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The Straits Times
October 26, 2023
The managing director of a security training centre was so convinced that his company was in financial trouble that he decided to kill his wife so that others might not go after her and their unborn child because of his business failure.
David Brian Chow Kwok-Hun had lost sleep and was overwhelmed with stress after he was given a set of unusually low financial figures by an employee.
In the early hours of Jan 11, 2022, he developed suicidal thoughts and hoped that by killing Ms Isabel Elizabeth Francis and their unborn daughter, they would “go to heaven” instead of suffering shame.
He turned his sleeping wife face up on their bed and thrust a knife into her abdomen, telling her: “Sorry, I have no way out.” He then continued to stab her in the head, neck and body.
He then stabbed himself in the neck and stomach, and asked the devil to “take him” and for his wife and unborn daughter to go to heaven.
The figures he was given later turned out to be wrong. His company, KnowledgeTree Training Centre, was in fact doing much better.
On Thursday, Chow, who is now 35 years old, was sentenced to seven years in prison after he pleaded guilty to a charge of culpable homicide for killing his wife, who was 15 weeks pregnant, at the couple’s flat in Ang Mo Kio.
He was originally charged with murder, but the charge was reduced after he was found to be suffering from a mental disorder that diminished his responsibility for the acts.
A report from the Institute of Mental Health stated that due to his adjustment disorder, Chow had “catastrophic thinking that he would be bankrupt with no way out and had suicidal thoughts but felt that his death would bring shame to his wife”.
Chow and Ms Francis, whom he married on Dec 28, 2019, moved into the flat in May 2021, and were expecting their first child.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Jiang Ke-Yue told the court that in December 2021, Chow went through the half-year financial report for his company and asked the accounting staff to check the numbers, which were unusually low.
On Jan 5, 2022, a staff member said the numbers in the report were accurate.
Chow began to believe that the business would fail, even though it had earned about $1 million in profits between July 2020 and June 2021, and was not losing money between July 2021 and November 2021 despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
Between Jan 7 and Jan 9, 2022, he clocked one to two hours of sleep per night on average due to worry and stress over the company’s finances.
His family, colleagues and his wife noticed his behaviour over those few days.
On Jan 7, he took Piriton, a sleeping aid medication, but it did not help his insomnia. The manager of the company saw him the next day and said he looked stressed.
The manager also told Chow that the company was still making profits.
Chow also met his mother and brother at their home and told them about his worries that the company would make a loss from January 2022 onwards.
They reassured him that the company made profits in the previous months, and that it was in a financially sound position to weather through the next two years.
That evening, Ms Francis told Chow that she had booked a session with a Catholic counsellor to help him deal with his work stress.
However, he continued to lose sleep, and would see random images such as marching soldiers when he tried to close his eyes.
On Jan 10, he went to the office at about 6am as he could not sleep and was observed by his staff to be extremely listless.
His mother took him out for lunch and took him home to rest after he repeated the same concerns to her.
His parents and sister, who were concerned about his deteriorating mental state, visited him and Ms Francis for dinner, and assured him that they would support him.
His father made an appointment for him to see a psychiatrist the following day, and arranged to pick him up for work in the morning.
At about 1am on Jan 11, Chow started pacing up and down the corridor of his unit, ruminating over his business concerns, and looked at the LinkedIn profiles of his business competitors.
He started to worry that his employees would leave his company or lose confidence in him.
Chow then thought about taking his own life. But he feared that his wife might suffer the shame of having a husband who committed suicide, and that others might go after his wife and child as a result of his business failure.
At about 5am, he took the sharpest knife from the kitchen, and headed for the master bedroom to his sleeping wife.
The second-storey unit in Block 228B Ang Mo Kio Street 23 where Ms Isabel Elizabeth Francis was found lying motionless on Jan 11, 2022. PHOTO: SHIN MIN DAILY NEWS
At one point during the attack, Ms Francis crawled towards the door, but Chow thrust the knife into her head.
After she stopped moving, he went to the kitchen to get another knife, pierced himself in the neck and stabbed himself in the stomach. He then knelt on the floor and asked for the devil to “take him”.
Some time after 7am, he checked his phone and realised that his father was on his way to pick him up.
“When the accused realised that him stabbing himself was not killing him fast enough, he went to the fridge and consumed a random assortment of tablets. However, he still did not feel that he was dying,” said the prosecutor.
At about 7.35am, he decided to call the police to report that he had killed his wife as he did not want to implicate his father. He also called his father and told him not to come over.
He then crawled to the main door to unlock it, and lay down on the floor to wait for the police.
In mitigation, Chow’s lawyer, Mr Shashi Nathan, said his client and Ms Francis were an extremely loving couple who were looking forward to welcoming a child into their lives.
The lawyer said Chow had lost his wife and and daughter for reasons he could not explain. “This is his life sentence,” said Mr Nathan, as Chow shook uncontrollably in the dock.
Arguing for five to seven years’ jail, Mr Nathan added that there is strong family support from Chow’s siblings and parents to help him reintegrate into society.
The prosecution sought nine to 12 years’ jail. DPP Jiang agreed that it was a tragic case, but said the the tragic circumstances must be balanced by society’s abhorrence of the violence inflicted on Chow’s innocent wife.
Chow’s parents and siblings, as well as Ms Francis’ brother, were allowed to speak to him briefly after he was sentenced.
Chow’s father told reporters that the family accepted the sentence and added that it was tragic, before other family members ushered him away. Ms Francis’ brother declined comment.
Institute of Mental Health’s Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222 (24 hours)
Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444 (24 hours) /1-767 (24 hours)
Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
Silver Ribbon Singapore: 6386-1928
Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788
Chat, Centre of Excellence for Youth Mental Health: 6493-6500/1
Women’s Helpline (Aware): 1800-777-5555 (weekdays, 10am to 6pm)
Aware’s Sexual Assault Care Centre: 6779-0282 (weekdays, 10am to 6pm)
TOUCHline (Counselling): 1800-377-2252
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Care Corner Counselling Centre: 6353-1180
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