S'porean charged with wife's murder in UK tells court he does not remember killing her

Fong Soong Hert with his wife, Madam Pek Ying Ling, at Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland on Nov 26, 2021. PHOTO: ALEXIS FONG

NEWCASTLE, ENGLAND - A 51-year-old Singaporean man accused of killing his wife by smothering her with a pillow accepts that he carried out the act but cannot remember doing it, a jury heard on Monday (Aug 8).

Fong Soong Hert told the Newcastle Crown Court that he has no recollection of the incident at the County Aparthotel in Newcastle in the early hours of Dec 6 last year.

He said: "I don't remember, I really want to, I cannot explain."

"I'm really desperate to understand what happened and what went wrong," he later added.

While giving his evidence on day four of the murder trial before Judge Paul Sloan, Fong said he had been in significant pain after a fall down a steep slope in Scotland days earlier.

He described feeling like a "walking corpse", adding: "I felt like my whole body is in pain, my bones will shatter, my head will explode with pain."

Fong said he was taking several medications to help manage severe discomfort. He also had prescription medications for anxiety, depression and to help him sleep.

Junior defence counsel Steven Reed led the questioning by asking Fong about his relationship with his wife of 28 years, Madam Pek Ying Ling, 51. Fong responded that it was "wonderful - we were so happy", adding that his marriage was "never" a cause of stress.

When asked if they ever argued, he said: "Definitely, yes, life is full of ups and downs and challenges. We have disagreements, we have arguments, bickerings."

But the arguments were never physical, he noted.

Fong added that the bickering often came from his wife's side, when "she wants my attention to get some things done, when I feel it's not so urgent".

Fong told the jury that he was usually the calmer one and often stepped away if things got heated. He added that he was not angry or resentful of his wife for the bickering.

Mr Reed explained to the court that the couple's holiday took them to Dubai, Croatia, then Scotland, where they had planned to spend a few days, before visiting Newcastle. While in the Isle of Skye, Fong had a fall, which he recalled to the court: "I slipped or tripped on something while I was trying to take a picture. I went tumbling, rolling, free drop."

He ended up against a shed but does not remember any other detail. Following the fall, he had pain in his arms, knees, legs, the lower back and spine area, and headaches. At a local hospital where he was given pain medication, he recalls a doctor saying that he was "very, very fortunate" that he had not suffered fatal injuries.

Fong explained that the medication worked only temporarily - he could not sit, lie or stand for long and was having bad headaches. He said that his wife took responsibility for his medication and was helping him to take it.

"She looks after me very well," he told the court.

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Fong was referred to a hospital in Inverness but was not given any further treatment, following which the couple travelled to Edinburgh.

Still in a lot of pain, Fong went by train with his wife to Newcastle on Dec 3, where they met their son Alonzo Fong. "The train, it was bad. I just felt like my whole body is breaking up."

The day after arriving in the city, the couple went to St James' Park to watch a football match.

But the next evening, he told the jury, he collapsed at the hotel after feeling a sharp shooting pain from the base of his spine to his head, and in his legs. An ambulance was called, and Fong was taken to the Royal Victoria Infirmary for treatment.

Fong said that he and his wife were both "feeling very dejected, feeling helpless, lost and really don't know what to do". When they returned to the hotel, he told the jury he felt pain and discomfort, his movement was restricted and was very worried about falling on his wife. They then spoke about changing their holiday plans because of Fong's condition.

The defendant said that, because he was in pain, he wanted the conversation to stop and resume the next day, but he does not remember if there was a verbal argument.

When Mr Reed asked Fong if he accepts that he caused his wife's death, he said: "I cannot come to terms with it, but I accept that I caused her death."

When asked if he killed his wife because of her nagging, Fong responded: "I cannot believe that there's anything that she can say or do that can make me so mad."

He denied that he intended to cause her serious harm or to kill her and said he could not remember anything else until the next morning.

The defendant said the first time he knew his wife was dead was when he talked to her but did not get a response. He said he froze and it felt "like a nightmare".

He also told the jury that he cannot recall when he called Mr Alonzo Fong or the full conversation but did it because he needed help "and I was hoping whether my wife could still be saved". 

Madam Pek Ying Ling, 51, was found dead in a luxury apartment in the Newcastle city centre. PHOTOS: NORTHUMBRIA POLICE, ITV

Prosecutor Peter Makepeace, who was next to question Fong, said that the defendant's mobile phone had been accessed several times from 4.42am on Dec 6, the morning of the death.

He stressed that to access the phone, Fong would have had to remember his personal identification number and enter it several times.

However, the defendant said he did not remember accessing his phone. Mr Makepeace also asked Fong if he made any attempt to save his wife's life, to which he again answered that he could not remember.

"Your wife might have been saveable when you saw her lying on the bed. So, what did you do to try and save her? Not a single thing, did you? What you did was sit and turn your phone on and off nine times."

According to Mr Makepeace, the defendant saw a nurse at the police station, before he was taken to Cramlington Hospital for a CT scan and an examination of his neurological state. There was no mention of a blackout, lost consciousness or a lack of memory, the prosecutor said, and added that "all of this 'I can't recall'" surfaced only after Fong spoke to his lawyers.

Mr Makepeace explained that Fong had several psychiatric assessments - the first of which was at Durham Prison on Dec 8. During the assessment, he was recorded as being clearly agitated, and when recalling the evening before the death, said: "She just wouldn't shut up, going on and on." 

On Dec 15, Fong had a second psychiatric assessment at Durham Prison, when he said: "Things were going really well before the fall. After the fall, things started screwing up."

Madam Pek kept asking, "Why did you have to go and take that picture?" and kept "going on" about travel plans, the assessment said. He was also recorded as saying: "I know I hurt her, I don't know why. I cannot acknowledge this has happened."

Fong had another assessment by a forensic psychiatrist and gave a long and detailed account of Dec 5 and 6. The defendant had told him that the night before the killing, he was feeling very drained and he did not recall going to bed. He said that he could not remember anything his wife had said that would have provoked him and added: "I'm questioning the rage I had."

Mr Makepeace asked him if he was "picking and choosing what you tell any individual depending on how much you want to reveal?"

The defendant replied that he was not, and that "If I can, I would admit everything. I think it's easier for my family and my sons to just get mad at me, rather than going through all of these emotions".

Defence attorney Toby Hebworth was not at the trial after falling ill last Thursday, leading to a two-day postponement.

The trial continues.

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