NEWCASTLE, ENGLAND - The 51-year-old Singaporean on trial for killing his wife likely knelt on her to restrain her when he smothered her to death with a pillow last year, Newcastle Crown Court heard on Wednesday (Aug 3).
A pathologist explained that pressure on the front of Madam Pek Ying Ling's shoulders caused large areas of bruising and small burst blood vessels to appear shortly before she died.
Fong Soong Hert, 51, also known as Allan, is on trial for the murder of Madam Pek, also 51 and known to family and friends as Evelyn, at County Aparthotel on Dec 6, 2021.
The eldest of their three sons, Mr Alonzo Fong, who is studying in the city, alerted police to the incident after he received a phone call from his father saying that he thought he had killed Madam Pek.
Officers found her lifeless body on the bed in the hotel room the couple were staying at during their four-day trip to the city. A pillow covered her face and her arms were outstretched. An emergency medical team attempted resuscitation but she was pronounced dead soon afterwards.
The trial began on Monday with Fong pleading not guilty to murder.
Home Office pathologist Jennifer Bolton, who conducted the post-mortem on Madam Pek, was the first to answer prosecutor Peter Makepeace's questions on Wednesday morning.
Dr Bolton explained that she carried out the post-mortem at close to 5pm on the evening of the death. During the external examination, she found a series of petechial haemorrhages, seen as small red dots, on Madam Pek's forehead, eyelids, lower right eyeball and in her mouth.
That type of haemorrhage is caused by the person's blood pressure getting too high, and tiny blood vessels under the skin bursting, the pathologist told the court. There were also 11 bruises of varying sizes and colours on the victim's chin, shoulders, arms and left ankle.
Dr Bolton explained to the jury that it is not possible to say "categorically" when each bruise was caused.
However, she noted, that the bruise to the back of Madam Pek's right forearm and the abrasion to her left ankle suggested that they occurred at a different time.
Meanwhile, "the petechial haemorrhages in the face and the bruising on her shoulders, they all have the appearance of having been caused at the same time", the pathologist said. She added that the haemorrhages usually go away within minutes or hours after occurring, so the fact that they were still visible meant they occurred very shortly before the death.
An internal examination found that Madam Pek had heart disease, evident in the narrowing of one of her coronary arteries. However, there was no damage to her heart or evidence that she had suffered from any symptoms.
Dr Bolton confirmed that the toxicology reports showed there was no alcohol or drugs detected in the victim's blood or urine. She also confirmed that Madam Pek's saliva and blood were found on the underside of the pillow and Fong's DNA was found on the top.
The pathologist concluded that while the haemorrhages are not sinister in and of themselves, they are a marker of some form of airway obstruction or pressure to the neck.
Dr Bolton told the jury that all the evidence led her to conclude that the cause of the victim's death was smothering. She explained that for this to happen, there must be an interruption of oxygen getting into the bloodstream for a long enough time for someone to become unconscious and then to die.
"This is not an immediate process. It is likely to take a small number of minutes," the court heard.
The size and position of the bruises on the front of the shoulders "raise the possibility" that the victim had been knelt on while the pillow was held over her face, Dr Bolton suggested. But there was nothing to say that she was the victim of a sustained blunt force assault such as punches or heavy slaps, she told the jury, and there was no evidence of a struggle.
Next to take the stand for the prosecution on Wednesday was Detective Constable Mark Wedderburn, who was responsible for putting together a sequence of events. His evidence included written statements, photographs, maps, videos and audio.
The prosecutor took the court through the events, explaining that on Nov 22, last year, Fong and Madam Pek arrived at Glasgow International Airport before travelling to the Isle of Skye. On Nov 27, Fong returned to the hotel they were staying in, alone and in a "dishevelled state", reporting that he had slipped down a steep bank while taking a photo. Witnesses later said he tripped over some piping and rolled down an embankment.
The next day, Fong was taken to the Dr MacKinnon Memorial Hospital on the Isle of Skye where he was kept overnight and given painkilling medication, including morphine. He was discharged the next morning and given further medication. Later that day, he went to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness but was discharged with no further treatment.
On Dec 3, Fong and Madam Pek checked into room 203 at the County Aparthotel in Newcastle, accompanied by their son. The next day, the couple attended a Premier League football match in the city and, later that evening, Madam Pek called her son to explain that his father had had a fall.
She had fallen along with him and hurt her arm and sustained a small cut to the head, the court heard.
On Dec 5, Mr Alonzo Fong received a call from his mother informing him that his father had had another fall. He learnt that his father was okay, and later joined them to watch football. But after Mr Alonzo Fong left the hotel after 4pm, his mother called him to say that his father had fallen again, this time onto her, causing her to fall onto the coffee table, hurting her wrist. She requested that the hotel reception call an ambulance.
On arrival, Fong was given pain relief and taken to the Royal Victoria Infirmary. That evening, Mr Alonzo Fong sent a text message to his mother saying: "Don't scold him. No point. Make him feel comfortable most important."
Fong was afterwards discharged from the hospital and took a taxi with his wife back to the hotel, arriving shortly after midnight.
Mr Alonzo Fong and his mother exchanged several messages over the next hour or so. At 7.07am, Fong called his son, then a minute later they exchanged text messages. The court heard that Mr Alonzo Fong said: "Don't touch her. I'm staying waiting for police and medics."
Fong responded: "K. I want to die. I'm so sorry son."
Mr Alonzo Fong texted "It's okay, just calm down", and Fong responded: "Not okay, I love your mum."
At 7.13am, Mr Alonzo Fong called 999 and, in the audio that was played for the jury, he told the operator: "My dad just called me and just told me that he killed my mum."
After providing details of his location, he added: "I think they got into an argument and then what he told me is he lost it and covered her mouth and just told me she is gone."
At 7.29am, police arrived at the hotel room and, one minute later, the emergency medical team arrived.
More officers arrived and Fong was arrested. Mr Alonzo Fong also sent his girlfriend some text messages in which he said: "I want to cry but no tears. I'm so confused..."
A later message said: "I have a f**king perfect family. I don't know how this happened."
The jury heard that while in the holding cell, Fong was recorded as saying: "I snapped. I just wanted her to keep quiet."
Detective Constable Joanne Glendenning, who is overall in charge of the investigation, was the last to take the stand for the prosecution. She confirmed that at 9.30pm until 10.15pm on Dec 6, Fong was interviewed at the police station but answered "no comment" to all of the questions.
The trial continues on Thursday.