Victim's family disappointed NSF killer escapes death sentence

(Above) Police at the scene where Ms Hoe Hong Lin was stabbed to death in September 2010 near her Woodlands home.

SINGAPORE - The one who died wasn't supposed to. The one who should die isn't going to.

So said the husband of Ms Hoe Hong Lin, the 32-year-old woman stabbed to death in September 2010.

Her attacker, Soh Wee Kian, 23, was on Thursday sentenced to life imprisonment.

While Mr Ng Kak Joo, 42, said he accepted the sentence, he couldn't hide his disappointment as he spoke outside court.

"I'm disappointed... This is definitely a murder... I'm also heartbroken about why there's no caning," he told reporters.

Two weeks ago, the original charge of murder was reduced to that of culpable homicide, which carries a maximum life sentence. On Thursday, prosecution and defence lawyers agreed that there was to be no caning.

Mr Ng added he would relay the news to his daughter, who is in Primary 2 and living in Malaysia. His son, who is in Primary 6 and living with him here, wanted to attend court, he said. But Mr Ng said he didn't allow it as he didn't want it to affect his studies.

"I think of her a lot. I sometimes see her in my dreams - my son also," he said in Mandarin, adding he will visit her remains on the day of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Ms Hoe was celebrating the festival with family members the night she was killed.

Her brother, Mr Nicholas Hoe, who is in his 40s, told The New Paper on Wednesday: "We wanted the death penalty, but we'll have to accept life sentence as second best.

"We feel so innocent. It was just like she was walking on the street, something just happened... If we offended someone then we would understand. But this could happen to anybody," he added. "Life should be for life."

Family in dark

For the last three years, the family only knew brief details about what happened to Ms Hoe that night, he said.

Only on Tuesday, when Soh pleaded guilty and the statement of facts was read out in court, did they learn more.

"We felt bad (hearing the details), but at least we know how it happened. We feel better about not being in the dark," said Mr Hoe.

He described his sister as no different from other ordinary folk - who worked, and would take care of the family after that.

But whenever they think of her, they feel sad.

"As much as possible, we don't think or talk about her. It's like a pain in your body that you don't want to touch."

In the days after the attack, life went on.

"We just kept the pain inside... had to continue what we were doing."

Mr Ng, who works at a factory producing office furniture, was given leave by his company. His son received counselling from his school, said Mr Hoe.

The family's plans were put on hold, he added.

"She wanted to get a home of their own. She wanted to bring their daughter here to study," said Mr Hoe.

Ms Hoe was living at her brother's flat with her husband and son. The couple's daughter is now being taken care of by Mr Ng's sister, he said, though "it's hard for the father to be away from his daughter".

Two days before the attack, Ms Hoe had taken leave, he said. On the day it happened, the siblings went for a foot massage together before heading to Causeway Point, reading at the library and having coffee.

After that, Mr Hoe went with his wife and two children to the Chinese Garden, while his sister's family celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival at a park near their Woodlands flat.

After returning home, Mr Hoe said Mr Ng called, asking if she was in.

"I said, 'No'. He thought maybe she had come back by herself. He said he kept calling her but she didn't pick up the phone.

"I went downstairs to check, saw the area had been cordoned off. We started to feel very worried. I talked to an officer, he said something had happened.

"I asked if I could try to call her, and we told him to go nearby to hear if there's any ring tone."

The officer returned saying there was. Mr Hoe said he panicked immediately.

He didn't know how to tell the children, he said.

"At that moment, my mind was already blank."

Their father died nine months after Ms Hoe, which Mr Hoe said could be related to the incident. Their mother is almost 70.

"She was the youngest child in the family, they loved her the most," he said.

He added that when it happened, the family threw away most of her things - her clothes, bags and shoes.

"But the memory of her is still fresh. It's all up here," he said, pointing to his head.

"I miss everything about her. If your sibling is with you for 32 years, there are a lot of memories."

Life sentence, no caning

He had originally been charged with murder, which carries the death penalty.

But two weeks ago, after representations from his lawyers, the charge was reduced to culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

Under the reduced charge, Soh Wee Kian could have been jailed for life, or up to 20 years, with a fine or caning possible.

On Thursday, his lawyers, Mr Thangavelu, Mr Josephus Tan and Mr Keith Lim, said Soh should not be caned as he had been diagnosed by two psychiatrists to have an adjustment disorder with depressed mood around the time of the offences. Soh was a full-time national serviceman then.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Adrian Loo, Ruth Wong and Ong Luan Tze agreed they were not submitting for the imposition of caning.

This was even though he did not commit the offences as a result of the adjustment disorder, they said.

Rather, it was given consultant psychiatrist Jerome Goh's assessment that Soh has some antisocial and narcissistic personality traits which contributed to the repeated offences; that he began his habits of following and fantasising from young; and that he was indeed suffering from this disorder.

Still, a life sentence means incarceration till death, unless he is released after a review of his sentence, which he can ask for only after 20 years.

Justice Choo Han Teck noted the court's sentencing options were not many.

"Given the circumstances and facts of this case, and for the sake of the public and your own good, a lengthy imprisonment seems to be the most appropriate sentence," he said.

Soh was dealt the life sentence for both charges proceeded on - for his hand in causing Ms Hoe Hong Lin's death, and for voluntarily causing grievous hurt to Ms How Poh Ling, whom he stabbed in May 2010.

He started trailing women in Primary 5

SOH Wee Kian had told Dr Jerome Goh, consultant psychiatrist at the Institute of Mental Health, that his parents divorced when he was in Primary 6 or Secondary 1.

According to Dr Goh's February 2011 report, Soh was the eldest of three children. His mother and stepfather, whom she married in 2003, had a daughter together.

He finished his N levels, but dropped out of school before completing his O levels.

At the time he was arrested, the full-time national serviceman was in the fast craft training unit of the navy and was working five days a week.

He said he started following schoolgirls and women - especially if they were pretty and in skirts - when he was in Primary 5.

He would do so when he was alone and had nothing to do, he said; and he would fantasise about touching their breasts and stabbing their backs.

Resumed

He said he stopped following girls in Secondary 2 and 3 after joining a church.

He resumed his habit again a few times in 2007, when he was in Secondary 5, but stopped in 2008 and 2009.

He then started again in January 2010.

He had three girlfriends previously - for two weeks, two months and about a year, respectively.

After the first two stabbings in January and February 2010, he went on to trail women about four or five times a month between April to June 2010, mostly in Woodlands, Yishun, Sembawang and sometimes Ang Mo Kio and Hougang, he said.

He would buy a knife near his camp after work, go home and have dinner, then head out to follow women usually till midnight or 1am.

He would throw away the knife before reaching home as he did not want his family to see it and ask him about it, according to Dr Goh's report.

Before the stabbings, he would have the urge to touch the women, he said. He said the victims happened to have long hair by coincidence.


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