Gardens by the Bay murder trial: Laundry shop manager guilty of killing lover

He acted in cruel manner, says judge, rejecting all defence claims

Khoo had reason to kill Ms Cui (above), who was pressing him to repay a $20,000 debt to her. The victim's burnt and decomposed remains were found at Lim Chu Kang Lane 8. Leslie Khoo Kwee Hock (in red) being led to the crime scene at Gardens by the Ba
Leslie Khoo Kwee Hock (in red) being led to the crime scene at Gardens by the Bay after his arrest in July 2016. He had strangled Ms Cui Yajie in his car near the area.PHOTO: SHIN MIN DAILY NEWS
Khoo had reason to kill Ms Cui (above), who was pressing him to repay a $20,000 debt to her. The victim's burnt and decomposed remains were found at Lim Chu Kang Lane 8. Leslie Khoo Kwee Hock (in red) being led to the crime scene at Gardens by the Ba
Khoo had reason to kill Ms Cui (above), who was pressing him to repay a $20,000 debt to her. PHOTO: SHIN MIN DAILY NEWS
Khoo had reason to kill Ms Cui (above), who was pressing him to repay a $20,000 debt to her. The victim's burnt and decomposed remains were found at Lim Chu Kang Lane 8. Leslie Khoo Kwee Hock (in red) being led to the crime scene at Gardens by the Ba
The victim's burnt and decomposed remains were found at Lim Chu Kang Lane 8. ST FILE PHOTO

Laundry shop manager Leslie Khoo Kwee Hock, 51, who strangled his lover in his car on a quiet road near Gardens by the Bay, and then burned her body, was found guilty of murder yesterday.

Judicial Commissioner Audrey Lim convicted Khoo of murdering engineer Cui Yajie, 31, on July 12, 2016, and rejected all defences he had raised to the charge.

She said Khoo knew that pressing Ms Cui's neck with great force would "likely cause her death", and dismissed his claim that he had not intended to strangle her and only realised his hands were around her neck after she had stopped moving.

She also rejected his testimony that Ms Cui had physically abused him, pointing to her smaller size in dismissing Khoo's claim that she had restrained him when he had tried to get out of the car.

"The accused acted in a cruel and unusual manner," said the judge, as Khoo listened calmly to the verdict.

The judge also discredited Khoo's claim that he had burned Ms Cui's body to let her "rest in peace".

She said Khoo had reason to kill Ms Cui, who was pressing him to repay a $20,000 debt to her, to avoid the financial pressure and threat of ruin that she posed.


Ms Cui Yajie, whose body was burned by Leslie Khoo Kwee Hock after he killed her. PHOTO: SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE

Sentencing was adjourned to a later date. Khoo faces the death sentence or life imprisonment.

Khoo did not dispute that he had strangled Ms Cui in his BMW and later burned her body at Lim Chu Kang Lane 8 over several days, until nothing was left except clumps of hair, pieces of partly burnt fabric and a bra hook.

But his defence argued he should be found guilty only of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

Frequent fights over 'ex-wife', money

Khoo's lawyer Mervyn Cheong said the fight in the car was sudden, and he had been provoked by her verbal taunts. The defence claimed he was suffering from a mental condition known as intermittent explosive disorder.

The prosecution, led by Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair, said Khoo was bent on silencing Ms Cui after she had threatened to expose him to his supervisor.

 
 
 
 

Khoo, who is married with a son, was a retail outlet manager for a laundry firm, while Ms Cui, a Chinese national, was a senior engineer at a semiconductor company.

They met in early 2015 when Khoo had helped her out of a sticky situation with a former boyfriend.

They began a relationship but Khoo told her untruths, such as that the laundry company belonged to his family and that he was single. When she later became suspicious, he told her he was divorced.

He also persuaded her to invest $20,000 in gold, which she borrowed from her parents to give him.

The lovers had frequent quarrels over Khoo spending too much time with his "ex-wife" and son, and the money, which he had secretly used for another purpose.

In July 2016, Khoo asked a former lover to remit $10,000 to Ms Cui's father, but the couple had a heated quarrel when she discovered it was only half the sum.

Meanwhile, Khoo's wife confronted him for cheating on her, after Ms Cui sent her a Facebook message to stay away from him.

In the early hours of July 12, 2016, he picked Ms Cui up from Joo Koon MRT station in his car, purportedly to meet his supervisor.

Instead, he drove her to a secluded location at Gardens by the Bay, and strangled her.

According to Khoo, after she stopped moving, he lowered the seat and covered her body with laundry bags. He parked the car overnight at his condo.

Khoo steadfastly denied he was in a romantic relationship with Ms Cui, even though he admitted he had affairs with many women, some of whom testified during the trial in March this year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2019, with the headline 'Laundry shop manager guilty of killing lover'. Subscribe