'I just wanted her to keep quiet,' says S'porean on trial in UK for suffocating wife with pillow

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Fong Soong Hert, a 51-year-old Singaporean was handed a life sentence on Aug 12 after pleading guilty to smothering his wife, Madam Pek Ying Ling, to death with a pillow while they were on holiday in Britain.

SINGAPORE - A 51-year-old Singaporean accused of murdering his wife in a hotel while on holiday in Britain last year is said to have suffocated her with a pillow after she nagged at him.

Fong Soong Hert denied murdering Madam Pek Ying Ling, 51, and the jury in Newcastle Crown Court heard on Monday (Aug 1) that he had "no memory whatsoever of the killing but accepts that he must have placed a pillow over his wife's face and smothered her to death".

Prosecutor Peter Makepeace, in his opening note, said Madam Pek was unhappy with Fong as he continued to smoke while he was unwell on their trip and refused to go to hospital despite repeatedly falling.

Madam Pek was pronounced dead at the County Aparthotel in Newcastle at 7.32am on Dec 6, 2021.

The Straits Times earlier reported that the couple, who had been married for 27 years, have three adult sons in their 20s.

ST understands that at least one of their sons is currently in Newcastle for the trial.

The Newcastle Crown Court heard that at about 7.10am on Dec 6, Fong called their eldest son, then 26, who was studying in a university in Newcastle.

He told his son he had hurt his mother and added: "She's gone. She's dead. I just lost it. I tried to cover her mouth to shush her. I just lost it."

Mr Makepeace said the son sent his father several text messages advising him to stay put and wait for him and the police.

Fong replied that he was sorry and wanted to die.

When his son tried to reassure him that it was OK, Fong replied, "Not OK, I love your mum."

The couple had earlier returned from the hospital on the night of Dec 5, after Fong had fallen and an ambulance was called.

Closed-circuit television footage taken from the hotel shows them entering their room at 12.17am on Dec 6. Neither of them left the room until the police arrived the next morning.

Madam Pek's last message was sent to their son at 1.22am.

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During police questioning, Fong said: "I just wanted her to keep quiet."

He has denied murdering Madam Pek but pleaded guilty to manslaughter, arguing that he did not intend to kill her or cause her really serious bodily harm.

The prosecutor told the court that there was no known history of violence between the couple but that according to one son, Madam Pek was known to scold her husband.

Fong had injured himself in a fall during their stay on Isle of Skye, an island off the coast of Scotland, and visited a hospital.

He fell several times after that in Newcastle, which led to Madam Pek "scolding him for not taking care of himself", said the prosecutor.

Mr Makepeace told the court that Fong may have knelt on his wife's shoulders during the attack to achieve the required force to kill her.

Madam Pek was found by emergency services lying with her legs hanging over the bottom of the bed and a pillow over her face.

ST reported earlier that the couple left Singapore on Oct 24 last year and travelled to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, Croatia and Scotland, before arriving in Newcastle, where they met their eldest son on Dec 3 that year.

The couple watched a football match between Newcastle United and Burnley, their youngest son told ST in an exclusive interview.

They had planned to meet their second and youngest sons during their trip, which would have concluded in Germany on Jan 13.

Family members ST spoke to earlier described the couple as very loving.

The trial started on Monday and is expected to conclude next Tuesday.

Correction note: An earlier version of this story said that the couple's eldest son was 27 at the time of the incident. He was 26. We are sorry for the error.

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