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HomesingaporeManaging director jailed for killing pregnant wife after inaccurate company report showed...

Managing director jailed for killing pregnant wife after inaccurate company report showed poor numbers

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

SINGAPORE: A managing director of a training company, who suffered from insomnia after mistakenly thinking his business was failing, stabbed his wife and their unborn child to death.

David Brian Chow Kwok-Hun began ruminating on the financial health of his company after receiving a half-year financial report from an accounting employee that showed poor numbers.

The numbers were later found to be inaccurate. Despite his family encouraging him and trying to seek help for him, Chow made up his mind to kill himself and his wife, in order to “save” her and their unborn child from any creditors.

After another night of insomnia, he grabbed a kitchen knife and killed his pregnant wife. He then tried to kill himself, before deciding to call the police to avoid implicating his father who was on his way to fetch him.

Chow, a 35-year-old Singaporean, was sentenced to seven years’ jail on Thursday (Oct 26) after pleading guilty to one charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

He had been suffering from adjustment disorder with anxious and depressed mood at the time of the offence and qualified for the partial defence of diminished responsibility.

The court heard that Chow and the victim, 30-year-old Isabel Elizabeth Francis, registered their marriage in 2019 and lived together in a flat since May 2021.

Chow was the managing director of KnowledgeTree Training Centre, a training company providing workforce skills qualifications and other courses.

In December 2021, he asked for the company’s half-year financial report from his accounting staff. 

When he received the report, he went through the numbers and felt there must have been an error, as the numbers were unusually low. He asked the employee to check again and get back.

In January 2022, the accounting staff got back to Chow and confirmed that the numbers were accurate.

It was later revealed that the numbers were wrong and were not an accurate representation of the company’s financial health.

DESCENT INTO TROUBLED THOUGHTS

Chow began thinking that the company was not doing well and would probably run into failure. This was despite the fact that it had been profitable, racking up S$1 million (US$729,000) in earlier profits.

Between Jan 5 and Jan 7 in 2022, Chow began losing sleep. He was worried and stressed over the company finances and slept only one to two hours per night on average. His family members, wife and colleagues noticed his behaviour.

When Chow spoke to the manager of his company about finances on Jan 8, 2022, the manager saw that he looked stressed and noted that the company was still making a profit.

Chow’s mother and brother also met him to talk about the finances and assured him that the company was still making money.

Because of what the company earned over the years, it was in a financially sound position to weather the next two years. His parents also had dinner with him to encourage him and assure him that everything would be fine.

Chow’s wife booked a counselling session with a counsellor to help him deal with his work stress, but Chow continued losing sleep over the finances.

He began seeing things in his head if he closed his eyes, including images of soldiers marching, a devil and “a scary doll”.

His family members continued trying to reach out to Chow. His father made an appointment for him to see a psychiatrist and arranged to ferry him to work.

Chow tried listing down his problems on a counselling worksheet and felt slightly better, but still could not sleep.

At about 1am on Jan 11, 2022, Chow began pacing up and down the corridor of his flat in Ang Mo Kio.

He continued ruminating over his business concerns and looking at the LinkedIn profiles of business competitors.

He logged into an e-learning portal and realised his employee still had not rectified an issue that was earlier pointed out, and was concerned that his mother would scold the employee, who would leave.

The managing director was also worried about his employees quitting and losing confidence in him, as they had noticed him breaking down.

THE DAY OF THE KILLING

From 3am to 4am that day, he began having suicidal thoughts – the first time he had such thoughts, court documents showed. He was worried that his wife would feel shame from having a husband who took his own life.

If his business failed, he fretted that others would go after his wife and unborn child.

The man felt he had to do something, and thought of killing his wife to spare her and their unborn child, so they could “go to heaven” while he killed himself, said the prosecution.

At about 5am, Chow took a knife from the kitchen and headed to the master bedroom, where his wife lay sleeping on her side.

He turned her and thrust the knife into her abdomen, telling her: “Sorry, I have no way out.”

He then stabbed her multiple times in her head, neck, abdomen and back until she stopped moving.

After killing his wife, Kwok checked the peephole of his main door to make sure no one had been alerted by his wife’s screams.

He tried various ways to end his life, including stabbing himself with another knife and asking the “devil to take him”, said the prosecution, adding that he also took an assortment of tablets.

Chow realised his father had sent him a message saying he was on his way to fetch him. Chow decided to call the police to tell them that he had killed his wife, as he did not want to implicate his father.

He also did not want his father to see the state that he and his wife were in, so he called his father and asked him not to come over. After calling the police, Chow unlocked the main door and lay down to wait.

The police and paramedics arrived shortly after and the victim was pronounced dead while Chow was taken to hospital and arrested.

An autopsy of Chow’s wife found that she had died of stab wounds to her back and neck. She had suffered 10 stab wounds and five incised wounds on her head, neck and torso, two of which were fatal.

An autopsy was also done on the foetus, which was found to be a girl of about 15 weeks’ gestational age. It would not survive at such an age if it had been born, medical reports stated.

Chow was assessed by an associate consultant from the Institute of Mental Health, who found that he was suffering from adjustment disorder with anxious and depressed mood at the time of the offence.

While the IMH doctor and the defence psychiatrist had different diagnoses of the subtype of adjustment disorder Chow suffered, they agreed that he had symptoms of anxious and depressed mood.

Chow was found to have catastrophic thinking, fearing that he would go bankrupt and was overwhelmed by the premonition that people would go after his wife if he did.

However, his impulse control was not impaired, as he had performed goal-directed actions in killing his wife, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Jiang Ke-Yue.

Mr Jiang said Chow had penned his thoughts in the counselling sheet prior to the killing, tested the sharpness of the knife and covered his wife’s mouth before checking if anyone heard her screams. He was not of unsound mind and was fit to plead.

The prosecution sought nine to 12 years’ jail for Chow.

Chow was defended by Mr Shashi Nathan, Mr Jeremy Mark Pereira and Mr U Sudharshanraj Naidu from Withers KhattarWong. His family members attended the court hearing.

MITIGATION

Mr Nathan asked for five to seven years’ jail for Chow, saying there was no reason for him to have done this to a person he deeply loved.

“He has lost his wife. He has lost his daughter,” said Mr Nathan. 

He added the real sentence was Chow knowing for the rest of his life that he had done this to two people he loved.

“For me, that is almost like his life sentence. That’s because he will live with this for the rest of his life,” said Mr Nathan.

Chow sobbed in court and broke down as his lawyer was speaking.

“He has lost everything. All he has is his family. They are here in court, they will support him,” said Mr Nathan.

The prosecution referred to the defence’s comparison to the case of Xavier Yap Jung Houn, who had premeditated the killing of his twins. In this case, Chow had not planned to kill his wife, said Mr Nathan.

The prosecutor said there was a death of a foetus in the current case that was not present in Yap’s case, and there must be “some accounting”.

However, the judge said there was no charge preferred over the death of the foetus in Chow’s case, unlike other similar cases where a foetus was killed.

After exchanges with the defence and the prosecution, the judge accepted that the fact a foetus was lost was information he was entitled to consider in sentencing.

JUDGE’S REMARKS

In sentencing, Justice Pang Khang Chau said Chow’s reason to kill his wife was because he had decided to kill himself, and he had a “misguided wish” to spare her from any perceived suffering she might face after his death.

The judge said that Chow was the third of four children in his family. He did not do well in his studies and grew up in the shadow of his siblings. 

After graduating from university, he found success in running his training company but began to worry that the company would fail.

This was after hearing the erroneous information about the accounts and because of a revision in government funding support for his company’s courses, the court heard.

Justice Pang agreed with the defence that Chow’s offence was “totally out of character” and not premeditated.

He said the facts showed that Chow had a good relationship with his wife, and that he was unlikely to reoffend.

He found the case of Yap to be a good benchmark, given the similarity of facts. Yap had been sentenced to 14 years’ jail for killing his twins – seven years for each charge.

“The prosecution says that unlike Xavier Yap, an unborn child was also lost in the present case. I accept that this loss is background information which I am entitled to have regard to. There was a higher level of planning and premeditation in (Yap),” added the judge.

In sentencing Chow, the judge said there was no need to “further adjust up or down” from Yap’s sentence.

He allowed Chow to speak to his brother-in-law, the victim’s brother, after the hearing ended. 

The families of both Chow and his late wife were in the public gallery on Thursday. Chow’s father said after the hearing that it was a tragic case and that “we will accept it”.

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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