dying, dying. I said - 'why, (over) these small things, why you always tell me to die'.”
Khoo had explained that Ms Cui had been angry with him as he had missed many of her calls and she began berating him about how he was always so busy.
After speaking to her on the phone from his home in Yishun early that morning, he picked her up from Joo Koon MRT Station as she said she was on her way to his workplace to find out if his claim that work was so hectic was true.
While on the way to The Westin Singapore where they were supposed to meet up with his supervisor Adeline Toh to talk about how busy work was, Ms Cui changed her mind and said she did not want to meet Ms Toh, Khoo said.
He then took a different road and wound up at a road at Gardens by the Bay. That was when they began quarrelling, he said.
She began hitting him with her hands, said Khoo. He was in the driver’s seat, while Ms Cui sat in the front passenger seat.
VICTIM BEGAN ATTACKING ME, SAYS ACCUSED
When asked what he did, Khoo began crying. Through his sobs, he told the court how he pushed Ms Cui away, but “she attacked even more”.
They began to struggle with each other, he said.
“She shout, I shout,” said Khoo, beginning to sob badly. “I struggled - I also don’t know what happened. After that. I struggled (for) a while, then she (didn’t) move already. She didn’t move already.”
He began shaking when asked what he realised at that point in time, and the judge asked the defence lawyer if Khoo needed a 10-minute break, which was granted.
After the break, Khoo answered the question: "I realised that my hand was on her neck."
He confirmed that he realised that his hand was on her neck only after Ms Cui stopped moving.
He then tried to shake her but she did not move, and he tried thumping on her heart, but she remained motionless. He became frightened and panicked, placing his fingers under her nose and realising that she was not breathing.
"I became lost," said Khoo. "I was quite lost and blank at that time, after I (saw) her (not moving)."
After this, he began driving without direction "to many places" with Ms Cui's body in the front seat, and did not go to work that day.
That night, he left her body in a car park at his condominium that he did not usually park at.
He went home and showered, but did not do much as he could not sleep, said Khoo.
KHOO BURNT THE BODY AS HE HAD "NO STRENGTH" TO BURY IT
Early the next morning, Khoo got into his car again, heading to Kranji.
Asked why he went there, Khoo said: "Because I cannot leave the body in the car for so long. The body needs to rest in peace."
He explained that a person who dies usually is buried or cremated.
"I cannot bury. I got no strength," he said. "I decided to burn."
He took the body to Lim Chu Kang Lane 8, where he burnt it. After this, he took the ashes and scattered them into the sea, he said.
Asked what was going through his mind as he did so, Khoo said: "I just want her to rest in peace. I (prayed) for her already."
The defence lawyers in their opening statement earlier on Tuesday morning said they would seek to show that there is really only one crucial question for the court to decide: What was operating on the accused's mind on the morning of Jul 12, 2016, "when an unfortunate turn of events led to the tragic demise of the deceased"?
If the prosecution's theory that it was a pre-meditated murder "committed in cold blood" were true, the defence said, then it was "a very clumsily executed one" on the basis of the evidence so far.
Instead, the defence will seek to prove that Khoo's actions resulted from grave and sudden provocation by the deceased, or that "there was a sudden fight in the heat of passion upon a sudden quarrel".
It will also be relying on evidence by a psychiatrist to prove that Khoo was belabouring under a mental disorder known as Intermittent Explosive Disorder which substantially impaired his mental responsibility for his actions.
The defence will rely on these exceptions to show that Khoo's actions should be punished under a different section of the penal code, for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
The trial continues this afternoon with Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair, who joined the prosecution’s team on the fifth day of the trial, cross-examining Khoo.