SINGAPORE, Sept 18 — He wanted her as his girlfriend but she did not return his feelings, so he began spying on her as he felt she was pulling away.

Boh Soon Ho, a 51-year-old Malaysian, eventually snapped and strangled Zhang Huaxiang, 28, to death with a bath towel in his Circuit Road flat after she rejected his sexual advances. 

He then stripped her, took photographs of her nude body and then tried to have sex with her corpse, but could not sustain an erection.

These details emerged in the High Court today as Boh began standing trial for murdering Zhang on March 21, 2016.

Boh has confessed to his crimes and his defence lawyers are making the case that he was provoked into committing his acts of violence as Zhang had angered him. 

If convicted of murder, he faces the death penalty. 

Two other charges of attempted sexual penetration of a corpse, as well as the misappropriation of Zhang’s iPhone and S$50 (RM150) in cash, were stood down for the trial.

Boh admitted in his police statements that he was “furious” and wanted to kill her. He also reenacted the murder for police officers, and described his actions that fateful day.

His lawyer, Eugene Thuraisingam, told the court that Boh had had a “sudden and temporary loss of self-control” before strangling Zhang.

Not physically intimate

Today, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Wong Kok Weng said in his opening statement that this was a “case of a murder driven by jealousy, rage and unrequited desire”.

Boh and Zhang were never physically intimate, only going out to shop and eat together at times. The pair met around 2011 when they worked as servers in the staff cafeteria at Marina Bay Sands (MBS).

Zhang was working there part-time while studying nursing at a polytechnic, and later worked as a nurse after graduating.

In March 2016, Boh grew suspicious as she began turning down his invitations to go out. He went to the block of flats opposite hers to spy on her on four to five occasions.

Three days before the murder, he saw her leaving her block with a man in a taxi. He became “increasingly jealous”, DPP Wong said.

‘Crazy, go away!’

On the day of the murder, Boh invited Zhang to a steamboat lunch at his flat. After the meal, as she was combing her hair in front of his bedroom mirror, he hugged her from behind and told her he wanted to make love to her.

DPP Wong said: “The deceased scolded him: ‘Crazy, go away!’ in Mandarin. The accused pushed the deceased to his bed and climbed on top of her body. The accused kissed the deceased on the lips and tried to insert his tongue into her mouth. 

“The deceased warned the accused that she would bite off his tongue if he did so. The deceased also warned that she would shout for help and this would embarrass him,” the prosecutor added.

Zhang indeed shouted for help and Boh used his hand to cover her mouth, then let her go. But a while later, he forcefully put his hands under her clothes and caressed her breasts.

When she fled to the living room, he put his arm around her neck and dragged her back into his bedroom. He released her, and she sat on a massage chair, trembling. 

DPP Wong said Boh observed her and knew she was afraid.

Looped towel around neck

Boh then accused Zhang of lying to him, and said he had seen her leaving her block with a Chinese man three days before.

She replied that the man was her ex-boyfriend from China, and they had gone out a few times. Boh continued to harangue her, saying that she had hidden many things from him, and she replied that it was normal for her to be intimate with her ex-boyfriend.

He got angry when he heard this, and looped the bath towel around her neck from behind, DPP Wong told the court.

He strangled her for about two minutes before releasing his grip. He then carried her body to the bed and saw that her face had turned “black”.

“After killing the deceased, the accused still wanted to satiate his sexual desires for the deceased,” DPP Wong said.

The prosecutor added: “Now that the deceased was dead, she could no longer resist him and he could do to her what he earlier wanted. He told himself that ‘since (the deceased) had died and I have never seen her naked before, I should undress her.’”

He stripped to his underwear, removed Zhang’s clothes, took several nude photos of her body and tried to have sex with the corpse, but could not sustain an erection.

Wanted to put body in luggage

Boh then prepared to flee Singapore by packing his clothes and discarding most of Zhang’s belongings, but pocketed her cash and mobile phone.

He sent a text message to his supervisor, saying he would go to Malaysia the next day for a month. He also called his landlord Chai Yong Siong to find out when Chai would next return to the flat.

Chai told him he would be returning the next day.

Boh initially planned to dispose of Zhang’s body in his luggage and put it in the undergrowth somewhere in Sembawang, but realised he could not bend the body as rigor mortis had begun to set in.

He thought of chopping the body into pieces but did not do so. Instead, he spent the night sleeping next to her in his bedroom. 

On March 22, 2016, the day after he had killed Zhang, he met his friend Chong Kean Khae and sold him some possessions to raise money. Boh told Chong that he was leaving Singapore as he did not feel like working here anymore.

Boh then went to collect his salary at Far East Shopping Centre, then returned to the flat to retrieve his belongings and the bath towel. 

He left the air-conditioner and lights in his bedroom switched on as he left his flat for the final time, as he hoped this would prevent Zhang’s body from decomposing. 

He then passed through Woodlands Checkpoint and took a taxi to his younger sister’s place in Melaka.

Later that evening, at about 7.30pm, Chai the landlord went to the flat and discovered Zhang’s body on Boh’s bed. He called the police.

The next day, Boh called Chai from an unknown Malaysian number and told him he was in Kuala Lumpur and that he had strangled Zhang.

They communicated over the next several days through text messages. Chai provided police officers with screenshots of the messages.

The Malaysian police arrested Boh on April 4, 2016 while he was having dinner at a restaurant. He was brought back to Singapore the next day.

A forensic pathologist from the Health Sciences Authority certified Zhang’s cause of death as a manual compression of her neck.

Dr Gwee Kenji, a psychologist from the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), said in a report that Boh did not meet the criteria for intellectual disability. 

Another IMH psychiatrist, Dr Stephan Phang, noted that Boh had the mental capacity to know the nature of wrongfulness of his act, and that his behaviour after the murder “reflect a state of mind which was deliberate, logical, nimble and unfettered by any form of mental derangement or loss of impulse control”.

The trial continues before Justice Pang Khang Chau. — TODAY