Anthony Ler: Criminal Case (2001)

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Anthony Ler smiling to the media. Photo from The Straits Times

On 14 May 2001, a woman was brutally slain by an unidentified killer at about 11.40 pm on the 4th floor of Block 923, Hougang Avenue 9. The victim, Annie Leong Wai Mun, had been slashed and stabbed by her assailant as soon as she stepped out of the building’s elevator. She was taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, where she succumbed to her injuries at about 1 am the next day.[1]


Four days later, a 15-year-old secondary schoolboy (only known as ‘Z’) was arrested for her murder. A few hours later, her ex-husband, Anthony Ler Wee Teang, was arrested for abetting the crime.[2]

Anthony Ler’s profile[edit | edit source]

Personal life[edit | edit source]

Ler was the youngest in a family of three boys and a girl. According to the psychiatrist's report, Ler did not have a happy childhood. His parents were divorced and he was distant from his siblings. Described as an average student, Ler studied at River Valley English School and Thomson Secondary School before continuing his tertiary education at a polytechnic. Ler dropped out of the first year of polytechnic after his father refused to continue paying for his education.[3]


Ler then signed on with the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and rose to the rank of Second Sergeant. After seven years with the SAF, he resigned to become a graphic artist and ventured into publishing.[4] His venture failed and he turned to ad hoc photography and graphic design two years later.[5]

Infidelity[edit | edit source]

While married to Annie Leong, Ler had an affair with Berlinda Ho Wei-Lynn, a Sales and Marketing Executive, for three and a half years after meeting her in 1997. However, their relationship was fraught with financial problems as he racked in debts from his failed business ventures. According to reports, Ler even had Berlinda Ho live with his family and this culminated in his separation from Leong.[6]


Besides Belinda Ho, Ler also had a sexual relationship with Tan Su Fern, an Assistant Merchandiser and his business partner at the time. However, she had also been burdened with debts from a failed business venture with Ler and they separated.[7]

Reaction during Leong’s funeral[edit | edit source]

Ler grieving over his wife during her funeral. Photo from The Straits Times

The very image of an estranged and grieving husband, Ler cut a “solitary figure” as he “slumped in the corner of the stone benches” near his wife’s coffin. When he was interviewed, Ler opened up about his marriage problems and admitted to his adultery.[8]

“I admit, I fouled up our marriage… I committed adultery. And I know that people see me as a prime suspect. But I do not care about that right now.”[9]

When asked to describe his wife, Ler said the following:

“She was everything I was not. I am arrogant, calculating and irritating. Basically, a very unlikeable person. But she was the warm, friendly and approachable one.”[10]

To mark the end of his interview, Ler gave the following statement to the reporter:

“I am innocent.”[11]   

According to Annie Leong’s mother, Tan Rui Ling, Ler came to her flat shortly after her daughter’s cremation. He had gone into the bedroom with Avelyn and was heard crying loudly.[12]

Victim profile[edit | edit source]

Annie Leong, Anthony Ler's ex-wife and the murder victim. Photo from The Straits Times.

Annie Leong Wai Mun[edit | edit source]

Annie Leong was 15 years old when she first met Ler, who was 4 years older, in church.[13] The couple got married in 1995 after courting for five years. Together, they had a daughter whom they named Avelyn. They separated in 1999 with Annie taking custody of Avelyn.[14]


She worked at a bank as an Accounts Executive but left her job to help Ler set up a business. When their daughter turned one, Annie went back to work as an agent at American International Assurance (AIA) to be financially independent. [15] On the night of the murder, she had met with Ler with their daughter to sign some documents. Upon realising that Ler did not bring a pen, Annie went back home to get one. She was struck down as soon as she stepped out of the lift.[16]

Investigation details[edit | edit source]

The police recovered two pieces of critical evidence that indicated Ler’s involvement during a raid at his Pasir Ris flat two days after the murder. These pieces of evidence contributed to his arrest.

Sheet of newspaper[edit | edit source]

The sheet of newspaper used to wrap the murder weapon. Photo from The Straits Times

Firstly, a sheet of newspaper from the 23 April 2001 issue of The New Paper was found at the murder scene. During the raid, the police discovered what appeared to be the rest of the paper with its front page ripped out. The police theorised that Ler had used the newspaper sheet to wrap the knife that had been used to stab his wife.[17]

Microsoft Word documents[edit | edit source]

Secondly, the police retrieved nine deleted Microsoft Word files from Ler’s computer, created between 6.53 am and 7.48 am on 17 May 2001, three days after the murder.[18] Five of the files retrieved had been automatically created by Microsoft Word under its internal auto-save function that prevents accidental data loss.[19] Using computer forensics, the police found “incomplete sentences which seemed to form part of a cryptic conversation between two people, sitting side by side at the same keyboard”.[20]

Some of the sentences included:

  • “Act shock that the woman is my wife!”
  • “Payment might have to wait”
  • “Y u threw the knife”
  • “Just say wrong number if they question u”
  • “They can hear what you are saying”[21]

It was later revealed in court that these Microsoft Word documents were conversations between Ler and the 15-year-old boy who had killed Annie Leong. The boy has been referred to as “Z” in several news reports as there is a running gag order on his identity. Ler believed that his house was bugged and decided to communicate with Z ‘silently’ through the computer.[22]

Key witnesses’ testimony[edit | edit source]

During the joint trial, the prosecution called up several individuals to explain the motives and piece together the events leading up to Annie Leong’s murder.

Gavin Ng Jin Wei[edit | edit source]

Pictured: Gavin Ng Jin Wei. Photo from The Straits Times.

Gavin Ng Jin Wei belonged to the same friend group as Z, the boy who allegedly killed Annie Leong. According to Gavin, who was 15 years old at the time, Z had introduced Ler to the group at their favourite McDonald’s hangout. After the initial meeting, Ler joined them regularly with his small white pomeranian.[23]


Gavin described Ler as a smooth talker saying that he “first raised the subject of murder by talking about people who had been killed in gang fights and asking them (the boys) if they would dare to kill anyone”. In response, the youths jokingly asked “whether they would be paid for daring to commit a murder”. Ler allegedly said that “he was willing to pay S$100,000 as long as one of them would do it”. Sometime after that conversation, Ler started to frequently talk about killing his wife.[24]


Ler had planned his wife’s murder in excruciating detail and allegedly pressurised Gavin to carry out the deed. According to Gavin, Ler claimed that:

“... killing his wife would be easy. All I had to do was to listen to his instructions and everything would be fine”.[25]

Ler plotted to make the murder “look like a robbery”. He had asked Gavin to “take his wife’s wallet after killing her” and “ (to) post her IC (identity card) back to Ler, together with an apology note” to make it appear that the robber “was sorry for killing his wife accidentally”.[26] Ler had even drawn a plan of the Annie Leong’s lift landing area for him.[27]


Ler continued to pressurise Gavin by teaching him how to kill Annie in his flat. In his testimony, Gavin described how Ler had picked out knives that “were ‘most suitable’ for the killing” and made him practice by slashing a bolster wrapped with newspaper because:

“... (the) skin of the neck was as thin as newspaper”.[28]

After confiding to his girlfriend, Gavin backed out of the arrangement with Ler and tried to warn Z about his motives. Unfortunately, Gavin could not reach Z in time.[29]

Seah Tze Howe[edit | edit source]

Pictured: Seah Tze Howe. Photo from The Straits Times.

Seah Tze Howe, then 22-years-old, was another youth that Ler approached to kill his wife. Tze Howe recounted that during his visit to Ler’s flat, Ler “went on and on about killing his wife, for 15 to 30 minutes” and even asked him “how much (Seah Tze Howe) would ask for killing someone”. According to Tze Howe, Ler would pay S$100,000 for someone to kill his wife by selling the maisonette that he shared with her.[30]


Irritated with Ler’s fixation on his wife’s murder, Tze Howe tried to cut the conversation with a passing remark that Ler should ask a professional killer to do the job. In response, Ler asked Tze Howe to “find him one” and that if he was successful “(Ler) would give him a 20% share in his company”. In court, Tze Howe testified that he did not know any professional killers nor did he explicitly suggest that Ler find one.[31]


After the conversation, Ler continuously called Tze Howe asking if he had found a hitman. Ler only dropped the matter after Seah told him that he had not.[32]

Berlinda Ho Wei-Lynn[edit | edit source]

Berlinda Ho was Anthony Ler’s mistress of three-and-a-half years. In court, she disclosed that Ler was frequently abusive. He had even threatened to kill her twice. Berlinda also revealed that Ler was unhinged after Annie suggested a divorce. Ler would then start talking about killing his wife and even admitted that he was serious about it.[33]

Tan Su Fern[edit | edit source]

Tan Su Fern was another woman that Ler had a sexual relationship with. During his relationship with her, they were burdened with debts from a failed business venture. The court heard that when Su Fern talked about committing suicide “as everything was in a mess”, Ler then told her that “before (she) committed suicide, (she) should go and kill his wife first”.[34] According to Tan Su Fern:

“Ler said he would then be able to tell the police I had killed her ‘out of jealousy’ and he would get sole custody of his daughter and be the only owner of the HDB flat he had bought with his wife”.[35] 

Z’s confession[edit | edit source]

'Z' leaving the High Court. Photo from The Straits Times

During his cross-examination, Z explained his relationship with Ler and the sequence of events that led to the murder.

Relationship with Ler[edit | edit source]

Z was 10 years old when he first met Ler. They would run into each other when Z took his pet hamster down to play where Ler would also be there with his dog. They lost touch after Ler moved but met again by chance a few years later. Z was the one who introduced Ler to his group of friends at McDonald’s.[36]

Involvement in the murder[edit | edit source]

Initially, Z had not been approached to murder Annie Leong. Instead, he was designated the role of a ‘lookout’ while Gavin Ng was the killer. After Gavin backed out, Ler turned to Z to complete the task. Ler had assured Z that “nothing would happen to (him)” and to further convince him, Ler asked him to “imagine that (he) was getting paid S$2,000 or more per month for the next four years”.[37] In Z’s words:

“I believed him because he told me that he killed for a living and until now, he did not get caught”.[38]

Ler claimed to be using his career as a graphic designer as a cover-up for his “real” job as a hitman. Upon convincing Z, Ler taught him how to carry out the killing. The two practised often at his flat “so that when the time comes, (he) would not be afraid”.[39]


The court heard how Ler conceived the plan down to the smallest detail. He advised the boy on how to kill Leong while she was in the lift alone, his attire during the crime, how to avoid detection and even the type of knife used.[40] According to Z, the knife had to be “small enough to hide, sharp enough to stab and long enough to reach the heart”.[41]


The prosecution also explained how Z accepted the role of the hitman because he “valued Ler’s opinion of him”. Under cross-examination, Z admitted that he felt disregarded when Ler chose Gavin instead of him. When Gavin backed out, Z took up the role because he wanted “to prove he was ‘more mature’” than Gavin. Z also felt that Ler was finally “looking up to him”. Moreover, the S$100,000 reward was an additional factor that influenced his participation.[42]

Failed attempts[edit | edit source]

Between 10 May and 14 May, Ler brought Z to Annie Leong’s flat in Hougang to carry out the murder. However, Z found that he could not do it and tried to back out. According to Z, Ler threatened to kill him if he backed out because he already knew too much.[43]

Ler’s plans for the aftermath[edit | edit source]

Besides planning the murder, Ler had also concocted Z’s motive for the killing. According to Z:

“He said to tell the police I wasn’t happy about Ler’s wife whenever he complained about her to us and therefore, I decided to help him take revenge by killing her. But he also said that if I played him out, he would do the same to me”.[44]

Furthermore, Ler also disclosed his plans to “make it look real” by appearing as a grieving husband at his wife’s funeral.[45] In Z’s words:

“He said it was possible for him to cry whenever he thought of his daughter. He also mentioned that he practised his act”.[46]

Ler’s defence[edit | edit source]

“It was all a stupid joke”[edit | edit source]

(Picture) Ler smiling as he was leaving the High Court. Photo from The Straits Times

Ler’s running defence throughout his trial was that “it was a game of bluff” that went wrong. Ler consistently dismissed Z’s statements in court, claiming that he did not ask the young boy to kill his wife and that he was merely joking that he wanted his wife dead”.[47]


According to Ler, the conversation started when he heard some of the youths “boasting about the fights they had had and how they dared to kill.” He mentioned that Gavin Ng had boasted that “he would kill for S$100,000” and said that Gavin was the one who asked Ler to name a victim.[48] In Ler’s words:

“I wanted to challenge them to eat their words. And not to boast about things like this, because it takes a different kind of guts to do it”.[49]

In Ler’s opinion, his detailed plan was designed to “challenge their guts” while “exposing their bluff”. He claimed that he was not serious when he named his wife as the target because “my wife was the only person the group knows I was in contact with” and that they were going through a rough time.[50] Ler also thought that “the dare” was safe because he was “in control” of it, as the youths did not know what his wife looked like or where she lived.[51]


Ler admitted that his wife’s death was “partly his fault” because of the joke he played. He also admitted that he was trying to “cover-up” for Z because “he was worried that he would be implicated in the murder”.[52] Nevertheless, he maintained that he did not pressurise Z nor did he want to kill his wife.[53]

Ler & Z’s conversation in court[edit | edit source]

The following conversation allegedly took place between Ler and Z during a lunch break while they were in the High Court lock-up. According to Z, Ler had apologised to the boy for their predicament. It was then that Ler asked Z to help him avoid the death sentence by changing his testimony.[54]


Z turned him down and subsequently revealed this exchange while he was under cross-examination by Ler’s lawyer.[55]

Verdict[edit | edit source]

Sentencing (2001)[edit | edit source]

(Picture) Ler after he was sentenced to death. Photo from The Straits Times

On 6 December 2001, Anthony Ler was sentenced to hang for abetting the murder of his wife, Annie Leong. Z was sentenced to be detained indefinitely at the President’s pleasure as he was still a minor.[56]


Both parties filed respective appeals against their sentences.[57] While Z later withdrew his appeal, Ler’s appeal and his subsequent petition to the President for clemency was rejected.[58][59]

Ler’s execution (2002)[edit | edit source]

Ler was hanged at 6 am on 13 December 2002. Until his death, Ler never admitted his crime nor did he show any remorse. Instead, he was remembered for the “cool smile” that he displayed throughout the trial.[60]

Z’s petitions for clemency (2013 & 2017)[edit | edit source]

Z tried to petition for the president's clemency in 2013 but was rejected by President Tony Tan. In 2017, Z made his second appeal to President Halimah Yacob.[61] Z’s lawyer remarked that he “had done well while serving time”. He had matured considerably and was studying for a degree while in prison.[62]


Z was released on 2 November 2018 after spending about 17 years behind bars. President Halimah Yacob granted his appeal on the advice of the Cabinet. He would continue to be subject to conditions such as curfew hours and electronic monitoring. There continues to be a gag order on his identity as he was a minor when the crime was committed.[63]

Channel U’s Tonight I Will Tell[edit | edit source]

In 2002, SPH MediaWorks and Channel U announced that they were planning to re-create and dramatise the case in a new docu-drama titled Tonight I Will Tell. The show starred actor Jason Oh and Eileen Wee as Anthony Ler and Annie Leong respectively.[64]

Leong’s family’s response[edit | edit source]

Annie Leong’s family appealed to SPH Mediaworks to stop the episodes from airing. Jenny Leong, Annie’s older sister, asked the station to “consider the psychological well-being of Leong’s daughter and the mental state of the family”. However, they had no legal standing to prevent it from being aired.[65]

SPH MediaWorks’ response[edit | edit source]

In response to Jenny Leong’s letter, the station’s corporate counsel said that “the content was not defamatory and that Leong’s family would not be adversely affected”. As such, the two episodes in question were broadcasted as planned.[66]


However, the CEO of SPH Mediaworks claimed that he was “unaware of any direct feedback from the family”. Nevertheless, he agreed with the counsel’s response, stating that he was sure “(his) colleagues are conscious” of the sensitive topic and the “dramatisation of the murder was not done in a sensational fashion”.[67]

References/Citations[edit | edit source]

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  2. “Husband and teen charged with woman’s brutal slaying”. The Straits Times. May 20, 2001. Accessed 5 November 2001. Retrieved from NewspaerSG
  3. Tan Ooi Boon. “Ler repays his wife’s love by killing her”. The Straits Times. December 6, 2001. Accessed 6 November 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG
  4. Tan Ooi Boon. “Ler repays his wife’s love by killing her”. The Straits Times. December 6, 2001. Accessed 6 November 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG
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  11. Fong, Tanya. “I fouled up our marriage”. The New Paper. May 17, 2001. Accessed 7 November 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG
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