82-year-old man jailed eight years for killing daughter-in-law at Tampines flat

Char Chin Fah (in red) was jailed eight years over the death of his daughter-in-law, Madam Ong Guat Leng.
Char Chin Fah (in red) was jailed eight years over the death of his daughter-in-law, Madam Ong Guat Leng. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

SINGAPORE - An 82-year-old mentally ill retiree who killed his 54-year-old daughter-in-law at their Tampines flat was on Monday (April 25) jailed for eight years.

Char Chin Fah pleaded guilty to culpable homicide for repeatedly stabbing Madam Ong Guat Leng, a housewife who was married to his eldest son, on Aug 21, 2014.

In sentencing, Justice Woo Bih Li said this was a serious offence which would ordinarily attract a long term of imprisonment but he "experienced some hesitation" on account of the accused's advanced age.

Char, who lived together with his eldest son's family, had an acrimonious relationship with the son and daughter-in-law, the High Court heard.

Char, who suffered from an "acute paranoid reaction", frequently complained about Madam Ong to his other children, saying that she was disrespectful towards him and often nagged at him.

Char's family has described him as being "difficult to live with". He behaved in socially inappropriate ways such as placing his dirty socks on the dining table or not closing the toilet door when he relieved himself.

This behaviour annoyed Madam Ong, who was on medication for an anxiety disorder. As a result of her disorder, she would often nag when she felt agitated.

Char was given a bed in the living room and his living space was separated from the rest of the living room by a curtain. Eldest son Char Yeng Kong and Madam Ong took the master bedroom, their son and his girlfriend took one room while the remaining room was occupied by Madam Ong's sister.

The evening before the stabbing, Char had a dispute with the couple, who were unhappy with him for not washing the curtain. Char decided to kill Madam Ong as he felt betrayed by his son who had not spoken up for him.

At about 5.30am on Aug 21, 2014, Char left the flat for his daily exercise. He then went to a nearby coffee shop for his breakfast and penned a "suicide note", saying that he had done "something big". He bought a bottle of beer "to gather more courage" to kill Madam Ong.

He waited for all the other occupants in the flat to leave for work, leaving her sleeping alone at home. He then made his way back to the flat, chose the sharpest kitchen knife, went to the master bedroom and attacked Madam Ong.

Char admitted that he grabbed her by the hair and repeatedly banged her head against the wall. She ran to another room but he managed to catch up with her.

Madam Ong begged Char for forgiveness, but he did not relent.

At some point, Madam Ong ran back to her room but she was unable to close the door and Char stabbed her in the chest with the knife, which had a 20.4 cm blade.

He left the knife in her body, washed up and called his daughter and youngest son to tell them what he had done.

The daughter, Madam Jenny Char, called Madam Ong's daughter, who called the police. Meanwhile, Char made his way to his daughter's home to hand her his personal belongings. Not long after, youngest son Char Yeng Keang arrived, persuaded his father to surrender and drove him to a police station.

When the police arrived at the Tampines flat, they found Madam Ong in the flat splattered with blood. An autopsy found four stab wounds in her chest area, fractures on her skull, as well as bruises, abrasions and swellings on her face and body.

Dr Stephen Phang of the Institute of Mental Health said in a report that if Char were to stay with his family members, the risk of developing interpersonal conflict and other paranoid reactions was significant.

Even though his "perceived villainess has been eliminated", Char's baseline paranoid personality predisposed him to develop paranoid and abnormal suspicions about the intentions of others towards him, making him a difficult subject to live with, said Dr Phang.