SINGAPORE: The Court of Appeal on Wednesday (Oct 28) dismissed an appeal by a man who was sentenced to life imprisonment in February for murdering a woman he considered his girlfriend.
The defence argued that there was grave and sudden provocation, but Appeal Judges Judith Prakash and Tay Yong Kwang, along with Justice Woo Bih Li, found that 52-year-old Malaysian Boh Soon Ho had been more frustrated by not having had sex with the victim rather than anything she said to him.
Boh was given the life imprisonment term for strangling 28-year-old nurse Zhang Huaxiang with a bath towel in 2016.
He had gone out with her for four to five years, but killed her in his Circuit Road flat after inviting her over for steamboat on Mar 21, 2016, and after she rejected his advances for sex.
He had also suspected she was seeing other men, and grew angry when he questioned her and she responded that it was normal for her to be intimate with her ex-boyfriend.
After killing her, he stripped her, took nude photos of her and tried to have sex with her corpse, before fleeing to Malaysia where he was later arrested and sent back to Singapore.
DEFENCE ARGUES GRAVE AND SUDDEN PROVOCATION
Defence lawyer Chooi Jing Yen mounted the appeal against the murder conviction with one contention – that the trial judge was wrong to dismiss the defence of grave and sudden provocation.
He argued that this was against the weight of the evidence, referring to Boh’s “consistent testimony” that he had regarded the victim as his girlfriend and had an expectation of exclusivity.
Instead, Boh should have been convicted of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, said the lawyer.
Mr Chooi also pointed to Boh’s IQ of 74, which falls within the “poor” range of functioning and is lower than 96 per cent of the population.
He said the case is “a bit unique” because of the length of time they spent going out together, adding that evidence shows that Boh’s social skills are not the same as an ordinary person.
He added that Boh considered the victim his girlfriend, and had asked her to marry him once, to which she did not reply.
READ: ‘I was very, very angry’: Man accused of killing woman describes rage at discovering 2 other men in her life
They went shopping together, shared food together and he paid for intimate clothing like underwear for her. He also told others she was his girlfriend, said Mr Chooi.
Appeal Judge Judith Prakash repeatedly questioned the lawyer on his arguments, saying that it seemed the victim “perhaps took advantage” of Boh’s affections, making him pay for things.
Because of this, Boh thought he had “some rights”, but the victim never bestowed any intimacy on him, and he never asked her if she could be his girlfriend exclusively.
The judge added that the allegedly provocative words uttered by the victim, telling Boh that it was normal for her to be intimate with her ex-boyfriend, had not been flung at Boh in a taunting fashion. Instead, she was answering his “interrogation”.
“In fact, at the time he asked these questions, he had already assaulted her. He had put his arm around her neck and pressed on her neck to such an extent that she was so scared she had involuntarily urinated. Later, she was … trembling, showing she was frightened,” said Justice Prakash.
It was hard to believe that the victim was provoking Boh with her words, the judge added.
COURT OF APPEAL DISMISSES CASE
The three judges unanimously dismissed the appeal. Justice Tay said the court’s view was that Boh was frustrated and angry on the day of the offence because the victim refused to have sex with him.
“In his long statement, he admitted that he wanted to have sexual intercourse with the victim and had thought of raping her if she refused,” said the judge.
“His violent actions towards her even before she told him of her relationship with her ex-boyfriend bore up his true intentions. He was more frustrated and agitated by the fact that he had not had sex with her after having spent time and money on her over several years than by anything she said to him.”
Justice Tay added that any provocation in the circumstances of this case “could not be so grave as to cause the appellant to lose his self-control”.
The court disagreed with the trial judge that any provocation that day was sudden, saying Boh had already known the victim had gone out with a man.
He had also suspected for two to three years that the man in the victim’s phone was her former boyfriend from China.
“We also disagree that the appellant lost his self-control as a result of provocation. If he did lose self-control, it was because he wanted sex so badly that he was willing to resort to violence,” said Justice Tay. “It was not what the victim said or did in the Circuit Road flat.”
The judge quoted a psychiatric report on Boh’s behaviour in the aftermath of the killing and his plans to abscond. This reflected a state of mind that was “deliberate, logical, nimble and unfettered by any form of mental derangement or loss of impulse control”.
Justice Tay said Boh pounced on the victim suddenly and let go of the towel that he used to strangle her only when she stopped moving. He showed no expression of surprise or remorse after, the judge said.
“In fact, within 10 to 15 minutes of strangulation, all he thought of was having sex with a lifeless body and he proceeded to strip her and violate her body.
“This fortifies our view that the appellant was frustrated and agitated that he had not had sex with her and had not even had a chance to look at her naked body. We are satisfied that the frustration and anger were not due to any alleged provocation.”
Published at Wed, 28 Oct 2020 04:40:37 +0000