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HomesingaporeFuneral director on trial for abetting ex-boyfriend in his suicide, obstructing justice

Funeral director on trial for abetting ex-boyfriend in his suicide, obstructing justice

Warning: This story mentions suicide and contains descriptions of a suicide.

SINGAPORE: A funeral director originally accused of culpable homicide in the death of her ex-boyfriend went on trial on Friday (Oct 27) for abetting his suicide and obstructing justice.

Alverna Cher Sheue Pin, 41, claimed trial to one count of intentionally aiding 32-year-old Wee Jun Xiang to die by helping pour nitrogen gas into a bag in his car on May 16, 2020.

She is also contesting a charge of obstructing justice by asking another man to drive the car containing the nitrogen gas tank away, disposing of the bag and lying to the police that she believed Mr Wee had died of a heart attack after having chest discomfort for two weeks.

Cher, the funeral director of City Funeral Singapore, was originally set to plead guilty, but changed her mind and decided to claim trial.

The case was unable to proceed on Friday morning due to several rounds of adjustments to court documents and the last-minute appointment of two Mandarin interpreters.

When the trial started on Friday afternoon, Deputy Public Prosecutor Marcus Foo gave an overview of the prosecution’s case.

He said the prosecution will call 31 witnesses to prove its case and use relevant pieces of footage from police cameras and closed-circuit television cameras.

Mr Foo said Cher knew that Mr Wee was suicidal in February 2020 and learnt of his plans to die using nitrogen gas.

She discussed with him how to make his death appear natural, and agreed to remove traces of his suicide by disposing of the nitrogen tank after Mr Wee had used it to take his own life, Mr Foo said.

The prosecution will lead evidence to show that Mr Wee had made enquiries over the purchase of a nitrogen tank in May 2020 and texted Cher to discuss his suicide plans.

Before the planned suicide, the pair also visited the multi-storey car park at Block 145A Bedok Reservoir Road, a location Mr Wee had picked.

They also discussed alternative methods if the plan failed, said Mr Foo.

On May 16, 2020, Mr Wee fetched the nitrogen tank from the supplier and drove to the car park. He told Cher that he was commencing his plan.

Later that afternoon, when Cher drove a van to the car park as planned, she found that Mr Wee was still alive.

She then allegedly helped him to release more nitrogen gas into his car to assist his suicide, Mr Foo said.

She is accused of turning the valve of the nitrogen tank four to five times, helping to lay the tank down and positioning it so the gas would be poured into a bag.

Later that afternoon, Cher returned to the car park again and saw that Mr Wee had died, Mr Foo said.

She then allegedly disposed of the bag and called for a doctor to sign off on his death. 

When the doctor arrived, he advised Cher to call the police before pronouncing Mr Wee dead at 5.15pm.

Cher then instructed another man to exchange vehicles with her and to drive the van containing the gas tank away, Mr Foo charged.

Cher then called the police and said her friend had a heart attack in his car.

When the police arrived at the car park, Cher lied to the investigating officer that Mr Wee had been complaining of chest discomfort for two weeks.

She also said she believed that he had died of a heart attack.

An autopsy of Mr Wee later found the cause of death to be consistent with asphyxia due to oxygen deficiency.

Cher is represented by Mr Peter Ong Lip Cheng.

FIRST WITNESS ON THE STAND

The prosecution’s first witness was one of the police officers who had taken statements from Cher.

This statement taken by the officer, who gave her name only as Ms Wong, was the only handwritten one while the other statements were typewritten.

In cross-examination, Mr Ong asked Ms Wong several questions about the interview room, who was there and what was inside.

He asked about who else took statements from his client, how many people were in the room and whether there was a tablet in the room.

Ms Wong said there was no tablet in the room.

The prosecutor, Mr Foo, who handled the case with Deputy Public Prosecutor Timothy Lee, objected at a few points to ask what the relevance of Mr Ong’s questions was.

At one point, when Mr Ong commented that he hoped Ms Wong would listen more attentively to his questions, Mr Foo stood up and said that it was Mr Ong who was asking confusing questions in a confusing way.

When taking Cher’s statement, Ms Wong said Cher said she had tried to convince her ex-boyfriend to drop his plan, but “he was determined to die”.

Mr Ong questioned Ms Wong at length about a specific part of the statement she took from Cher – when Cher said she turned the valve about four to five times.

Mr Ong put it to Ms Wong that she had suggested to Cher – “and you also put the nitrogen tank to a lying position on the car seat?”

Ms Wong disagreed and said she did not suggest that.

The trial will resume on Monday morning.

The penalty for abetting suicide is a jail term of up to 10 years and a fine. For obstructing the course of justice, an offender can be jailed up to seven years, fined, or both.

Where to get help:

Samaritans of Singapore Hotline: 1767

Institute of Mental Health’s Helpline: 6389 2222

Singapore Association for Mental Health Helpline: 1800 283 7019

You can also find a list of international helplines here. If someone you know is at immediate risk, call 24-hour emergency medical services.

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