Teo Ghim Heng was determined to make sure his pregnant wife and daughter were dead, which showed he was in control of his actions and made a conscious decision to end their lives, a psychiatrist testified today.
- Decided to end the lives of the family because of gambling debt
- Urged wife not to struggle when she tried to resist him killing her
- Strangled daughter with a towel, telling her to go find her deceased mother
- Stayed in the flat with two dead bodies for a week
- Lay next to corpses, set fire to the bodies, chickened out of killing himself as fire was too hot
- In the week following the murders, went about life as usual
- Wanted to commit suicide on his own terms but many of the attempts he tried were either too painful, too difficult or not successful
- After arrest, told psychiatrists that “he had no regrets”
Teo had urged his wife not to struggle, and told the four-year-old girl before strangling her to death: “Don’t be scared, papa is here.”
While Teo also tried to kill himself “on his own terms”, he told the psychiatrist, Dr Derrick Yeo, that he did not succeed because many of the attempts were “either too painful or too difficult”.
New details of the killings emerged on the third day of Teo’s murder trial today. The 43-year-old has admitted to the murders but his lawyers will seek to prove that he had a major depressive disorder at the time of the offences.
Dr Yeo, a prosecution witness and consultant psychiatrist from the Institute of Mental Health, opined that Teo was not suffering from any mental disorder on January 20, 2017, when he killed Choong and their young daughter. Dr Yeo, who interviewed Teo after the murders, instead diagnosed him with an adjustment disorder following the killings.
For a week, Teo stayed in the flat with the two bodies. He also claimed to have tried to take his own life by setting fire to the bodies and lying next to them on the bed in the master bedroom, but later felt the fire was too hot and left the flat.
Police officers discovered the charred bodies on January 28, 2017 – the first day of Chinese New Year – and arrested him.
Today, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Han Ming Kuang took Dr Yeo through the reports he made while interviewing Teo, as part of a forensic clinical evaluation.
Dr Yeo explained that determining an accused person’s mental state at the time helps to establish criminal responsibility and whether a mental disorder contributed to the offences
The psychiatrist noted that Teo had no past psychiatric history and did not misuse substances. He had financial difficulties, and told Dr Yeo about the “high expenditures he incurred on a monthly basis to maintain his lifestyle and support his wife and child”.
On that fateful morning, Teo said he deliberately removed the girl’s preschool uniform and put her in home clothes again. An argument then broke out between him and Choong.
It was previously revealed that Choong called him “useless” in front of the girl, which Teo said angered him so much that he strangled her with a towel.
Teo had told Dr Yeo that he felt Choong would be “hounded” by the people he owed money to, and “made the unilateral decision as father and head of the household to end all their lives together”.
When Teo noticed his wife kicking her legs on the bed as she tried to resist him, he said he told her in Mandarin: “Shan, you’ve got to let go already. I owe a lot of money. If you struggle, you will suffer because I owe outside a lot of money.”
After killing his wife, Teo turned to his daughter and assured her: “Don’t be scared, papa is here.”
He also decided to kill himself “to reunite the family”.
Dr Yeo noted: “It clearly reflects his goal-orientedness and how his actions were premeditated in that he was following the plan to end the lives of everyone in the family.”
As Teo looped the towel around the girl’s neck, Teo recalled telling her in Mandarin: “Go find your mummy first, papa will come soon.”
About five minutes later, he used his hands to finish the job on his daughter.
When the psychiatrist asked him why he took the girl’s life as well, he said that he felt his family members would not be able to adequately care for her.
Dr Yeo also considered Teo’s actions in the week following the murders. He had lied to his work supervisors about why he could not report for work and used Choong’s mobile phone to give excuses to his family about why they could not attend Chinese New Year festivities.
“He was able to go back to watching television, driving out to buy food, all while he was researching feasible ways of ending his life. The accused also told me he tried various methods to try to end his life but he was unsuccessful. He apparently wanted to die on his own terms but many of the attempts he tried were either too painful, too difficult or not successful for him.”
This clearly meant that he was not of unsound mind, and “his behaviour showed that he was in full cognitive control and volitive control” of his actions, Dr Yeo added.
DPP Han also took him through four handwritten suicide notes that were most likely written by Teo. He had signed one of them off with his wife’s name.
One in particular – addressed to Teo’s and Choong’s parents – told them to split their house, car and Central Provident Fund monies between both sets of parents.
Dr Yeo said this showed that he had the “presence of mind” to make such due considerations, and was “cognisant that these are big items that would be of help to his elderly parents”.
Earlier today, another medical expert, Dr Melonie Sriranganathan from Changi General Hospital, took the stand.
During cross-examination by Teo’s lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam, she testified that in the days following Teo’s arrest, he told psychiatrists in the hospital that “he had no regrets”.
The only regret he had was that he had to take the life of his innocent young daughter, she added, while reading from clinical notes that her colleague Dr Ong Pui Sim had taken.
The results of his liver function test were also consistent with a drug overdose. He had claimed to have tried to kill himself by swallowing more than 100 tablets of Panadol (paracetamol).
The trial continues tomorrow. – TODAY
Earlier report: July 3, Man Strangled Pregnant Wife, Four-Year-Old Daughter After Argument over Finances