Engineer charged with girlfriend's murder on Valentine's Day escapes gallows


PUTRAJAYA: A 36-year-old engineer who murdered his girlfriend on Valentine's Day six years ago escaped the gallows after the Federal Court here found him to be of unsound mind.

Court of Appeal president Justice Ahmad Maarop, who chaired a five-man bench, ordered for Cheong Teik Keon to be placed at Hospital Bahagia in Ulu Kinta, Perak.

In the decision here Thursday (Feb 14), Justice Ahmad said the accused did commit the offence.

"However, the trial judge failed to consider that he was of unsound mind under Section 84 of the Penal Code," Justice Ahmad said.

He said Cheong had proven on the balance of probability that he was not in the right frame of mind when the offence was committed.

"We set aside the conviction and order that he be kept at a mental asylum and report to the governor of Penang," Justice Ahmad said.

The other judges presiding with Justice Ahmad were Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Justice David Wong Dak Wah and Federal Court judges Justices Ramly Ali, Alizatul Khair Osman Khairuddin and Rohana Yusuf.

Cheong was charged with the murder of Tan Ching Chin in Seberang Prai, Penang, at 8.40am on Feb 14, 2013.

During the trial, a George Town High Court heard evidence from a psychiatrist who testified that Cheong stabbed his girlfriend three times and then purportedly tried to commit suicide by stabbing himself four times so that he could be reunited with her in heaven.

The psychiatrist had testified that Cheong, who was referred to him for assessment, had a romantic and idealistic notion that he and the deceased would be reborn in heaven as lovers.

In September 2016, the High Court ruled that Cheong, who chose to remain silent in his defence, was guilty of the offence.

Judicial Commissioner Collin Lawrence Sequerah (now a High Court Justice) reportedly said: "I am unable to find that his mental faculties were so bad that he wasn't aware of the consequences of his actions though the defence had argued a plea of insanity.

Cheong appealed against his conviction at the appellate court.

In February, last year, a three-man bench at the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court's decision on grounds that it was satisfied with the High Court findings that Cheong had failed to discharge the burden of insanity.

Cheong filed an appeal against that decision at the apex court.