SINGAPORE – Anxiety, depression and troubles within the family can be fatal as recent court cases have shown.
Retiree Seet Cher Hng, 69, was sentenced to life imprisonment on Wednesday (Sept 22) after he fatally stabbed his former wife, Ms Low Hwee Geok, 56, in a carpark at the Institute of Technical Education College Central campus on July 19, 2018. Ms Low was a divisional director at the college.
He had demanded money from her because he believed he did not get a fair share of the matrimonial assets. Seet also accused her of infidelity and blamed her for breaking their marriage, and even engraved on a knife the dates he purportedly caught her.
The tragedy adds to a list of recent murders and an alleged killing within families in Singapore. Here are the cases:
1. He thought his wife was a demon
Convinced that his wife was a demon who had to be banished back to hell, Paul Leslie Quirk, a 49-year-old Australian man who suffered a relapse of schizophrenia, hit her with martial arts sticks repeatedly and stabbed her in the neck on Jan 3, 2020.
He had heard voices prompting him to kill his Singaporean wife Christina Khoo Gek Hwa, then 43. He had also seen a passer-by wearing a marathon “finisher” T-shirt, which his mind interpreted as “finish her”.
After killing her in their condominium in Sengkang, Quirk, who was a podiatrist at Punggol Polyclinic, stabbed the family’s 10-month-old poodle and threw it out of their home’s third-floor balcony, believing it was a spirit companion that “could have brought the demon back to life”.
When the police arrived, he answered the door covered in blood and told the officers that he was “Jesus Christ”.
On May 24, he was sentenced to 10 years’ jail by the High Court after he pleaded guilty to a charge of culpable homicide.
2. Daughter’s remains found in pot
Two parents are accused of murdering their two-year-old daughter whose remains were found inside a metal pot five years later in 2019.
The wife, 32, also faces charges of multiple counts of abuse involving four other children. She and her husband, now 33, are accused of killing their daughter in a Chin Swee Road flat in March 2014.
The woman allegedly ill-treated the little girl between June 1, 2013 and March 2014 by hitting her with a belt and a hanger, slapping her face and thigh, pinching her thigh and feeding her chilli padi as punishment.
When the girl died, the woman and her husband allegedly burnt her body before concealing the remains inside a metal pot. According to court documents, the pot was hidden inside a sealed box and kept under a kitchen stove in the couple’s flat.
The couple’s case was mentioned in a district court on Feb 5 this year. They cannot be named due to a gag order to protect the children’s identities.
3. Father jailed for killing mentally ill daughter
Years of struggles with anxiety and depression that had tormented the family led to a fatal confrontation on Nov 19, 2018, when Ms Desiree Tan Jiaping, 35, told her father that she felt like killing him and then pointed a knife at him.
The conflict, which took place in the kitchen of their Bedok South flat, ended with the father, Tan Tian Chye, strangling Ms Tan.
Ms Tan had an anxiety disorder but had refused medication. She had also been assessed to have panic attacks with agoraphobia – a condition which made her anxious in unfamiliar environments – and “hypochondriacal preoccupations”.
A psychiatric assessment found that Tan was suffering from a major depressive episode and significant caregiver stress, which substantially impaired his responsibility for his acts in killing his daughter.
This was a tragic case, said High Court judge Hoo Sheau Peng, which serves as a stark reminder of the importance of being alert to the mental health of family members and seeking timely treatment. She noted that Tan and his wife had been on the verge of suicide as their daughter became increasingly unreasonable.
He was released from prison on Oct 12, 2020, the day he was sentenced to two years and nine months in jail. Justice Hoo noted that Tan was a “selfless, loving and devoted father” who tirelessly cared for his demanding daughter.
4. Pregnant wife and daughter murdered by ex-property agent
His troubled relationship with his wife was trodden with debt, arguments over his gambling issues and allegations of her extra-marital affair.
It reached a breaking point on Jan 20, 2017, when Teo Ghim Heng, 45, strangled his pregnant wife with a towel, before using his bare hands to make sure she was dead. He then turned to his four-year-old daughter and strangled her.
He spent one week with their bodies in their flat in Woodlands before setting the corpses on fire, the court heard in a trial that started in July, 2020.
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.
On Nov 12, 2020, Teo was sentenced to death.
More on this topic
• National Care Hotline: 1800-202-6868 (8am – 12am)
• Institute of Mental Health’s Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222 (24 hours)
• Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444 (24 hours) /1-767 (24 hours)
• Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019 • Silver Ribbon Singapore: 6386-1928
• Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788 • Community Health Assessment Team 6493-6500/1
• TOUCHline (Counselling): 1800-377-2252 • TOUCH Care Line (for seniors, caregivers): 6804-6555 • Care Corner Counselling Centre: 1800-353-5800
• mindline.sg • My Mental Health • Fei Yue’s Online Counselling Service • tinklefriend.sg • chat.mentalhealth.sg