Man sentenced to death for killing pregnant wife, daughter
Judge rejects defence's claim that he was depressed, says behaviour showed he was in full control.
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 in 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 that 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. It was the second marriage for both. He used to be a successful property agent but in 2015, his income dropped due to a downturn in the market.
In late 2016, he took on another job as a sales coordinator at a renovation company. But the family's expenses remained unchanged as 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 over the family's finances. During the quarrel, he brought up an extramarital affair that Madam Choong had in 2014.
On the morning of Jan 20, 2017, Teo decided not to send Zi Ning to school as her fees were overdue.
On learning this, Madam Choong 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 noted that after the killings, Teo spent his time surfing the Web and watching videos, left the house for meals when he was hungry, and slept regular hours.
"There did not appear to be, on the evidence, any mourning or despondency on the part of the accused, despite the demise of his wife and child," he said.
The judge also noted Teo's multiple lies. To buy himself 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.
Teo also fabricated four "suicide notes" and later lied to the police that Madam Choong had a hand in writing them.
Justice Ramesh said the sequence of events clearly showed that Teo was in full control of his faculties when he strangled his wife and daughter.
In court, Teo said the process of strangling Madam Choong took 10 to 15 minutes.
As he strangled her, he told her in Mandarin: "We owe too much money, you leave first. Zi Ning and I will join you shortly. I don't want you and Zi Ning to have to bear the burden of my debt after I (am) gone."
Justice Ramesh said Teo's conduct was "conscious, deliberate and outcome-driven, certainly after the mist had cleared".
As for Zi Ning, Teo had asked the girl to sit on his lap before strangling her, and as she struggled, he told her that he would join her.
"Such behaviour shows full control on the part of the accused... He knew exactly what he was doing, and his actions were goal-orientated," said the judge.
After Teo's double murder conviction, a third charge of killing his unborn son was withdrawn by the prosecution.
Teo's lawyers said he intends to appeal against the court's decision.
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