SINGAPORE — A man who lay in wait for his ex-wife in the carpark of the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College Central before stabbing her to death in 2018 was jailed for life on Wednesday (22 September).
Seet Cher Hng, 69, killed Low Swee Geok, 56, divisional director of the Examinations Division, at the Ang Mo Kio institution in 19 July 2018, over the division of matrimonial assets and Low's alleged affair.
Seet then turned the knife on himself and was hospitalised thereafter. He had told passers-by not to save him and to let him die.
Seet was convicted under section 300(c) of the Penal Code, which states that he intentionally caused such bodily injury as is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause the death of Low.
The affair remains a contentious issue and has not been proven, according to court documents.
Seet had felt increasingly isolated and depressed by her failure to respond to his demands after their divorce on 13 June 2011, which Low had initiated.
'Painful family tragedy'
On Wednesday, the prosecution called for life imprisonment, while Seet's lawyers, led by Wendall Wong of Drew and Napier, sought the same sentence while characterising the tragedy as a man who went into a downward spiral after the divorce.
Wong said that a "confluence of many factors" led to the confrontation in the ITE carpark.
"Mr Seet understands that he cannot turn back time in this painful family tragedy that has resulted in the loss of life," he said, adding that his client had simply wanted "a happy life and a complete family".
Seet was "trapped in his own prison of despair and isolation" and felt betrayed by Low's extramarital affair. Seet had also sought $330,000 that he felt was owed him from the sale of their condominium, and spent much effort to discuss the issue with the deceased, said Wong.
'I am going to the Devil'
However, Deputy Public Prosecutor Hay Hung Chun pointed out that it was a "stretch of the imagination" to say that Seet did not have a clear mind when he went to the carpark. He read out three letters Seet wrote to family, friends, and the police before committing the offence.
In one letter, Seet said "Ending my existence had being in and out of my mind all these years. Now it’s counting down days. I am going to be the devil to handle the devil in her."
In his letter to the police dated 12 April 2018, he said, "It’s murder and suicide. I had enough of it all. Did warned (sic) her she will (lose) Big Time if she refuses to return my CPF for my decent old age survival." He then gave instructions on how to deal with his body and credit card company.
Not the right forum, says judge
Justice Aedit Abdullah noted that the case did not call for the imposition of the death penalty.
However, he warned that the proceedings were "skirting very close" to an abuse of the mitigation process as it was "not the forum for airing of grievances".
He noted that none of the issues raised touched on the sentence, nor had they helped him reach a decision between life imprisonment or the death penalty.
"The various matters raised in the background recited in the mitigation relate primarily to the accused’s grievances, and unhappiness. They may or may not be real or made out, but are irrelevant to the present proceedings. Furthermore, the victim was killed and cannot respond to the assertions made against her," said the judge, who added that he was not persuaded that by the defence's arguments with regard to Seet's mind and intentions.
Any grievances on Seet's end would not justify or lessen the seriousness of his offence or his criminal responsibility, ruled the judge. He urged parties to think about what they wanted to touch on and limit their mitigations in future cases.
A marriage turned sour
Seet and Low married on 7 April 1993. After the couple divorced, Seet became unhappy with his share of the proceeds from the division of matrimonial assets – a condominium unit jointly owned by the couple. He also believed that Low had had an affair.
Between 2011 and 2018, Seet demanded that Low pay him a sum varying from $200,000 to $500,000 as his share of the proceeds as well as “compensation” for the alleged infidelity. Low ignored his letters and emails.
On 19 July 2018, Seet picked up a car he had reserved and drove to ITE College Central. He brought along a haversack containing three knives, a spanner, and a note addressed to the police, dated 12 April 2018.
Low appeared at about 7.33pm. In the struggle that ensued, Seet stabbed her repeatedly, in her left upper chest, left mid-back and left lower back. Each wound was fatal.
Seet then turned the knife on himself and inflicted 13 stab wounds. He collapsed on top of his ex-wife.
Police officers and paramedics who were alerted to the scene by a “999” call from a witness pronounced Low dead at the scene at 8.03pm.
Seet eventually recovered from his injuries.
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