Took Leng How v Public Prosecutor

JudgeChao Hick Tin JA
Judgment Date25 January 2006
Neutral Citation[2006] SGCA 3
Date25 January 2006
Subject MatterAdverse inferences,Accused convicted and sentenced to death for smothering deceased to death,Proof of evidence,Special exceptions,Whether evidence casting reasonable doubt on Prosecution's case,Section 300 Exception 7 Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed),Accused only person capable of shedding light on certain aspects of trial,Diminished responsibility,Evidence,Whether appropriate to draw adverse inference in such circumstances,Criminal Law,Standard of proof,Section 300 Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed),Abnormality of mind,Pathologist giving evidence that deceased could have suffered sudden onset of fits that could account for deceased's suffocation and death,Criminal Procedure and Sentencing,Reasonable doubt,Accused opting to remain silent at trial,Section 196(2) Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68, 1985 Rev Ed),Accused appealing against conviction and sentence,Whether accused suffering from abnormality of mind at time of offence,Trials,Whether abnormality impairing accused's cognitive functions or self-control,Accused relying on defence of diminished responsibility,Accused appealing against conviction and death sentence for murder
Docket NumberCriminal Appeal No 10 of 2005
Published date27 January 2006
Defendant CounselJaswant Singh and David Khoo (Deputy Public Prosecutors)
CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
Plaintiff CounselSubhas Anandan, Anand Nalachandran, Sunil Sudheesan (Harry Elias Partnership) and Chung Ping Shen (H A and Chung Partnership)

25 January 2006

Judgment reserved.

Chao Hick Tin JA (delivering the judgment of the majority):

1 The accused was convicted in the High Court for having committed murder under s 300 of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed) and was sentenced to suffer the mandatory death sentence. The charge on which the accused was convicted read:

That you, TOOK LENG HOW … on or about the 10th day of October 2004, between 1.40 p.m. and 10.00 p.m., at the Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre, Singapore, did commit murder by causing the death of one Huang Na, female/8 years old, and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under section 302 of the Penal Code, Chapter 224.

2 He has appealed against the conviction and sentence.

The facts

3 The accused, Took Leng How, worked as a vegetable packer at Messrs All Seasons Fruits and Vegetables Supplier (“the shop”) located at Block 7 of Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre (“the Wholesale Centre”). His employer, Eng Chow Meng, also employed a Chinese National, Huang Shuying, to work part time at the shop. Huang Shuying is the mother of the deceased, Huang Na. At the relevant time, both mother and child were residing with some other Chinese nationals at an apartment in Block 8 of the Wholesale Centre.

4 On 27 September 2004, Huang Shuying departed for China and left the deceased in the care of one of her housemates, Li Xiu Qin (“Li”). That was to be the last time she saw the deceased alive. At about 1.30pm on 10 October 2004, the deceased informed Li that she wanted to make an overseas call to her mother. The deceased then left the apartment alone. Li did not find this unusual as the deceased had made frequent phone calls to her mother previously. Li did, however, become increasingly worried when the deceased failed to return by 2.30pm. She searched for the deceased at the blocks near to the Wholesale Centre and the area surrounding the deceased’s school, but to no avail. By about 10.00pm, Li reported the deceased’s disappearance to the police.

5 Over the course of the next few days, the police conducted a massive search with their primary focus on the areas surrounding the Wholesale Centre. The accused was placed under intensive questioning as the police had received information that the deceased was last seen in his company. However, no formal arrest was made at the time.

6 Police investigators further interviewed the accused on 19 and 20 October 2004. He confirmed that he had met the deceased on 10 October 2004 at Block 13 of the Wholesale Centre. He also indicated his willingness to assist the police investigators and showed them the spot where he had last seen the deceased. According to the accused, after talking to the deceased that day, he saw her making her way home. He then returned to the storeroom at Block 15 of the Wholesale Centre.

7 On 20 October 2004, the accused disclosed to police investigators for the first time that, while he had not committed any offence, he knew the persons who were responsible for the disappearance of the deceased. He claimed that someone who worked at the Wholesale Centre had abducted the deceased in order to “teach [her] mother a lesson” as the latter had “created disharmony amongst the traders”. The accused further claimed to have some influence in the “underworld” and could arrange to have the deceased released. But first he had to collect his two mobile telephones, as the relevant contact numbers were stored in them. In the meantime, arrangements were made for the accused to undergo a polygraph test the next day.

8 In the early hours of 21 October 2004, the investigating officers accompanied the accused to his residence at Telok Blangah to collect one of his mobile telephones and then to the shop at the Wholesale Centre to pick up his other mobile telephone. There, he was made to show the route he had taken with the deceased on 10 October 2004 and the location where they had parted company. The investigating officers then offered to let the accused remain at the Wholesale Centre on condition that he turn up later that morning for the polygraph test. The accused, however, indicated his preference to follow the police investigators back to their office at the Criminal Investigation Department (“CID”), as he was concerned that he might not be able to wake up in time for the test.

9 En route to the CID, the accused informed the police investigators that he was hungry and they stopped at a restaurant along Pasir Panjang Road for some food. The accused, on the pretext of going to ease himself in the toilet, left the restaurant through the back door and made his getaway.

10 The accused managed to make his way to Penang, Malaysia where he hid until 30 October 2004 when he surrendered to the Malaysian authorities. A team of Singapore police officers escorted him back to Singapore.

11 On 31 October 2004, the accused led the police investigators to a slope at Telok Blangah Hill Park (“the Park”). A systematic search at the downhill, forested area of the Park by officers of the Gurkha Contingent of the Singapore Police Force led to the retrieval of a sealed carton box, which was later established to contain the decomposed remains of the deceased. The accused was subsequently charged with murder.

The trial below

12 The Prosecution’s case rested essentially on the statements given by the accused while he was in custody, the video recording of the accused’s re-enactment of the events that took place in the storeroom and the expert evidence of the forensic pathologist, Dr Paul Chui (“Dr Chui”). It could be briefly stated as follows. On 10 October 2004, the accused stayed behind at the Wholesale Centre after he had completed his work. At about 1.30pm he saw the deceased at Block 13 and lured her into the storeroom at Block 15 of the Wholesale Centre on the pretext of playing hide-and-seek with her. In the storeroom, the deceased was stripped of her clothes, had her limbs bound with raffia string and was sexually assaulted. In order to silence the deceased, the accused smothered her mouth and nose with his bare hands until her body went limp. He further stomped and kicked her head to make doubly sure that she was dead. The accused then packed the deceased’s naked body into multiple layers of plastic bags and sealed the bundle in a cardboard box with adhesive tape before disposing of it by tossing the box down the slope at the Park.

13 At the close of the Prosecution’s case, the Defence made the submission of no case to answer. This was rejected by the trial judge as the onus on the Prosecution at that stage of the trial was merely to adduce some evidence (not inherently incredible) which, if it were to be accepted as accurate, would establish each essential element of the alleged offence. This was held by the trial judge to have been established by the Prosecution and the accused was called upon to enter his defence.

14 While the accused chose not to testify at the trial, his counsel nevertheless raised two defences. The first was that the Prosecution had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused had in fact caused the death of the deceased, and secondly, that the symptoms exhibited by the accused entitled him to raise the defence of diminished responsibility. The first contention was premised on the assertion that Dr Chui had admitted in cross-examination that the death of the deceased could have been due to other causes. The second contention of diminished responsibility rested on the claim that the accused was suffering from schizophrenia at the time of the offence.

15 On the issue of the cause of the deceased’s death, the trial judge reviewed Dr Chui’s evidence and found the injuries present on the body of the deceased to be largely consistent with the Prosecution’s case, namely, that the accused had smothered the deceased with his bare hands. The judge further held that the accused’s refusal to take the stand entitled the court to draw an adverse inference under s 196(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68, 1985 Rev Ed) (“the CPC”) that the acts of the accused caused the deceased’s demise. The court below was convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused had murdered the deceased. It did, however, refrain from making any finding as to whether the deceased had been sexually assaulted.

16 As for the defence of diminished responsibility, the court held that the Defence failed to prove on a balance of probabilities that the accused was suffering from schizophrenia or any mental disorder of any kind at the time of the commission of the offence. In the result, the court found the accused guilty of the murder charge and he was accordingly sentenced to suffer the punishment of death.

17 The accused has appealed against his conviction and the sentence. He has raised essentially three issues before us, namely, the question of causation, the question of adverse inferences and the defence of diminished responsibility. We will deal with these issues seriatim.

Whether the accused had caused the death of the deceased

18 The Prosecution’s case was that the accused had sexually assaulted the deceased and, having achieved his goal, silenced her by smothering her with his bare hands. He also “chopped” her neck with his hands and stomped on her head to make sure that she was dead. Thereafter, he set about disposing of the body by wrapping it up in layers of plastic bags, sealing it in a carton box and casting the box down the slope at the Park.

19 The Prosecution’s case pertaining to the accused’s disposal of the deceased’s body was clearly established from the forensic evidence of Dr Chui and the admissions made by the accused in his police statements. It was only in relation to the cause of the deceased’s death that some contention arose. The Defence took the position that the accused was not responsible for the death of the deceased and that her demise was or could have been due to other causes. This, it was contended, was...

To continue reading

Request your trial
59 cases
  • Ong Pang Siew v Public Prosecutor
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 8 November 2010
    ...see Chua Hwa Soon Jimmy v Public Prosecutor [1998] 1 SLR(R) 601 (at [8]) (“Jimmy Chua”). In Took Leng How v Public Prosecutor [2006] 2 SLR(R) 70, this Court reiterated (at [46]) the three-limb test which an accused has to satisfy to establish the defence of diminished responsibility: the ac......
  • Jagatheesan s/o Krishnasamy v Public Prosecutor
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 24 July 2006
    ...see, for example, Teo Keng Pong ([45] supra) at 339, [68]; most recently applied by the Court of Appeal in Took Leng How v PP [2006] 2 SLR 70 (“Took Leng 47 While the raison d’être for this burden of proof is never questioned, much controversy continues to cloud attempts to devise a working......
  • Public Prosecutor v Mohammed Liton Mohammed Syeed Mallik
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 31 October 2007
    ...a necessary prerequisite for any legitimate and sustainable conviction: see, for example, Jagatheesan [[32] supra]; Took Leng How v PP [2006] 2 SLR 70. Indeed, the trial judge also alluded to this important principle in his judgment in respect of the second trial (see Mohammed Liton (No 2) ......
  • Mohammed Ali bin Johari v Public Prosecutor
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 26 September 2008
    ...PP [1996] 1 SLR 497 (“Thongbai Naklangdon”), Lau Lee Peng v PP [2000] 2 SLR 628 (“Lau Lee Peng”) and, most recently, Took Leng How v PP [2006] 2 SLR 70 (“Took Leng How”). In Oh Laye Koh, Yong Pung How CJ clarified incisively that intention and motive were both different elements (at 393–394......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
6 books & journal articles
  • Indexes
    • United Kingdom
    • International Journal of Evidence & Proof, The No. 18-4, October 2014
    • 1 October 2014
    ...v Governor andCompany of the Bank of England (No. 6)[2004]UKHL 48, [2005]1 AC 610. . . . 66, 72, 76Took Leng How v Public Prosecutor [2006] 2SLR(R) 70. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .264Totani vSouth Australia (2010)242 CLR 1 . . . 248Turner (Col.) and others, Trial ......
  • Rationalising the burden of establishing defences at criminal law in Singapore: Reconsidering Jayasena, in the wake of Eu Lim Hoklai
    • United Kingdom
    • International Journal of Evidence & Proof, The No. 21-4, October 2017
    • 1 October 2017
    ...n. 7, Jayasekara Aarchchilage Hemantha Neranjan Gamini v Public Prosecutor [2011] 3 SLR 689. 116. See Took Leng How v Public Prosecutor [2006] 2 SLR 70; Syed Abdul Aziz, n. 85; Ramakrishnan s/o Ramayan v Prosecutor [1998] 3 SLR(R) 161, Jagatheesan, ibid.; Gamini, ibid. 117. Eu Lim Hoklai, n......
  • Administrative and Constitutional Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2006, December 2006
    • 1 December 2006
    ...applied by Singapore courts as a pre-requisite for a legitimate and sustained conviction, most recently in Took Leng How v PP[2006] 2 SLR 70. This principle might conceivably have constitutional status in Singapore in so far as it constitutes one of those fundamental rules of natural justic......
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Journal No. 2008, December 2008
    • 1 December 2008
    ...or otherwise — why indeed can it not be dismissed? It is interesting that in the later Court of Appeal decision in Took Leng How v PP[2006] 2 SLR 70 where yet again the plea of diminished responsibility was rejected and the defence psychiatrist disbelieved, the portion of Choo J’s pronounce......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT