Public Prosecutor v Chee Cheong Hin Constance

JurisdictionSingapore
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeV K Rajah J
Judgment Date24 January 2006
Neutral Citation[2006] SGHC 9
Citation[2006] SGHC 9
Plaintiff CounselWong Kok Weng, Han Ming Kwang and Chong Li Min (Deputy Public Prosecutors)
Published date25 January 2006
Defendant CounselSubhas Anandan, Anand Nalachandran and Sunil Sudheesan (Harry Elias Partnership)
Date07 April 2006
Docket NumberCriminal Case No 13 of 2005
Subject MatterCulpable homicide,Whether court may draw adverse inference from accused's lies on material issues at trial,Effect of drawing adverse inference from accused's lies,Prosecution's case against accused based on circumstantial evidence,Section 363 Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed),Offences,Adverse inferences,Whether accused must have motive for taking child before offence made out,Accused charged with kidnapping of child under s 363 Penal Code,Section 304(a) Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed),Criminal Law,Trials,Whether act of taking child must be preceded or accompanied by force before offence made out,Accused charged with causing death of child under s 304(a) Penal Code,Sections 123(1), 196(2) Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68, 1985 Rev Ed),Whether circumstantial evidence "inevitably and inexorably" leading court to single conclusion of accused's guilt,Kidnapping, abduction, slavery and forced labour,Criminal Procedure and Sentencing

24 January 2006

V K Rajah J:

1 On 7 October 2004, at about 4.44am, a four-year-old girl plummeted from Block 1, Telok Blangah Crescent (“the Block”). She died five days later without regaining consciousness. Just before she fell, her parents, who had been frantically searching for her, heard her piercing cries. The accused, who was alone with the child just before she plummeted, has been charged with kidnapping her and causing her death. The accused emphatically denies the charges and in her police statement, she queries quizzically, “Who in the right sense of mind would want to throw somebody down, what more a child?” Who indeed? That very question constitutes the crux of these proceedings.

The charges

2 The accused, Chee Cheong Hin Constance, faces charges of:

(a) kidnapping the deceased, Neo Sindee, from the lawful guardianship of her father, Neo Eng Tong (an offence punishable under s 363 Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed)) (“the kidnapping charge”); and

(b) causing the death of Neo Sindee by causing her to fall from the Block with the intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death (an offence punishable under s 304(a) Penal Code) (“the culpable homicide charge”).

Undisputed facts

3 Neo Sindee (“Sindee”) was the daughter of Neo Eng Tong (“Neo”) and Kittiduangrat Ketkanok (“Kittiduangrat”). During the material period they resided at #02-602 of the Block (“the Flat”) (, together with Joseph Wong Tai Fatt (“Joseph”). Joseph was a close friend of Neo.

4 Neo, a rag and bone dealer, had befriended the accused sometime in 2003, about a year before the incident. By late September 2004, however, their once intimate relationship was in rack and ruin. The precise dates as to when their romantic liaison commenced and dissolved are disputed. What is undisputed is that in the course of their relationship, Neo borrowed a substantial amount of money from the accused which he has failed to repay.

5 On 7 October 2004 at about 4.00am, the accused entered the Flat and removed Sindee from her bed without her parents’ consent. The precise circumstances surrounding Sindee’s removal are shrouded in controversy and vigorously contested. Carrying Sindee, the accused then mounted the nearest staircase in the Block. Shortly thereafter, Sindee fell from the Block. Her body crashed onto the roof shelter adjacent to the lift shaft and landed on the ground floor through a panel. The accused was the last person alone with Sindee.

6 Sindee was admitted to the Singapore General Hospital on 7 October 2004 at about 5.00am. On 12 October 2004, at about 2.19pm, Sindee passed away. The only person now in a position to precisely explain or recount what happened just prior to Sindee’s fall is the accused.

The Prosecution’s case

7 The Prosecution’s principal witnesses were Neo, Kittiduangrat, Joseph, as well as two expert witnesses, Dr Michael Tay Ming Kiong (“Dr Tay”), Head of the Criminalistics Laboratory of the Health Sciences Authority and Dr Ho Lai Yun (“Dr Ho”), a Senior Consultant Paediatrician. Dr Ho has a distinguished career in paediatrics spanning 30 years. Since 2001, he has been the Director of the Child Development Programme at the Ministry of Health.

Evidence of Neo, Kittiduangrat and Joseph

The relationship between Neo and the accused

8 Neo testifies that he visited the accused’s residence in the course of plying his trade. Neo pursued the accused and their friendship rapidly evolved into an intimate relationship.

9 Neo then borrowed large amounts of money from the accused, amounting in all to about $40,000. While Neo claims he repaid some of the money, he acknowledges that the bulk of the loan remains outstanding. After some time, their once intimate relationship started to fray and fragment before breaking down completely. Neo claims that the accused’s possessiveness was one reason that led to the eventual break-up. He concedes, however, that he had gambled away most of the money that the accused had lent him. He claims that though they broke off their relationship sometime in July 2004, they nevertheless continued to meet from time to time as he feared the accused might stir up trouble if he avoided her completely. According to Neo, the accused ultimately became a nuisance who continually pestered him and harassed him for the repayment of the loan. He claims that Sindee “was frightened” by the accused as she created unpleasant scenes including “banging on the doors” of the Flat when his wife was not around.

10 Joseph, who resided at the Flat from 1 September 2004 upon his release from prison, testifies that he came to know of Neo’s relationship with the accused sometime in September 2004. He had advised Neo to think about the adverse consequences that the relationship would bring to Neo’s family. He confirms that there were instances when the accused came to the Flat to demand the return of her money; she would turn up at the Flat when Kittiduangrat was absent and make things difficult. Two visits on 28 September 2004 and 3 October 2004 are particularly etched in his memory. He had unsuccessfully tried to prevent her from entering the Flat. The loud altercation that ensued between Neo and the accused on each occasion was bitter and unpleasant. He also acknowledges that Neo had unsuccessfully requested that the accused invest money in a brothel which he and Neo had proposed to set up.

11 Both Neo and Joseph are adamant that Kittiduangrat was completely in the dark about Neo’s relationship with the accused until 3 October 2004. This point is also unequivocally reiterated by Kittiduangrat.

Incident on 3 October 2004

12 At about 9.00pm on 3 October 2004, the accused called Neo on his handphone. Neo was in the Flat. He did not respond to the call. Peering through a window, Neo observed the accused standing in the common corridor attempting to look into the Flat.

13 Neo, intending to avoid the accused, hid with Sindee behind the door to their bedroom. Joseph informed the accused that Neo was not in but she ignored him and forced her way into the Flat. The accused then frantically searched for Neo, demanding that he show himself. Joseph attempted to obstruct her path and they began quarrelling in the living room. Neo then emerged and told the accused to stop creating a scene. The accused again pressed him for the return of the money.

14 Kittiduangrat, who worked as a hawker assistant, then returned home. She witnessed the ongoing altercation between Neo and the accused. On seeing her, the accused immediately fled. Kittiduangrat then confronted Neo about the precise nature of his relationship with the accused. She had noticed the accused loitering on a number of occasions over the previous three weeks, both at the foot of the Block as well as at Whampoa Hawker Centre where she worked.

15 Neo confessed to Kittiduangrat that he had had an intimate relationship with the accused but insisted that the relationship was over. Shortly thereafter, Neo’s handphone rang. Kittiduangrat picked up the call and upon hearing a female voice, told the caller that she wanted to settle the matter directly with her and that she would meet her. After a bath, Kittiduangrat proceeded to the void deck to meet the caller who turned out to be none other than the accused. The accused, however, avoided confronting Kittiduangrat and ran upstairs. From the foot of the Block, Kittiduangrat noticed that the accused had moved up to the seventh or eighth floor of the Block. The accused beckoned for her to come up. Kittiduangrat walked up to meet the accused but the accused once again avoided her. Kittiduangrat then returned to the foot of the Block whereupon the accused again appeared and waved to her. Kittiduangrat, worn out by the accused’s antics, eventually returned to the Flat without ever meeting her.

Incident on 7 October 2004

16 Joseph attests that on the night of 6 October 2004, he left the main door, the metal gate and the windows of the Flat unlocked when he retired for the night to the front bedroom adjacent to the common corridor. Neo, Kittiduangrat and Sindee had earlier retired for the night to the rear bedroom adjacent to the kitchen.

17 Kittiduangrat testifies that at about 4.30am, she was suddenly awakened by a sound. She realised immediately that Sindee was missing. The lights had not been switched on but the bedroom door was ajar. She immediately woke Neo up and informed him that Sindee was missing.

18 Neo confirms that his wife was the first to discover Sindee’s absence. He thought that he saw a dark shadow moving out of the bedroom. He rushed out but did not find anything. On seeing the main door open, he ran downstairs to the bus stop but was unable to locate Sindee.

19 Kittiduangrat and Joseph in the meantime frantically searched the void deck of the Block but to no avail. Neo later returned to the void deck of the Block to join Kittiduangrat and Joseph.

20 Neo, Kittiduangrat and Joseph all testify that they subsequently heard Sindee crying out loudly from an upper floor of the Block. Just as they were about to try to locate Sindee, they saw Sindee crashing through the shelter cover near Lift A and then falling on to the ground. Sindee was bleeding profusely. Kittiduangrat recalls that an interval of 15 to 20 minutes must have lapsed from the time she was alerted to Sindee’s absence until Sindee’s fall.

21 Neo rushed to Sindee and carried her back to the Flat. When he could not locate his handphone, they decided to take Sindee to hospital by taxi. They ran back downstairs carrying Sindee.

22 When they reached the void deck, they noticed the accused near Lift B. While walking hurriedly away from the Block, she glanced back at them. Neo directed Kittiduangrat to pursue and detain the accused. When the accused noticed Kittiduangrat and Joseph running towards her, she immediately took to her heels as well.

23 Kittiduangrat and Joseph nevertheless managed to detain the accused along Henderson Road. They hailed a taxi and...

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