SINGAPORE: A 37-year-old man was sentenced to 12 years’ jail on Wednesday (Sep 21) after he stabbed his ex-girlfriend to death in Jurong East in February last year.
Zheng Xianfeng attacked his ex-girlfriend Tham Mee Yoke and continued swinging his knife at her even though a passer-by rode a personal mobility device (PMD) into him in an attempt to stop the assault.
Tham died of her injuries after she was taken to hospital.
Zheng, a Chinese national, was jailed on Wednesday after he pleaded guilty to one count of culpable homicide not amounting to the murder of Tham.
Four other charges, including causing annoyance while drunk, causing hurt to his brother, and injuring Tham with a penknife in an earlier incident, were taken into consideration for the sentencing.
Zheng and Tham first met as flatmates in December 2018 and they began dating after a dinner gathering.
Their relationship went smoothly until August 2020 when they began quarrelling, arguing over minor issues and suspecting each other of cheating.
On Nov 17, 2020, after an argument, Tham wanted to break up with Zheng and packed her bags to move out. Zheng, who was then intoxicated, took out a penknife and stabbed himself in the right thigh.
He also pinned Tham down and attacked her, and she suffered a 15cm cut from the assault. Zheng was arrested for causing hurt with a dangerous weapon.
After the incident, Zheng sought Tham at her new residence in a bid to salvage the relationship. In one such meeting, Zheng saw that Tham was texting another man on her phone and assaulted her again.
On the morning of Feb 16, 2021, Zheng took leave from work as he was thinking about his ongoing court cases and his relationship issues. He headed home at noon and started drinking beer.
He received a message from Tham, telling him not to harass her in the future.
“The accused messaged the victim, stating that she appeared happy after they broke up, while he felt unhappy and lonely,” Deputy Public Prosecutor Teo Lu Jia told the court.
Zheng continued drinking beer before leaving his house with a 26.5cm-long knife tucked into his trousers. He bought snacks and more alcohol and drank in public.
At around 10pm, he went to a residents’ corner near the victim’s residence and resumed drinking while waiting for her. The victim arrived at the void deck of Block 308, Jurong East Street 32, near midnight.
Three men who were in the area witnessed Zheng walking quickly towards Tham. One of them called the police as he spotted the knife tucked into Zheng’s pants.
Tham raised her hands while backing away from Zheng. He then took out the knife and began stabbing her multiple times in the chest and abdomen.
One of the three witnesses rode his PMD into Zheng to try and stop him.
“In response to the impact, the accused momentarily stopped his attack, but thereafter quickly resumed stabbing the victim’s upper body repeatedly again. The accused repeatedly stabbed the victim in her chest and abdomen with the intention of causing her death,” Ms Teo said.
Tham’s screams caught the attention of six other residents, some of whom called the police.
After realising that Tham was motionless, Zheng ran away with the knife. He cut himself on his left forearm twice.
He then removed his clothes and passed out on a grass patch near Block 307, Jurong East Street 32. One of the three men gave chase but lost sight of Zheng. Another man, who was training as a nurse, applied pressure on Tham’s neck.
Paramedics took Tham to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, where she died of her injuries at about 1.30am on Feb 17, 2021.
An autopsy report showed she suffered at least 19 stab wounds and 10 incised wounds, along with three rib fractures.
Zheng was arrested by police officers and a blood sample was taken from him. According to court documents, he was in a state of acute alcohol intoxication at the time of the offence.
The man was assessed at the Institute of Mental Health and diagnosed with major depressive disorder.
The major depressive disorder and acute alcohol intoxication did not compromise Zheng’s awareness that his actions were morally and legally wrong, according to court documents. He was also aware of the “nature, quality and wrongness” of his actions, the documents added.
Ms Teo sought 10 to 12 years’ jail for Zheng, while his lawyer Leo Cheng Suan, argued for a term of between eight and 10 years.
Mr Leo said that his client came to Singapore to earn a living and started working as a car painter, which was why he had a penknife.
He said that the couple had rekindled their relationship but they quarrelled often. Zheng had also been troubled by another girlfriend in China, who had bought a house with his money and became uncontactable.
“After he killed her he did a bizarre thing – he slashed himself, took off all his clothes (and) just wanted to die. He had all these suicidal thoughts. When I visited him he wanted the death penalty, he was just so remorseful after the events,” said Mr Leo.
For culpable homicide not amounting to murder, Zheng could have been jailed for life and caned, or jailed for up to 20 years, fined, or caned.