Circuit Road murder (2016)

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On 22 March 2016, a woman was found dead on a bed in a third-storey flat at Block 70 Circuit Road, Singapore.[1] She was identified as Zhang Huaxiang. Boh Soon Ho, a Malaysian man with a Singapore Permanent Resident status, was arrested on 4 April 2016 in Malaysia and charged with the murder of the 28-year-old woman.[2]

Boh Soon Ho’s arrest (April 2016)

Boh Soon Ho (pictured) is the perpetrator of the murder.

The morning after Boh fled Singapore, he contacted his landlord Chai Yong Siong and confessed to his crime. The two kept a regular correspondence and Chai kept the Singapore police informed about his exchanges with Boh.[3] This shaped the circumstances leading to Boh's arrest.


The Royal Malaysia Police arrested Boh on 4 April 2016 after Singapore issued a warrant of arrest against him.[4][5] Boh was arrested in a restaurant in Malaysia. He was handed over to Singapore authorities on 5 April 2016 and charged in court on 7 April 2016.[6]

Charges

Boh was charged for the following:[7]

  • The murder of Zhang Huaxiang
  • Attempting to penetrate a corpse
  • Stealing from a dead woman

Boh was defended by lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam.[8]

First trial (September 2019)

In his opening statement, Deputy Public Prosecutor Wong Kok Weng described the case as a “murder driven by jealousy, rage and unrequited desire.” The week-long trial began on 18 September 2019.[9] The following information was made known during the first trial.

Victim’s profile

The victim, Zhang Hua XIang. Photo from Wong Kwai Chow.

The victim, Chinese national Zhang Huaxiang, first met Boh Soon Ho sometime in 2011 or 2012.[10] At the time, both were working as catering staff at Marina Bay Sands integrated resort.[11] Zhang was working part-time as a server while she studied nursing on a scholarship. She joined the National University Hospital in 2013.[12]

Perceived relationship

According to Boh’s police statements made on the day of his arrest, the two went out frequently for around four to five years. They went shopping and had meals together. He also lavished her with gifts. As such, Boh perceived that they were dating and considered Zhang as his girlfriend. However, they had never been physically intimate.[13]


Around March 2016, Boh grew suspicious of Zhang as she kept turning down his invitations to go out. He felt that Zhang was distancing herself from him and proceeded to spy on her four to five times. On 18 March, he saw her leaving with a man in a taxi which made him feel jealous and believed that she was cheating on him.[14]

Zhang Huaxiang's murder (21 March 2016)

Zhang Huaxiang was strangled in a rented flat at Circuit Road. Photo from Shin Min.

On 21 March 2016, Boh invited Zhang for a steamboat lunch at his Circuit Road flat. While she was combing her hair in his room, he tried to have sex with her. However, Zhang rejected his advances, telling him “Crazy, go away!” in Mandarin. When he tried to kiss her, she told him she would bite off his tongue and shout for help.[15] Unsatisfied, he tried to force himself on her again by putting her in an arm lock. He then dragged her into his room but she put up a fierce struggle.[16]


Boh then confronted Zhang about the man who was with her in the taxi. Zhang declared that she had gone out with the man on four to five occasions after meeting him in Resorts World Sentosa. When asked about a man named “Tian Meng” Zhang said that he was her ex-boyfriend from China and that it was normal for her to be intimate with him.[17] Furious, Boh took a hanging bath towel and came up from behind her. He then looped the fabric around Zhang’s neck and strangled her while he looked away. According to Boh’s statements, the only thought that was going through his mind was “I told myself, if I were to strangle Huaxiang, it would be the end of me.”[18]


Boh carried Zhang’s body to his bedroom and took her clothes off.[19] According to Boh, he still wanted to have sex with her as he felt that “he could do what he wished, now that she could no longer resist him.”[20] According to the prosecution statements, Boh took six to seven photos of Zhang’s body and licked her before he tried to have sex but he could not sustain an erection.[21]


Boh considered the disposal of Zhang’s body after buying a suitcase from Geylang. According to the prosecution and Boh’s statements, he had thought of putting the body in the suitcase and dumping it in Sembawang. However, the body was too stiff as rigor mortis had set in. Boh then thought of dismembering the body but did not do so. In the end, he spent the night sleeping next to the body.[22]

Fleeing Singapore

On 22 March 2016, Boh fled Singapore. After meeting a friend to sell off some things and collecting his salary, Boh left Zhang’s body in the room with the lights and air-conditioning  switched on. He then took a taxi to Woodlands Checkpoint and took another one to his younger sister’s home in Melaka where he immediately confessed to his crime.[23]

Zhang Huaxiang's body discovered (22 March 2016)

On the evening of 22 March, Chai Yong Siong, the landlord, arrived at the rented flat. Upon entering Boh’s bedroom, he noticed that the bedroom lights and air-conditioning were switched on. Chai assumed that his tenant was sleeping and returned to the flat an hour later. The landlord decided to wake his ‘tenant’ up but upon pulling the blanket away, he saw that it was Zhang’s dead body and called the police immediately after.[24]

Psychiatric evaluation

Two forensic psychiatrists from the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) took the stand during the first trial.

Dr Stephan Phang’s Statement

When asked for his opinion on Boh’s statements, Dr Stephan Phang said that Boh was in a “cool, deliberate, contemplative” state of mind before he strangled the victim. According to Dr Phang, “he was considering options and exercising judgements”.[25] Dr Phang diagnosed that Boh was not suffering from any mental disorder or mental illness as he could make concrete plans in the immediate aftermath. Moreover, Boh had described in the acts he had carried out on Zhang in graphic detail. In Dr Phang’s words:

“... his self-confessed sexualised acts with the deceased’s body are clearly indicative that he was purposeful in his pursuits for personal pleasure”.[26]

In his interactions with Dr Phang, Boh also repeatedly maintained that he had acted in a moment of impulse and anger. When asked by the judge if Boh was “delusional” about the status of his relationship with Zhang, Dr Phang posited that there was no clinical basis for such a finding.[27]

Dr Gwee Kenji

According to Dr Gwee, he found that Boh was not intellectually disabled even though he has an IQ of 74. In his findings, Dr Gwee pointed out that Boh could express his opinions on a range of topics and was able to have meals with friends even when his social skills were below average. Dr Gwee found that Boh had a sufficiently high level of independent functioning, thus concluding that he was not intellectually disabled.[28]

Defence's case

According to information from the court, Boh’s defence lawyers are making the case that he was provoked into committing his acts of violence as Zhang had angered him.[29]

As of October 2019, the trial is still ongoing.

References / Citations

  1. “Circuit Road Murder: 47-year-old man to be charged following arrest in Malaysia”. Channel News Asia. April 6, 2016. Accessed 26 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  2. Tang, Louisa. “Circuit Road flat murder: ‘No turning back, I’ve killed a person’, accused told landlord after fleeing the country”. Today. September 18, 2019. Accessed 26 September 2019. Retrieved from TODAY Online.
  3. Tang, Louisa. “Circuit Road flat murder: ‘No turning back, I’ve killed a person’, accused told landlord after fleeing the country”. Today. September 18, 2019. Accessed 26 September 2019. Retrieved from todayonline.com.
  4. “Circuit Road Murder: 47-year-old man to be charged following arrest in Malaysia”. Channel News Asia. April 6, 2016. Accessed 26 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  5. “Suspect in Circuit Road murder nabbed in Malaysia”. The Straits Times. April 7, 2016. Accessed 26 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  6. “Circuit Road murder: Man charged for murder of 28-year-old girlfriend.” Channel News Asia. April 7, 2016. Accessed 26 September 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  7. Lam, Lydia. “Man claims trial to killing woman, trying to have sex with her corpse.” Channel News Asia. September 18, 2019. Accessed 26 September 2019. Retrieved from channelnewsasia.com.
  8. Amir Hussain. “47-year-old charged with nurse’s murder”. The Straits Times. April 8, 2016. Accessed 26 September 2019. Retrieved from straitstimes.com.
  9. Lum, Selina. “Circuit Road murder trial: Accused tried to have sex with nurse’s corpse after strangling her”. The Straits Times. September 18, 2019. Accessed 26 September 2019. Retrieved from straitstimes.com.
  10. Lum, Selina. “Circuit Road murder trial: Accused tried to have sex with nurse’s corpse after strangling her”. The Straits Times. September 18, 2019. Accessed 26 September 2019. Retrieved from straitstimes.com
  11. Tang, Louisa. “Circuit Road flat murder: ‘No turning back, I’ve killed a person’, accused told landlord after fleeing the country”. Today. September 18, 2019. Accessed 26 September 2019. Retrieved from todayonline.com.
  12. Amir Hussain. “47-year-old charged with nurse’s murder”. The Straits Times. April 8, 2016. Accessed 26 September 2019. Retrieved from straitstimes.com.
  13. Lum, Selina. “Circuit Road murder trial: Accused tried to have sex with nurse’s corpse after strangling her”. The Straits Times. September 18, 2019. Accessed 26 September 2019. Retrieved from straitstimes.com.
  14. Lam, Lydia. “Man claims trial to killing woman, trying to have sex with her corpse.” Channel News Asia. September 18, 2019. Accessed 26 September 2019. Retrieved from channelnewsasia.com.
  15. Lam, Lydia. “Man claims trial to killing woman, trying to have sex with her corpse.” Channel News Asia. September 18, 2019. Accessed 26 September 2019. Retrieved from channelnewsasia.com.
  16. Lum, Selina. “Circuit Road murder trial: Accused tried to have sex with nurse’s corpse after strangling her”. The Straits Times. September 18, 2019. Accessed 26 September 2019. Retrieved from straitstimes.com.
  17. Lam, Lydia. “Man claims trial to killing woman, trying to have sex with her corpse.” Channel News Asia. September 18, 2019. Accessed 26 September 2019. Retrieved from channelnewsasia.com.
  18. Lum, Selina. “Circuit Road murder trial: Accused say he spent money on nurse but got nothing.” The Straits Times. September 19, 2019. Accessed 26 September 2019. Retrieved from straitstimes.com.
  19. Lam, Lydia. “Man claims trial to killing woman, trying to have sex with her corpse.” Channel News Asia. September 18, 2019. Accessed 26 September 2019. Retrieved from channelnewsasia.com.
  20. Lum, Selina. “Circuit Road murder trial: Accused tried to have sex with nurse’s corpse after strangling her”. The Straits Times. September 18, 2019. Accessed 26 September 2019. Retrieved from straitstimes.com.
  21. Lam, Lydia. “Man claims trial to killing woman, trying to have sex with her corpse.” Channel News Asia. September 18, 2019. Accessed 26 September 2019. Retrieved from channelnewsasia.com.
  22. Lam, Lydia. “Man claims trial to killing woman, trying to have sex with her corpse.” Channel News Asia. September 18, 2019. Accessed 26 September 2019. Retrieved from channelnewsasia.com.
  23. Lam, Lydia. “Man claims trial to killing woman, trying to have sex with her corpse.” Channel News Asia. September 18, 2019. Accessed 26 September 2019. Retrieved from channelnewsasia.com.
  24. Tang, Louisa. “Circuit Road flat murder: ‘No turning back, I’ve killed a person’, accused told landlord after fleeing the country”. Today. September 18, 2019. Accessed 26 September 2019. Retrieved from todayonline.com.
  25. Lum, Selina. “Circuit Road murder trial: Accused say he spent money on nurse but got nothing.” The Straits Times. September 19, 2019. Accessed 26 September 2019. Retrieved from straitstimes.com.
  26. Lum, Selina. “Circuit Road murder trial: Accused say he spent money on nurse but got nothing.” The Straits Times. September 19, 2019. Accessed 26 September 2019. Retrieved from straitstimes.com.
  27. Lum, Selina. “Circuit Road murder trial: Accused say he spent money on nurse but got nothing.” The Straits Times. September 19, 2019. Accessed 26 September 2019. Retrieved from straitstimes.com.
  28. Tang, Louisa. “Circuit Road flat murder: Accused has low IQ but not intellectually disabled, psychologist says.” Today. September 20, 2019. Accessed 26 September 2019. Retrieved from todayonline.com.
  29. Tang, Louisa. “Circuit Road flat murder: ‘No turning back, I’ve killed a person’, accused told landlord after fleeing the country”. Today. September 18, 2019. Accessed 26 September 2019. Retrieved from todayonline.com.