Foreign worker in Singapore to hang for murdering domestic worker girlfriend in Geylang hotel room

The RedDoorz hotel in Geylang, formerly known as Golden Dragon Hotel, where the body of 34-year-old Nurhidayati Wartono Surata was found in a room on December 30, 2018. — TODAY pic
The RedDoorz hotel in Geylang, formerly known as Golden Dragon Hotel, where the body of 34-year-old Nurhidayati Wartono Surata was found in a room on December 30, 2018. — TODAY pic

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SINGAPORE, Dec 14 — The High Court today sentenced a foreign worker to death for murdering his girlfriend, rejecting his claim that she humiliated him right before he killed her.

Ahmed Salim, a 31-year-old Bangladeshi, was convicted of a murder charge, which carries the mandatory death penalty in Singapore.

Clad in a purple prison jumpsuit, he was expressionless as Judicial Commissioner Mavis Chionh passed the sentence.

Ahmed had admitted to the killing acts but disputed claims that he intended to cause the death of his girlfriend, Indonesian domestic worker Nurhidayati Wartono Surata, on December 30, 2018.

The couple had dated for five years and decided to get engaged, but she began seeing other men. 

When Nurhidayati, then 34, refused to break up with another foreign worker she was dating, he tightened a towel around her neck, then finished the job with a drawstring from his jacket that he carried in the pocket of his pants.

The murder happened at the Golden Dragon Hotel (now known as RedDoorz hotel) in Geylang. 

‘Methodically executed’ murder

In convicting Ahmed today, Judicial Commissioner Chionh found that he had devised a plan to kill Nurhidayati. 

Ahmed’s pro bono lawyers Eugene Thuraisingam, Chooi Jing Yen and Hamza Malik had argued for their client to be found guilty of a reduced charge based on two defences: Grave and sudden provocation, and diminished responsibility.

The judge rejected both defences.

During his trial, Ahmed alleged that Nurhidayati had said this in the hotel room on the day of the murder, in reference to her other boyfriend: “He is better than you, he is better than you in the hotel, he is better in bed, he is better financially. “If you don’t believe (me), next week I will go with him, will make a video and show you.”

After considering the evidence, though, Judicial Commissioner Chionh agreed with the prosecution that Ahmed cooked up the story.

The judge noted that these allegations surfaced only one-and-a-half years after the murder, and he had neither mentioned these to the police nor to a psychiatrist who examined him.

She added: “The accused’s actions in carrying out the killing demonstrated there was no loss in self-control.

“These included, for example, strangling the deceased first with a towel, before retrieving the (drawstring) from his pants and tightening it around her neck with several knots, then forcefully twisting her neck from left to right to make sure she was dead.

“It was a “methodically executed” murder and his acts before, during and after it demonstrated cogent planning on Ahmed’s part, the judge said.

As for the defence of diminished responsibility, Judicial Commissioner Chionh agreed with the prosecution’s psychiatrist that Ahmed’s adjustment disorder — a stress-related mental health condition — did not impair his mental responsibility for the killing. 

Psychiatric experts for both the prosecution and defence agreed that Ahmed suffered from an adjustment disorder at the time. 

Judicial Commissioner Chionh said that Ahmed could perform his job well, pursue recreational activities and engage in sexual acts. His ability to make decisions and exercise self-control were not impaired.

She also rejected his claim that he was suicidal at the time of the murder.

What happened

The court had earlier heard that the couple got engaged in November 2017. Some months later, she began dating a Bangladeshi plumber.

Ahmed, who worked as a painter, found out about the affair and confronted her. 

His mother later found him a bride back home in Bangladesh and he was to marry in early 2019. 

In the meantime, Ahmed and Nurhidayati continued dating, but quarrelled often.

On one occasion, Ahmed pressed a towel over her mouth to try to kill her, but released it when she struggled and apologised.

When Nurhidayati started dating another foreign worker around November 2018, he became incensed.

On the morning of the killing, he withdrew the bulk of his savings of S$1,150 (RM3,450) from an automated teller machine before going to the Golden Dragon Hotel with her.

He threatened to kill her if she continued seeing her new boyfriend, then proceeded to murder her. He fled with her belongings — S$30, her mobile phone and EZ-Link stored-value transport card — and returned to his dormitory and told his roommate that he had killed someone.

He was arrested the next morning after he tried to return to Bangladesh. — TODAY

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