Leong Siew Chor v Public Prosecutor
|Choo Han Teck J
|06 October 2006
| SGCA 38
| SGCA 38
|Court of Appeal (Singapore)
|06 October 2006
|Subhas Anandan and Sunil Sudheesan (Harry Elias Partnership)
|Lau Wing Yum and Christina Koh (Deputy Public Prosecutors)
|Criminal Procedure and Sentencing,Statements,Admissibility,Whether further investigation statements inadmissible if breach of Art 9(3) of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (1999 Rev Ed),Appeal,Findings of Fact,Assessment of witness' veracity and credibility,Whether appellate court should disturb findings of fact based on witness' veracity and credibility
6 October 2006
Choo Han Teck J (delivering the grounds of decision of the court):
1 The appellant was convicted for the murder of Liu Hong Mei (“Liu”) and was duly sentenced to suffer death. The facts found by the trial judge and upon which he convicted the appellant were as follows. The appellant, aged 51, was a factory supervisor earning $3,743 a month at a company called Agere Systems Singapore Pte Ltd (“Agere”). He was married with three grown-up children. He lived with his wife and two of his children in the flat known as Block 114, Lorong 3 Geylang, #09-53. One of the children was at the time staying in hostel. He became intimate with a production worker, Liu, in his team at Agere. Liu was 22 years old and came from the People’s Republic of China to work in Singapore. Her last drawn pay was $1,400.60. The appellant worked in the night shift from 7.00pm to 7.00am the following day on a permanent basis and was Liu’s immediate supervisor. Liu was promoted and given a pay rise in June 2004 on the recommendation of the appellant. It was also about this time that she became intimate with the appellant. However, they became discreet after an anonymous complaint was made that resulted in a warning being given to them by the management.
2 About a year later, on 13 June 2005, the appellant and Liu checked into Hotel 81 Gold in Geylang for a sexual tryst. While Liu was having her shower later on, the appellant searched her bag for a comb in the course of which he found Liu’s bank Automated Teller Machine (“ATM”) card, and he stole it from her. It was also undisputed that he knew Liu’s personal identification number that was required to activate any transaction using the card. The couple checked out of the hotel at 3.00pm. From 5.00pm onwards, the accused proceeded to make a number of attempts to withdraw money from Liu’s bank account. The appellant put on a baseball cap and cycled to ATMs variously at Tanjong Katong Complex, Joo Chiat Complex, Haig Road and Beach Road on 13 June 2005, and to Haig Road again on 14 June 2005, to withdraw money from Liu’s account. The baseball cap prevented the appellant from being identified by the face. Three of those attempts were successful and he withdrew a total of $2,071.40. The appellant also purchased some sundry goods on 13 June 2005 using Liu’s ATM card.
3 On 14 June 2005, Liu discovered that her card was missing and telephoned the appellant to tell him about it. She went to the police to lodge a report later that evening when she discovered that unauthorised withdrawals had been made from her account. The police advised her to notify her bank and to ask that the bank gave her footage from the closed circuit television cameras covering the ATMs for viewing. She did that and then telephoned the appellant to tell him so. The next morning, 15 June 2005, the appellant asked Liu to go to his flat. His wife and eldest child were in Thailand on holiday, and the youngest child was out and was not to return until 6.00pm that day. The second child was at the hostel; hence, there was no one home for the greater part of the day. Liu had never been to the appellant’s flat before. Sometime that morning, the appellant strangled Liu to death with a towel. He then took her body to the toilet in the kitchen and proceeded to dismember it. Thereafter, he wrapped the parts in newspapers and put them into plastic bags and cardboard boxes. He then disposed of the bags and boxes at various locations. It was the discovery of one of these bags by a public cleaner at the Kallang River that led to the swift identification of the body and detention of the appellant in the evening of 16 June 2005 for questioning. The appellant was charged on 17 June 2005. Eventually, all the bags were recovered save for the one containing Liu’s feet. Forensic evidence was led to show that all the different parts belonged to the body of Liu Hong Mei. No defensive injuries were found on her, and Dr Cuthbert Teo, a forensic pathologist, testified that he could not ascertain the cause of death because of the dismemberment of the body and the decomposed head (that was the last piece to be found). He was of the opinion that the absence of defensive injuries could be attributed to the victim being taken by surprise, or to a mismatch in size between the attacker and victim, or that the victim consented to being strangled. At 4.40am on 17 June 2005, the appellant gave a statement to the police that was to be the basis of his defence. The relevant part of that statement as set out by the trial judge in the grounds of his decision (PP v Leong Siew Chor
… She came to my house alone around 9 something to 10am. We spent our time together when she came. There was no sexual activity. There was no one else at home at that time. We then talked about our relationship. Sometime at about 11am, she proposed to me that, I leave my family and follow her back to China. I told her that I cannot leave my family. My family have not done anything wrong. I told her that for my age it is quite difficult to start a new life in China. It is going to be something new to me, new place and new environment. She told me that we can stay somewhere far from her hometown and she is willing to support me. I was reluctant and worry. She proposed to me that we die together. I told her that I dared not. I asked her if she is joking. She suggested that she ‘go’ first to show her sincerity. She made me promise to follow her after she ‘go’. I took a towel from my room and wrapped it around her neck. At that time she was sitting on my bed facing the door. I pulled both ends of the towels [sic] with my hands. I was facing her when I pulled both ends of the towel. As I pulled both ends of the towel, I observed her face, I asked her if she was OK. She told me a bit pain. She said, OK, can…can.. I applied more force. I then did not let go. Her face turned blue. Not so nice already. When I looked at her face turned blue, I dare not do to myself. I gave empty promise. She did not struggle at all. She let me do. When I realized she died already, I think how to settle and handle this. …
4 The appellant was formally arrested at 5.55am that same morning and charged with the murder of Liu. A statement under s 122(6) of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68, 1985 Rev Ed) was recorded from him. This is commonly known as the “cautioned statement” in that the accused person would be asked to state the facts that he wishes to rely on in his defence and that should he not so do, his defence may be less likely to be believed at trial. Consequently, the appellant made the following statement:
From the 1st proposal from [Liu] that we cannot come to the conclusion, she suggest that we die together. To show her sincerity, she was willing to die first. However, she told me to ensure I must following her to “go”. When I started kill her by using a towel on her neck, she only felt a little pain, but ask to go ahead. Since then I apply more force till she really no more breathing. However, when I look at the face turn blue and so ugly, I dare not do the same to myself but just think how to dispose her body, so I cut her into pieces and clear from my house.
The appellant was taken back to his flat at Geylang later that evening and there a further statement was recorded from him. The trial judge had set out the relevant portions at  of his grounds of decision as follows:
After she came inside the house, I showed her around my house because this is the first time she came here. She was wearing a white long sleeve blouse tucked out and blue faded jeans. I cannot recall how long later, but we talked in my room (master bedroom), while sitting on the bed. We had disagreement about me going back to China with her for good. At this age, I just couldn’t leave my family. [Liu] brought up the subject about dying together and show her sincerity, she will die first and I have to follow suit. Just then, I saw my towel and I used it to strangle her. I was sitting at the corner of the bed nearest to the door. [Liu] was sitting on my left. I held the towel at both ends and looped it on the back of her neck. I then crossed the towel and pulled at both ends. She then lie down on her back and I continued to strangle her until she stop breathing about 10 to 15 minutes later. After seeing her state, I decided not to do on myself. Immediately, I thought of ideas to dispose the body. I was in a state of panic. …
All these statements, if accepted by the court, would have brought the appellant...
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