In love with his ex-colleague, Boh Soon Ho treated her like his girlfriend and began spying on her when he felt like she was pulling away.
Upon learning 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 saw red.
He strangled the Chinese national with a bath towel in his Circuit Road rented flat on March 21, 2016 after a steamboat lunch, then tried to have sex with the 25-year-old’s corpse and took photographs of her nude body.
However, he could not sustain an erection.
On Friday (February 7), the 51-year-old Malaysian and Singapore permanent resident was found guilty of murder and sentenced in the High Court to life imprisonment. He could have received the death penalty.
Boh’s lawyers Eugene Thuraisingam and Chooi Jing Yen, who had sought a conviction on a reduced charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, have since filed an appeal against the conviction and sentence on Boh’s instructions.
Two other charges of attempted sexual penetration of a corpse, as well as the misappropriation of Zhang’s iPhone and S$50 in cash, were withdrawn after the conviction.
Boh confessed to his crimes but Mr Thuraisingam argued that he was provoked into his acts of violence as Zhang had angered him and exhibited diminished responsibility as he had suffered a “lack of emotional and social connection to women during his whole life”.
In convicting Boh of murder, Justice Pang Khang Chau rejected the lawyer’s defences, accepting that Boh had lost self-control but that the provocation was not grave enough to warrant a conviction on a reduced charge.
This was partly because Boh and Zhang did not have a sexual relationship and there was no expectation of exclusivity, the judge said.
As a result, the fact that she told him it was normal for her to be intimate with her ex-boyfriend could not be considered “sufficiently grave provocation”, Justice Pang added.
The court previously heard that they were platonic friends, but he harboured unrequited love for her. The pair often went out together to shop or have meals, with him paying for all of these expenses.
They met around 2011 when working as part-time food servers in the dining hall for employees at the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort.
The prosecution — led by Deputy Public Prosecutors Wong Kok Weng and Joshua Chua — did not seek the death penalty for Boh as it was not a vicious killing.
Mr Thuraisingam told the court that there was no premeditation and that Boh was deeply remorseful.
Testifying during his trial, Boh said that he called Zhang “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.
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.
They continued meeting even though she did not give him an answer.
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. When she went into his bedroom to put on some makeup, he asked her to have sex with him.
She called him crazy and told him to get lost, before he asked her who the other man whom she got into a taxi with was. She responded that she knew him from the casino, and they had gone out about four to five times.
Boh testified that he was perspiring and shaking, and thought of the man from the casino and Zhang’s ex-boyfriend when he looped the towel around her neck and strangled her with it.
He then fled to his home state of Malacca, Malaysia and stayed there until he was arrested two weeks later. His landlord found Zhang’s body lying on his bed in the Circuit Road flat. — TODAY