Man with schizophrenia who killed wife and dog jailed 10 years

·Senior Reporter
·7 min read
Paul Leslie Quirk is accused of murdering wife Christina Khoo at Esparina Residences on 3 January 2020. (PHOTO: Facebook/Paul Quirk)
Paul Leslie Quirk is accused of murdering wife Christina Khoo at Esparina Residences on 3 January 2020. (PHOTO: Facebook/Paul Quirk)

SINGAPORE — Believing that his wife was a demon that he had to banish, a podiatrist with schizophrenia who went off medication listened to the repeated and insistent voices in his head to kill her, a court heard.

Paul Leslie Quirk, now 49, repeatedly hit his wife Christina Khoo Gek Hwa, 43, on the head with a pair of kali sticks and a hanger until she collapsed, then stabbed her neck with a kitchen knife till he was satisfied that she was dead in January last year.

He then stabbed the family poodle multiple times before throwing it off the balcony.

When policemen arrived at the door after being called by neighbours who heard the commotion, Quirk told them that he was “Jesus Christ” and that he had killed his ex-wife because “she is a demon".

He also said that he had killed the family dog because it was “the demon’s familiar”, and that by throwing it off the balcony he had thrown it “into the abyss”.

At the High Court on Monday (24 May), Quirk was jailed for 10 years after he pleaded guilty to culpable homicide not amounting to murder for causing Khoo's death and mischief for killing the poodle.

Accused felt confused

Quirk moved from Australia to Singapore in 2016 and worked as a senior podiatrist at Punggol Polyclinic. He married Khoo in August 2017 and adopted her son from her previous marriage. The son, now 15, is currently being cared for by Khoo's mother.

Quirk was first diagnosed with depression after his divorce in 2001 and placed on antidepressant medication. In 2005, he started to experience auditory and visual hallucinations and believed that he needed to save the world by dying, and this led to two deliberate self-harm incidents. He had a remission of his symptoms after taking antipsychotic medication but suffered a relapse in 2013 after he stopped taking his medication. He started taking his medication again the next year and got well again.

However, around August 2019, Quirk started to become more sporadic with his medication intake, taking it once every two to three days or more.

Quirk and Khoo did not quarrel frequently. Their occasional arguments revolved around the outstanding alimony that he owed his ex-wife in Australia, the court heard.

At about 9pm on 2 January last year, the couple quarrelled and Quirk told Khoo that he wanted to return to Australia. He packed his bag and went to another condo where his visiting family from Australia were staying.

At about 3am, Quirk sent a text messages to Khoo to apologise for walking out on her. He also said he was “not feeling (himself) and am quite confused”. He returned home at about 3.45am accompanied by his brother.

At about 10.20am, Quirk and Khoo held hands as they saw Quirk's brother off. Khoo's son had gone to school earlier that morning. The couple then went to the Catholic Spirituality Centre.

Accused heard voices

At the centre, the accused heard a voice telling him repeatedly, 'I have a chance to stop this from getting worse'," said Deputy Public Prosecutor Andre Chong.

The couple left the centre shortly after and headed back home. "En route, the accused heard more voices telling him, 'You have a chance to stop this and the situation from getting worse'. These voices were very insistent, and told him that the deceased was evil, and that staying with her would upset the order and balance of everything. He also saw a passer-by wearing a marathon 'finisher' t-shirt, that his mind broke down to 'finish her'," said DPP Chong.

Back home, Quirk took a shower and heard voices telling him "Now is the time to strike. Hurry up, you have to take this opportunity".

Just before noon, he took two pairs of kali sticks, which measured about 72cm each. The couple and Khoo's son had previously used the sticks for training in kali, a form of martial arts originating in the Philippines.

In the living room, Quirk started hitting Khoo forcefully and without warning on the head and upper body. She ran to the balcony and screamed for help.

Undeterred, Quirk continued hitting her there, shouting “you die, you die!” as he hit her.

Victim pleaded for help

"The occupant of the unit directly below the residence looked up and saw the deceased leaning forward over the balcony railing. The deceased’s head and face were bloody, and her head was moving back and forth as the accused hit her repeatedly on the back of her head. The deceased stretched out one of her hands towards the neighbour and pleaded for help, before the accused pulled the deceased back by her hair into their balcony," said DPP Chong.

Several neighbours saw the assault and called the police.

Quirk chased after Khoo as she ran into the master bedroom. He continued to hit her with the kali sticks and also hit her head with a plastic clothes hanger so forcefully that it snapped. She eventually collapsed from the blows.

Thereafter, just after noon, Quirk took a 34cm-long kitchen knife and stabbed Khoo multiple times on the neck. "The accused only ceased his attack after he was satisfied that he had killed the deceased," said DPP Chong.

Quirk then immediately stabbed the family dog multiple times over various parts of its body before throwing it off the balcony.

Accused admitted crime

The first officers arrived at about 12.30pm. "The accused, who was covered in blood, answered the door and told the officers that he was 'Jesus Christ' and that he had killed his ex-wife because 'she is a demon and that I am Jesus Christ'," said DPP Chong.

"The accused admitted to the police that he had used both the knife and kali sticks to attack the deceased in order to kill her, that he had killed the family dog because it was 'the demon’s familiar', and that by throwing the family dog off the balcony he had thrown it 'into the abyss'," the prosecutor added.

Khoo was pronounced dead on the spot by paramedics.

In a police statement which was recorded later that day, Quirk said that Khoo "was a demon, and that he had to get rid of her from this plane of existence," said DPP Chong. Quirk also said that Khoo was "in the human form of a demon known as Tiamat" and that she was "trying to upset the order of things in this plane".

Quirk said he was "from heaven" and that he "heard voices prompting (him) to kill (Khoo), so as to banish her back to her abyss", the prosecutor added. 

And he killed the dog as it "could have brought the demon back to life". He also said that he “felt more at peace” after the killings.

Mind devoid of reality

"In the thrall of a cruel delusion, the accused brutally battered and stabbed his wife to death," said Deputy Public Prosecutors Wong Woon Kwong and Andre Chong in their submissions for a jail term of at least 10 years.

"Rather than a killer whose otherwise rational impulses were exacerbated by a mental disorder, the accused’s mental disorder meant that his mind was in fact devoid of reality and rationality. Prevention and rehabilitation, rather than deterrence and retribution, should guide the court in the determination of an appropriate sentence," they said.

However, the prosecutors noted that Quirk's psychotic relapse was the direct result of his failure to comply with medication for at least four months prior to the offence.

For culpable homicide not amounting to murder, Quirk could have been jailed for up to 20 years with a fine and caning, or jailed for life with caning.

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