Singapore’s Circuit Road murder: Malaysian accused has low IQ but not intellectually disabled, says psychiatrist

Boh Soon Ho (pictured) is on trial for strangling Zhang Huaxiang to death with a bath towel in his Circuit Road flat after she rejected his sexual advances. — TODAY pic
Boh Soon Ho (pictured) is on trial for strangling Zhang Huaxiang to death with a bath towel in his Circuit Road flat after she rejected his sexual advances. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, Sept 20 — While he estimated that accused murderer Boh Soon Ho has an intelligence quotient (IQ) of 74, forensic psychiatrist Gwee Kenji found that he was not intellectually disabled.

Taking the stand in Boh’s ongoing murder trial in the High Court today, Dr Gwee from the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) told the court that Boh could function independently at a “sufficiently high level”.

As the prosecution wrapped up its case, Dr Gwee was questioned about the report he prepared after assessing Boh on April 27, 2016.

Boh, a 51-year-old Singapore permanent resident from Malaysia, had admitted in police statements to killing 28-year-old Chinese national Zhang Huaxiang on March 21, 2016.

He had regarded Zhang, his colleague at the staff cafeteria at Marina Bay Sands, as his girlfriend but they were never physically intimate.

After strangling the nurse to death with a bath towel in his Circuit Road rental flat, Boh took photographs of her nude body and tried to have sex with her corpse, but could not sustain an erection.

He then fled to Melaka, before being nabbed there by Malaysian authorities on April 4, 2016.

Dr Gwee was one of two IMH psychiatrists who examined Boh after he was brought back to Singapore.

Yesterday, Dr Stephen Phang testified that Boh was not suffering from any mental disorder or illness, and that the accused had detailed what he did to Zhang after strangling her.

Boh told him that he had acted out of anger and impulsiveness. Dr Phang, on the other hand, told the court that he thought Boh had been in a “cool, deliberate, contemplative” state of mind before strangling Zhang.

It also emerged that Boh told the police — on the day he was brought back to Singapore — that he spent money on Zhang for several years but ended up with nothing.

His social skills were below average

Dr Gwee testified today that he took into account factors such as Boh’s IQ, adaptive functioning — which refers to his ability to perform common everyday tasks independently — and educational and employment history in concluding that Boh was not intellectually disabled.

As his IQ was 74, the corresponding descriptor of his range of functioning was “poor”.

When Justice Pang Khang Chau asked if that meant he performed within the lowest 5 per cent of the population, Dr Gwee replied “yes”.

Boh was able to express opinions on current affairs, the General Election, discuss retirement plans, write letters to his friends in Taiwan and fill out forms, Dr Gwee added.

His social skills were below average, though he was able to have meals with friends. He preferred to be alone and did not participate in social group activities.

“His education and employment history appeared largely normal On a whole, I found a sufficiently high level of independent functioning which led me to the conclusion that he was not intellectually disabled,” Dr Gwee added.

The psychiatrist said that those with intellectual disability must exhibit it “across multiple environments”, such as school, work and with friends.

“I was unable to find evidence of that in this case,” he added.

At the end of the hour-long hearing, Justice Pang told Boh that he found “some evidence, not inherently incredible, that satisfies each and every element of the (murder) charge”.

Boh will take the witness stand when the trial resumes on October 8 and the defence opens its case.

If convicted of murder, he faces the death penalty. — TODAY

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