Circuit Road flat murder trial: Accused repeatedly denies intending to kill nurse, only ‘wanted to scare her’
Boh Soon Ho is on trial for strangling Zhang Huaxiang, 28, to death with a bath towel in his Circuit Road flat after she rejected his sexual advances.
Boh Soon Ho was in love with his ex-colleague and frequently bought her clothes and food during outings together, treating her like his girlfriend.
But when he learnt one day that Zhang Huaxiang had gone out with another man she met at a casino, and when she told him it was “normal” for her to be intimate with her ex-boyfriend from China, he became “very angry”.
He began perspiring and shaking upon hearing these revelations at his Circuit Road flat where the two of them had shared a steamboat lunch on March 21, 2016.
“It was like fire reached my head… I only expected to scare her, I did not think too much. I placed the towel around her neck and caused her to die. I didn’t expect to cause her death,” he repeated at least a dozen times through a Chinese interpreter on Tuesday (Oct 8), as he took the witness stand for the first time in the murder trial.
Boh, a 51-year-old Malaysian and Singapore permanent resident, has been charged with the murder of 28-year-old Zhang. His trial began in the High Court last month.
After strangling the Chinese national to death with a bath towel, he tried to have sex with her corpse and took photographs of her nude body, but could not sustain an erection.
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He has confessed to killing Zhang, but his lawyers are making the case that he was provoked into it because Zhang had angered him.
PAID FOR ZHANG’S EXPENSES
On Tuesday, Boh’s lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam asked him questions about his relationship with Zhang and what happened that fateful day.
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The court previously heard that they worked together as part-time food servers in the dining hall for employees at the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort. He harboured unrequited love for Zhang and the pair often went out together to shop or have meals, with him paying for all of these expenses.
At one point, Boh testified that he felt she was growing closer to him when she suggested that they share a drink instead of having individual ones.
He said that he called her “Princess Xiang Xiang” while she called him “foodie” because he loved to eat. However, he did not hold her hand or ask to have sex with her as he was too embarrassed to do so.
Read also: Circuit Road flat murder: Man admits he killed ex-colleague in jealous rage, tried to have sex with corpse
Later, he fell in love with her when she fed him popcorn during a movie, but he did not tell her about his feelings. He also did not ask her to be his girlfriend because it “felt natural” for them to be this way and it was “difficult to catch a girl’s intentions”, he said.
About three or four years after first meeting her, he asked her to marry him while taking her home after they went shopping.
“I told her, ‘Xiang, if you don’t have a boyfriend, marry me’. But she kept quiet… I really liked her, loved her and felt like I wanted to protect her,” Boh testified.
They continued meeting on their days off even though she did not give him an answer. When Mr Thuraisingam asked Boh why he was still entertaining Zhang at this point, he said: “I was willing to give her everything.”
He added: “After going out for some time, I felt that she had feelings for me, otherwise why would she give me food? I felt she became closer to me and treated me like a boyfriend. When she bought clothes, she would try them on for me (to see)… It was like a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship.”
GREW ANGRY AND JEALOUS
About three months before the murder, Boh grew suspicious when she began rebuffing his requests to go out, saying she was busy and had to work. She worked as a nurse at the National University Hospital.
On March 18, 2016, he went over to her flat and saw her get into a taxi with another man. He was “angry and jealous” upon seeing this and his “mind was in a mess”, he told the court, but did not think to stop her and the man.
Three days later, he invited Zhang to a steamboat lunch at his flat because she had asked him to take leave that day to spend time with her.
There, she asked for S$1,000 from him so that she could gamble. He had only a few hundred dollars with him but did not give her any money because he did not like her to gamble, he testified.
Calling him a “useless foodie”, she went into his bedroom to put on some makeup. When he asked her to have sex with him, she called him crazy and told him to get lost.
While she did not reject him, she soon told him that she would bite off his tongue if he continued touching her. He was clad in just a pair of underwear.
Feeling bad for hurting her feelings, he backed off and asked her to go home first, but she did not do so. He then pulled her to the bed again with his arm around her neck before releasing her when she said she was out of breath.
“I felt that my shorts were wet. I asked Huaxiang what fluid that was. She said she didn’t know, so I tasted it and it was urine,” Boh told the court.
Boh then asked her who was the man who got into a taxi with her. She responded that she knew him from the casino and they had gone out about four to five times.
"I said, ‘I didn’t expect you to be such a person.’ She said, ‘So I can go out with you but I cannot go out with him?' I was very angry,” he testified.
Boh also asked about her ex-boyfriend from China. “I was very, very angry. I kept perspiring and shaking. I used a towel to wipe my face and perspiration, then I walked to the mirror. I didn't expect this to happen, I had no intention, it was a moment of impulse and the towel caused Huaxiang to die.”
As Mr Thuraisingam tried to press Boh on what he did with the towel and what he was thinking of, he repeated those same words many times. Eventually, he said that he was thinking of the man from the casino and Zhang’s ex-boyfriend when he looped the towel around her neck, “crossed it and didn’t let go until she stopped moving”.
“I did so many things for her but I didn’t expect her to treat me this way. For many years, I would buy her things and we would eat together and I would give her money to gamble, but then two men came into the picture... and I couldn’t accept it,” he said.
The day after killing Zhang, he fled to his home state of Malacca, Malaysia and stayed there until he was arrested two weeks later.
He testified that he tried to kill himself by jumping into a river, but it was “too smelly”. He did not use the toilet cleaning solution he had bought for the same purpose either.
The trial continues on Wednesday, with the prosecution cross-examining Boh.
If convicted of murder, he faces the death penalty.
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