SINGAPORE: A woman who was killed by her husband was said to have quarrelled with him moments before, telling him that he was "useless".
According to a statement by Teo Ghim Heng, heard in court on Wednesday (Jul 3), Madam Choong Pei Shan argued with her husband on the morning of Jan 20, 2017, as they were helping their four-year-old daughter change out of her kindergarten uniform.
Mdm Choong, 39, was said to have asked Teo why the girl was not going to school that day.
"I replied - I don't have money to pay her school fees," Teo said in his statement. "If she goes to school, she might be asked to leave, which will be very embarrassing."
He had S$70,000 in debts at the time.
According to him, his wife, who was six months pregnant with a boy, began scolding him.
She purportedly said: "Other families can take care of three kids. You can't even provide for a family with one child. You are so useless."
Teo said he tuned out her nagging and began to draw a blank in his mind, and could not remember what else she said, but remembered thinking she was being "very sarcastic and hurtful with her words".
"The last thing I recall her saying in Mandarin was - (daughter) look at how useless your father is," said Teo.
The court heard the above account on Wednesday during the second day of the trial against Teo. The 43-year-old former property agent-turned-sales coordinator is contesting two charges of murder, with a third charge involving his unborn child stood down.
He is accused of strangling his wife and daughter, before setting fire to their bodies. He allegedly kept the bodies on the bed in the master bedroom of his Woodlands flat for eight days, sleeping beside them and leaving the flat only for food and air freshener.
He was arrested on the first day of Chinese New Year (Jan 28, 2017) after his brother-in-law called the police to the flat.
ACCUSED WAS LATE IN PAYING SCHOOL FEES: PRINCIPAL
The former principal of the school Teo's daughter attended took the witness stand on Wednesday, detailing to the court how Teo missed payments for his child's school fees.
Ms Faizahhanim Ahmad, then the principal of Little Tree House in Sembawang, told the court that Teo paid S$850 monthly for his daughter's school fees, after government subsidies.
He was initially prompt in paying school fees, but began paying them late or in default from mid-2016.
Teo had said in statements that he wanted his wife to help support the family's income. Working mothers get S$300 in government subsidies for school fees, but non-working mothers receive only S$150.
As Mdm Choong was not working, she was not eligible for the S$300 subsidy.
Ms Faizahhanim sent Teo several text messages reminding him to pay the fees, and recounted one incident when she tried to tell Teo about it in person while he and his wife were dropping their daughter off at the school.
"I went forward to tell him, I was about to tell him he was due for payment," she said. "He came forward, nearer to me, to signal not to say anything, so I stopped at that."
Teo later sent Ms Faizahhanim a text message in which he said: "Please do not talk about school fees in front of my wife. Don't want her to know as she is pregnant and emotional now."
The former principal teared as she told the court how she and the school's teachers were shocked to hear about the alleged murders. She agreed with the defence that the couple was "quite loving" and that the incident was unexpected.
TEO SEEMED DEPRESSED, HAD MONEY ISSUES: FORMER BOSS
Teo's former boss, who is herself serving a jail sentence for cheating 89 victims of S$1.8 million in a renovation scam, took the stand and told the court that Teo was a hard worker and a "good father".
Husniyati Omar, who was sentenced to jail for seven years and nine months in September last year, exchanged a smile with Teo during the hearing.
She had hired Teo as a sales coordinator at her firm Carpentry Design Works in October 2016. This was after Teo made a job switch from his long-time trade as a property agent, as he was not faring well.
Teo earned a basic salary of S$1,500, excluding commission and additional allowances, Husniyati said.
She said she knew Teo had financial problems as she once saw him quarrelling with a colleague about money he owed him from illegal betting. Teo had also asked her for loans and advances, which she gave to him along with advice to stop betting.
Husniyati had told a doctor previously that Teo appeared normal and there were no episodes of him appearing depressed, behaving strangely or reacting violently.
However, she told the court on Wednesday that she knew, as she had been depressed before, that people with depression react differently. She said she knew Teo was having financial issues, but might have hidden his depression from her as he needed the job.
She said she had seen Teo with his family, and found him to be "a man trying to make his wife happy". When the family of three attended Husniyati's birthday party on Christmas Day in 2016, Husniyati said she spoke to Mdm Choong and suggested that she transfer her daughter from a private kindergarten to a public one, which is cheaper.
"She said: 'Oh no, I want the best,'" said Husniyati. "I know the difficult position (Teo) is having, as a man trying to make his wife happy."
She added that on one occasion when Teo asked her for a loan, she found out that Mdm Choong had wanted to go for a non-compulsory test in relation to her pregnancy that was "quite expensive".
"From the way I converse with the wife, it seems she wants certain things she's used to (having)," said Husniyati.
She added that Teo, who wore the same shirt to work on most days, requested for time off from 4.30pm to 6pm daily on work days so he could pick up his daughter from school and prepare dinner for his wife and daughter before returning to work from 9pm to 10pm.
She agreed with the defence that he was "very attached and very loving" towards his wife and daughter.
The trial continues in the afternoon.
If found guilty of murder, Teo faces the death penalty.