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Murder of Huang Na

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Huang Na
HuangNa.jpg
Huang Na, the victim.
Born Huang Na
26 September 1996
Putian, Fujian, China
Died 10 October 2004 (aged 8)
Pasir Panjang, Queenstown, Singapore
Cause of death Murdered
Nationality Chinese
Known for Murder victim
Height 1.2 m (3 ft 11 in)

Huang Na (Chinese: 黄娜; pinyin: Huáng Nà, 26 September 1996 – 10 October 2004) was an eight-year-old Chinese national living at the Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre in Singapore, who disappeared on 10 October 2004. Her mother, the police and the community conducted a three-week-long nationwide search for her. After her body was found, many Singaporeans attended her wake and funeral, giving bai jin (contributions towards funeral expenses) and gifts. In a high-profile 14-day trial, Malaysian-born Took Leng How (卓良豪; Zhuó Liángháo), a vegetable packer at the wholesale centre, was found guilty of murdering her and hanged after an appeal and a request for presidential clemency failed.

Background[edit]

Huang Na's father, Huang Qinrong, and mother, Huang Shuying (黄淑英), were both born in 1973 to farming families in Putian city in Fujian, China. They met in 1995 and married soon after, as Shuying was pregnant with Huang Na. In 1996, Qinrong left China to seek his fortune in Singapore and worked illegally as a vegetable packer at the Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre. When Shuying found out that he was having affairs in Singapore, she divorced him and was given custody of Huang Na.[1] She later married Zheng Wenhai (郑文海),[2] a Fujian businessman with whom she had lived for four years, and became pregnant with his child in early 2003.[3]

In May 2003, Shuying immigrated to Singapore as a peidu mama accompanying Huang Na, who was enrolled in Jin Tai Primary School.[3] They lived at the Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre, where Shuying worked.[4] People from the wholesale centre and Jin Tai Primary School described Huang Na as an intelligent, independent, sociable and active child.[4][5] Huang Na became friends with Took Leng How, a vegetable packer at the wholesale centre.[6][7] Born in Malaysia in 1981 as the second child of a close-knit family of four, Took came to Singapore when he was 18, seeking better-paying jobs.[8] At the wholesale centre, he often played with Huang Na, bought her food and gave her rides on his motorcycle.[6][7]

Disappearance and reaction[edit]

Huang Na went missing on 10 October 2004; she was last seen at a food court near the wholesale centre, barefoot and wearing a blue denim jacket and bermuda shorts. From 7 a.m. to past midnight every day for three weeks, Shuying looked across the island for her daughter. The police, including a Criminal Investigation Department team, conducted an intensive search for the girl, and police officers carried photographs of her while on their daily rounds.[5][9] Volunteers formed search parties and Crime Library, a voluntary group dedicated to finding missing persons, distributed over 70,000 leaflets appealing for information.[10] Two Singaporeans offered rewards of S$10,000 and S$5,000 for finding Huang Na,[11] while the manager of an online design company set up a website to raise awareness and gather tip-offs.[4] The search even extended to Malaysia, with volunteers putting up posters in the nearby cities of Johor Bahru and Kuala Lumpur.[11]

On 19 and 20 October, Singaporean police questioned Took as part of their investigations; he said that three Chinese men kidnapped the girl.[12] After questioning Took, police accompanied him home and to the police station again for a polygraph test. On the way, they stopped at a restaurant along Pasir Panjang Road for a meal. While eating, Took said he needed to go to the toilet, escaped, took a taxi to Woodlands and sneaked across the Causeway to Malaysia.[13][14] Singaporean police searched for him until he turned himself in on 30 October,[4] confessing that he had accidentally strangled Huang Na during a game of hide-and-seek in a storeroom.[13] The following day, Huang Na's body was found at Telok Blangah Hill Park,[10] and Took was charged with her murder.[4] Direct Singapore Funeral Services oversaw her funeral for free. Thousands attended Huang Na's wake and funeral; some gave bai jin and gifts, such as sweets, flowers and her favourite Hello Kitty merchandise. However, some Singaporeans tried to make money from the girl's death by buying 4D numbers associated with her. Others spread rumours that Shuying was having affairs and was greedy for donations.[15]

Trial of Took[edit]

Took Leng How, the murderer.

The 14-day trial of Took began on 11 July 2005 before Justice Lai Kew Chai in the High Court.[6][14] The prosecution relied on 76 witnesses, a video in which Took re-enacted the murder, forensic evidence and an autopsy that found several bruises on Huang Na's head. Based on the evidence, the prosecution alleged that Took lured Huang Na to the storeroom, then stripped and sexually assaulted her. After smothering and stomping on her to ensure her death, he stored her body in nine layers of plastic bags stuffed into a sealed cardboard box.[14][16] The defence relied on the claim of diminished responsibility. Psychiatrist R. Nagulendran argued that Took was schizophrenic, as some of his behaviour, such as frequently smiling to himself and talking of spirits, was inappropriate and he had no motive for the murder – Nagulendran also called Took's story about the three Chinese men a delusion.[12]

On 27 August 2005, Justice Lai ruled that Took was guilty of murder and sentenced him to death.[8] In his judgement, Justice Lai noted that Took had no history of mental abnormality, the behaviour the defence cited was "not necessarily abnormal" and the murder was "clearly the product of a cold and calculating mind". Justice Lai also said it was unnecessary to determine the motive for the murder or whether a sexual assault had taken place.[17] Took appealed the death sentence, but the Court of Appeal of Singapore upheld the decision in January 2006. His relatives gathered 35,000 signatures and submitted a clemency petition to President S. R. Nathan, which was rejected in October 2006, after which he was hanged.[18]

Aftermath[edit]

Zheng and Shuying returned to Putian where Huang Na was buried in a tomb halfway up a mountain near their house.[19] While alive, Huang Na had asked that her surname be changed to her stepfather's, so her altar tablet bore the name Zheng Na.[2] The couple decided to focus on raising their remaining child, with Zheng planning to pursue business opportunities in Guangzhou or Shenzhen.[19] In January 2007, Jack Neo considered making a movie about the murder, but both families objected.[20] A follow-up report in 2009 found that Shuying had given birth to another two children and was running a shoe distribution business in Taiwan.[21]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Real dad: How our family broke up", The Sunday Times, 7 November 2004.
  2. ^ a b "She always wanted my surname", The New Paper, 4 November 2004.
  3. ^ a b "Yes, I lied", The New Paper, 23 November 2004.
  4. ^ a b c d e "A dream for Huang Na", The New Paper, 2 November 2004.
  5. ^ a b "Huang Na touches nation's heart", The Straits Times, 22 October 2004.
  6. ^ a b c "Who is the real Took?", The Straits Times, 31 July 2005.
  7. ^ a b "He's not the one and he would never hurt her", The New Paper, 23 October 2004.
  8. ^ a b "Sentenced to death", TODAY, 27 August 2005.
  9. ^ "Mother searches hills for missing daughter", The Straits Times, 20 October 2004.
  10. ^ a b "Singapore police believe body found is that of missing girl", Channel NewsAsia, 31 October 2004.
  11. ^ a b "Search for Huang Na widens to Johor Bahru", The Straits Times, 27 October 2004.
  12. ^ a b "DPP locks horns with defence psychiatrist", The Straits Times, 27 July 2005.
  13. ^ a b "It was a game gone wrong", TODAY, 14 July 2005.
  14. ^ a b c "He lured her into her trap", The New Paper, 13 July 2005.
  15. ^ "Shocking how fast you change your tune", The New Paper, 30 November 2004.
  16. ^ "A bag of mangoes led Huang Na to her death", TODAY, 12 July 2005.
  17. ^ "Why hang him?", The New Paper, 28 August 2005.
  18. ^ "Took's clemency plea rejected", TODAY, 24 October 2006.
  19. ^ a b "Huang Na's final resting place", The New Paper, 27 December 2004.
  20. ^ "Jack Neo may poll public on Huang Na film", The Straits Times, 20 January 2007
  21. ^ "黄娜母亲在台湾生子做生意", Lianhe Wanbao, 8 April 2009.