SINGAPORE, Oct 28 — A 52-year-old man, who killed his ex-colleague in 2016 after she rejected his request for sex, today lost an appeal he had lodged against his murder conviction.
Three judges in the Court of Appeal unanimously agreed that Boh Soon Ho had not been so provoked by Zhang Huaxiang’s words that he lost self-control before he strangled the nurse, 25, to death in his Circuit Road flat.
They further ruled that if he did lose control over himself, it was only because he wanted sex so badly that he was willing to resort to violence.
Earlier in February, Boh, a Singapore permanent resident from Malaysia, was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment over the killing on March 21, 2016.
Through his lawyers, he appealed against the conviction, arguing that he should have been convicted of a reduced charge of culpable homicide due to the defence of grave and sudden provocation.
Boh had confessed to his crimes but his lawyers said that he was provoked into his acts of violence as Zhang had angered him.
While having a steamboat meal at his flat that fateful day, he had questioned the Chinese national about another man he saw with her.
She told him that she knew him from the casino and that they had gone out a few times.
She also told Boh it was “normal” for her to be intimate with her ex-boyfriend from China — which Boh’s lawyers argued was the crux of the provocation.
After killing Zhang, Boh tried to have sex with her corpse, but he could not sustain an erection. He also took photographs of her nude body.
He then fled to Malacca before being nabbed there by Malaysian authorities on April 4, 2016.
During the trial, High Court judge Pang Khang Chau ruled that the provocation was sudden but not grave enough to warrant a conviction on a reduced charge.
This was partly because Boh and Zhang did not have a sexual relationship and there was no expectation of exclusivity in regard to their relationship.
The court previously heard that they were platonic friends but that he harboured unrequited love for her.
Over about four to five years, the pair often went out together to shop or have meals, with him paying for all of these expenses.
They met around 2011 when working as part-time food servers in the dining hall for employees at the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort.
Boh was not provoked, say judges
Today, Boh’s lawyer Chooi Jing Yen argued that the provocation was indeed grave enough to warrant a conviction of culpable homicide.
This was because Boh consistently testified that he regarded Zhang as his girlfriend and expected their relationship to be exclusive. Justice Pang was thus mistaken in finding the opposite, Chooi added.
Judge of Appeal Judith Prakash repeatedly questioned the lawyer on the relationship, noting that Boh had never asked Zhang to be his girlfriend and that they were never intimate.
He had also once asked Zhang to marry him but she did not respond. He was content to leave it at that.
“If a person is ordinary, with a normal relationship, you don’t go straight from nothing to sexual intercourse,” the judge said.
Chooi replied that Boh had low social skills and that his intelligence quotient, which was earlier assessed to be 74, put him in the lowest 5 per cent of the population. But Justice Prakash said that he could live independently in society and had no difficulties.
She later pointed out that Boh had told Zhang he wanted to make love to her, then pushed her onto his bed, forcefully put his hands under her clothes and caressed her breasts.
When she fled to the living room, he dragged her back into his bedroom. He released her and accused her of lying to him.
She replied that it was normal for her to be intimate with her ex-boyfriend. Boh grew angry and strangled her to death with a bath towel.
Justice Prakash said: “Strangling was not the first violence he inflicted on her. If you look at the whole thing as a pattern — before she told him about being intimate, he had already terrified and assaulted her. It was just an escalation.
“Someone being upset from being taken advantage of is a far cry from saying you were provoked into killing her. Unfortunately, these asymmetrical relationships happen every now and again.”
In delivering the apex court’s judgment, Judge of Appeal Tay Yong Kwang said their view was that Boh was “frustrated and agitated” over not having the opportunity to have sex with Zhang or look at her naked body, not because of any provocation.
“We will go further and disagree (with Justice Pang) that any provocation was sudden His violent actions towards her, even before she told him about her relationship with her ex-boyfriend, bore out 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,” the judges added.
They also agreed with a psychiatrist that Boh’s behaviour in the aftermath of the killing, such as having a detailed plan to abscond to his Malacca hometown, reflected a state of mind that was “unfettered by any loss of self-control or impulse control”. — TODAY