Woman in death fall was 'in disturbed state of mind'

Her increasingly bizarre behaviour earlier included hearing voices, pounding of chest

Le Thi Hau had suffered headaches for a year, spoke of hearing voices, and was acting strangely.

Convinced that his 24-year-old girlfriend was troubled by demons, fishmonger Yeo Yeow Liang, 51, decided to take her to a Tibetan Buddhist medium in Chinatown.

But tragedy struck while they were travelling on the West Coast Highway at 3.15pm on March 3.

Ms Le, riding pillion on Mr Yeo's motorcycle, said she was afraid. He told her to hold on tightly to him.

But then he felt her jump off the bike, causing it to wobble.

Jamming on his brakes, he turned and saw to his horror that Ms Le had climbed onto the railing of the flyover. He shouted at her to stop but she fell from the bridge and landed in the middle lane of Telok Blangah Road below. She was pronounced dead 15 minutes later.

DUTY OF CARE

Persons in Ms Le's situation often have very little insight into their own disorders, and are wholly dependent on their family and caregivers to make prudent treatment choices for them. Such a medical or psychiatric intervention must be done on an urgent basis, given the individual's propensity for self-harm.''

STATE CORONER MARVIN BAY, on how it was unfortunate that no one had sought to have Ms Le's mental health assessed.

Months before her death, Ms Le's father had noted her increasingly bizarre behaviour; she would rub her head, pound her chest, pull her hair and stamp her feet.

About a week before she died, she told Mr Yeo she was hearing "voices'' of people she knew, causing her confusion and giving her headaches. Mr Yeo also noticed that she showed signs of fear and anxiety, and had developed a childish temper since arriving in Singapore on Feb 5, on her fourth visit.

Though Mr Yeo is married, he considered Ms Le his wife and her seven-year-old daughter called him "father''.

In his findings yesterday, State Coroner Marvin Bay said Ms Le was evidently in a disturbed state of mind, but unfortunately, no one sought to have her mental health assessed. Her boyfriend was convinced she was possessed by demons, rather than had an undiagnosed mental condition, and thus sought exorcism instead of the help of a health professional.

While one may hold a belief in the supernatural origin of disturbances such as those Ms Le suffered from, the coroner said it was essential to first seek professional medical help for treatment and diagnosis of a possible mental illness, rather than attempt any esoteric or mystic cure.

"Persons in Ms Le's situation often have very little insight into their own disorders, and are wholly dependent on their family and caregivers to make prudent treatment choices for them.

"Such a medical or psychiatric intervention must be done on an urgent basis, given the individual's propensity for self-harm,'' he said.

Mr Bay said this propensity was clear from Ms Le's intimation that she wanted to end her life, just a day before her fall. She had been in a fragile mental state that day. He found her death to be a suicide.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2015, with the headline 'Woman in death fall was 'in disturbed state of mind''. Print Edition | Subscribe