On Thursday (Nov 12), after he was found guilty of killing his pregnant wife and their four-year – old baby, a retired property agent was sentenced to death.
This is a horrific event. It is a case of ruined lives, a society ripped asunder, “Kannan Ramesh, judge of the High Court, said as he pronounced his verdict.”
His mom, Madam Choong Pei Shan, 39, a housewife who was six months pregnant, and daughter Zi Ning were strangled by Teo Ghim Heng, 45, in their Woodlands flat on Jan 20, 2017.
Before lighting the corpses on fire, he spent a week in the flat with their remains, the court learned in a trial that began in July last year.
Justice Kannan sentenced Teo on Thursday to two charges of murder, which bear the necessary death penalty.
The judge dismissed the defense ‘s claims that Teo was suffering from depression and that when his wife called him “useless” in front of their baby, he was provoked and lost power.
In 2009, Teo and Madam Choong were together, and it was the second marriage for each of them.
He used to be a prosperous real estate dealer, but as the property market fell, his profits declined in 2015.
He took on another position as a distribution coordinator for a renovation firm in late 2016.
The family ‘s spending remained stagnant, though, and with Teo ‘s gambling weakness, he became mired in debt. This lead to recurrent quarrels.
The pair clashed over the family’s finances again on Jan 18, 2017. He took up an extramarital liaison that Mrs. Choong had in 2014 during the conflict.
Teo agreed not to send Zi Ning to school on the morning of Jan 20, 2017 as her fees were overdue.
A “red cloud” fell upon him, according to Teo, and his mind went blank. Using a bath towel, he strangled her before using his bare hands to make sure she was gone. He strangled his daughter then.
Before and after the crimes, Justice Kannan said Teo ‘s actions did not paint a portrait of someone who was suffering from depression.
Among other items, the judge said Teo ‘s repeated trips to pornography websites before and after he murdered his wife and daughter did not square with his arguments that he had lost interest in women.
The judge also noticed that Teo spent his days browsing the Web and viewing videos during the shootings, leaving the house for meals while he was starving, and sleeping for normal hours.
Despite the death of his wife and boy, there did not seem to be, on the facts, any mourning or despondency on the part of the accused, “said Justice Kannan.”
Teo hacked her Facebook profile to adjust her cover picture to keep up the facade that she was alive and buy herself time when Mrs. Choong ‘s family started searching for her.
Teo also made four “suicide notes” and later lied to the police that in writing them, Mrs. Choong had a hand.
The judge said it was “difficult to explain” how it is possible to conclude that someone who behaved in such a manner suffered from a severe depressive illness of mild intensity.
The chain of events clearly indicated that Teo was in complete charge of his faculties, Justice Kannan said.
In custody, Teo said it took 10 to 15 minutes for the entire operation of strangling Madam Choong to take effect.
“When he did this, he told her in Mandarin that” we owe so much money, you quit first. Zi Ning and I will soon follow you. After I (am) gone, I don’t want you and Zi Ning to have to carry the debt burden.
Justice Kannan said: “This was not the action of a person who had forgotten his senses in blind frustration-far from it, the accused’s behavior was conscious, deliberate and outcome-driven, definitely after the mist had lifted.”