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Man jailed 12 years for 'vicious' fatal stabbing of ex-girlfriend at Jurong East void deck

SINGAPORE — Upset over the state of his relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Zheng Xianfeng grew extremely intoxicated while drinking on Feb 16 last year. Close to midnight, he waited for her at the void deck of the public housing block where she lived.

A view of Block 308 Jurong East Street 32. Tham Mee Yoke was stabbed at the void deck of the block in February 2021.
A view of Block 308 Jurong East Street 32. Tham Mee Yoke was stabbed at the void deck of the block in February 2021.
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  • Zheng Xianfeng dated Tham Mee Yoke for about a year
  • He attacked and harassed her after she broke up with him and moved out of their apartment 
  • In February 2021, he got drunk and stabbed her to death near a housing block
  • She suffered at least 19 stab wounds and 10 “incised wounds”, along with three rib fractures
  • A member of the public tried to stop Zheng's attack by hitting him with a personal mobility device

SINGAPORE — Upset over the state of his relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Zheng Xianfeng grew extremely intoxicated while drinking on Feb 16 last year. Close to midnight, he waited for her at the void deck of the public housing block where she lived.

He had already physically attacked and harassed her a few times in the preceding months. That night, he did not stop there.

He ended up stabbing Tham Mee Yoke, 34, at least 29 times in her chest and abdomen at Block 308 Jurong East Street 32.

The victim's screams attracted the attention of residents in the area who lodged multiple police reports. She died from her injuries shortly afterwards despite resuscitation efforts by paramedics.

On Wednesday (Sept 21), Zheng, a 37-year-old China national, was jailed for 12 years after pleading guilty to culpable homicide, which was reduced from a capital murder charge.

Four other charges, including voluntarily causing hurt to Tham with a dangerous weapon, were taken into consideration for sentencing.

An Institute of Mental Health psychiatrist found that Zheng suffered from a major depressive disorder and acute alcohol intoxication at the time of the killing.

The depressive disorder substantially impaired his judgement and self-control, but he was still aware that his actions were morally and legally wrong, the prosecution said.

SUSPECTED EACH OTHER OF BEING UNFAITHFUL

The court heard that Zheng and Tham met when they were renting separate rooms in the same apartment in December 2018.

They started dating even though Zheng was in a relationship with another woman and was still married to his wife. Tham was separated from her husband and had four children in her home country of Malaysia.

When Zheng eventually broke up with the other woman and divorced his spouse, he and Tham lived together from September 2019 to November 2020.

The relationship went smoothly until August 2020 when they began quarrelling over minor issues and also suspected each other of being unfaithful.

The following month, Zheng was arrested after they argued at an open-air car park in Jurong East. Tham wanted to break up with him and had packed a bag to move to a friend’s home.

During their argument, she hid behind a prime mover vehicle to get away from him. 

Zheng, who was intoxicated, then took out a penknife and stabbed himself in the thigh, before pinning Tham to the ground while she screamed and struggled. She sustained cuts on her abdomen and forearm from his attack.

While out on bail for this, he tried to meet her in an attempt to salvage their relationship.

To do this, he usually waited at the void deck of the housing block where she lived. She would try to avoid him when this happened or they would end up quarrelling.

On one occasion, he snatched her mobile phone away and discovered that she was exchanging text messages with another man. He then smashed the device on the ground and forcefully slapped her arm, before leaving the scene to avoid attracting police attention.

Another time, he went to her workplace.

Noticing that she appeared worried, her manager waited outside with her for a taxi. Zheng then left when the other man told him to go away or he would call the police.

PASSER-BY TRIED TO STOP ATTACK

On Feb 16 last year, Zheng, who had taken leave from work, drank alcohol at home and then started sending messages to his ex-wife while thinking about his ongoing court case and relationship issues with Tham.

Close to noon, he grew upset upon receiving a text message from Tham telling him not to harass her. He told her that he was unhappy and lonely.

He then drank until late afternoon, went to buy more alcohol and some snacks, and proceeded to the housing block where she lived to wait for her.

Around 11.58pm, three young men, aged between 19 and 21, who were at the void deck noticed Zheng quickly walking over to Tham.

When one of them spied a knife tucked into the back of Zheng’s pants, he alerted his friends before calling the police. The trio then continued to watch Zheng, concerned that something untoward would happen.

Tham raised her hands and backed away from Zheng, who started shouting in Mandarin and asking her to “come over”.

At the basketball court, Tham fell face-up out of shock.

Zheng then began stabbing her repeatedly in the chest and abdomen with his knife. She screamed and struggled to no avail.

Alarmed by Zheng’s actions, one of the three young men rode his personal mobility device over and used it to hit Zheng.

Zheng momentarily stopped but quickly resumed stabbing Tham. At least six other residents saw the attack and called the police.

When Zheng realised that Tham was not moving anymore, he ran off to a grass patch and cut himself on his forearm in a suicide attempt. He then removed all his clothes and passed out.

At Tham's side, the youth who had struck Zheng tried to help her by applying pressure on her neck area. However, her upper torso was bleeding too profusely.

Paramedics arrived within 10 minutes and noticed Tham moaning in pain.

While on the way to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, they stopped by the roadside to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation, but this proved futile. She was pronounced dead in the hospital at around 1.30am.

An autopsy report showed that she suffered at least 19 stab wounds and 10 “incised wounds”, along with three rib fractures.

Zheng was found to have a blood alcohol level of 113mg of ethanol per 100ml of blood. In comparison, the prescribed drink-driving limit is 80mg per 100ml.

Zheng also suffered cuts on his arms but was in a stable condition when he was discharged from hospital the day after the killing.

NO EXCUSE FOR VIOLENCE

On Wednesday, Deputy Public Prosecutors Teo Lu Jia and Chong Ee Hsiun sought 10 to 12 years’ jail. They did not seek caning due to his psychiatric conditions.

They noted that Zheng had the intention to kill Tham and that a “robust sentence” should be meted out “to send a message that the accused’s motivation for the attack… is no excuse for violence”.

He had also re-offended twice while out on bail, the prosecutors told the court.

Zheng’s defence counsel, Mr Leo Cheng Suan from Infinitus Law Corporation, said in mitigation that Zheng had been worried about being deported to China and losing his job when he was first charged.

Mr Leo, who sought a shorter sentence of eight to 10 years’ jail, also alleged that Tham said “hurtful things” to Zheng, including asking him to “go and die”.

“He drank and became unhinged… He had all these suicidal thoughts. When I visited him (in prison), he wanted the death penalty. He was just so remorseful after the events,” the lawyer added.

High Court judge Valerie Thean told the court that this was a “serious offence and a vicious attack in public”.

For culpable homicide not amounting to murder, Zheng could have been jailed for up to 20 years and fined or caned, or jailed for life.

Related topics

court crime culpable homicide kill death penknife girlfriend

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