Huang Na murder
by Tan, Yee Lin
Huang Na, aged 8, went missing on 10 October 2004. Her disappearance resulted in a nationwide search. Her body was eventually discovered in a box dumped at Telok Blangah Hill Park. Took Leng How, a colleague of Huang Na's mother, was charged with her murder.1 He was convicted and hanged after failing to overturn his conviction at the Court of Appeal when then President S R Nathan rejected his appeal for clemency.2
On 10 October 2004, Huang Na, a primary two student at Jin Tai Primary School went missing from the Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre. Her mother, Chinese national Madam Huang Shuying, worked at the wholesale centre but was away in China when her daughter disappeared. Huang Na's disappearance resulted in a nationwide search fuelled by coverage of the case in the national papers.3
Took Leng How, aged 24, a vegetable packer at the wholesale centre was twice questioned by the police. He was Madam Huang's colleague and had previously shared a flat with her in Clementi. Took was also known to be friendly with the victim.4
However, Took fled Singapore on 21 October 2004 before he was due to undergo a lie detector test. He made his escape to Penang, Malaysia, and hid there until he surrendered to the Malaysian authorities on 30 October. He was escorted back to Singapore by a team of Singapore police officers.5
Took admitted strangling Huang Na with his bare hands in a storeroom in Block 15 of the wholesale centre. He had lured the girl into the storeroom for a game of hide-and-seek. According to court testimonials, Took stripped Huang naked and bound her. She knocked her head accidentally against some boxes and went into fits, choking on her own vomit. Took panicked and eventually strangled her to death. He checked if she was alive by striking her three times on the back of her neck. When she was found to be still breathing, Took strangled her.6 After she died, Took wrapped Huang Na's body in plastic bags and put them into a cardboard box which he then sealed. The box was eventually dumped at Telok Blangah Hill Park.7
Took did not testify during the trial. His lawyer Subhas Anandan felt that it would not help to put Took on stand as he was delusional and suffering from mental illness, and that he would easily be cornered by the interrogations of the public prosecutor.8 Anandan raised two defences to support him. The first was that the prosecution had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Took had in fact caused the death of the deceased, and secondly, that the symptoms exhibited by Took entitled him to raise the defence of diminished responsibility.9
Took was convicted of Huang Na's murder and sentenced to death. He appealed against the conviction and death sentence with the Court of Appeal but was unsuccessful despite a 2-1 split opinion on the extent of his involvement in the case. One of the three appeal judges, Justice Kan Ting Chiu, pointed out that there was no conclusive evidence to show that Took had killed Huang Na by smothering her. However, the other two judges, former Chief Justice Yong Pung How and Chief Justice Chao Hick Tin, disagreed with him, resulting in the rejection of Took's appeal.10
After Took’s appeal was rejected, his relatives obtained signatures from the public to support a petition to spare Took’s life. Despite gathering 35,000 signatures within four months, the plea of clemency to President Nathan was rejected. Took was hanged in Changi Prison on 3 November 2006.11
Controversy erupted when the Singaporean public learned that part of the money Huang Na's family received from the people who attended her funeral went into building another storey to their two-storey house in Houfeng village in Putian city, China. Madam Huang said that this was so that she could see Huang Na’s tomb – located halfway up a mountain about 20 minutes from the village – from her home. The view of the tomb was blocked by a nearby house.12
In 2009, it was reported that Madam Huang, her second husband Zheng Wenhai, her parents-in-law and her three children were living in a four-storey house with classical European pillars. Zheng had started a labour company and owned a black saloon with real leather seats and installed with three TV sets. According to Madam Huang, the contributions from the public were used for Huang Na’s last rites and to build Huang Na’s tomb. Some of the money was also donated to charity, used to renovate the family home and to build a road in Putian. Madam Huang claimed that the rest would be saved for future rites for Huang Na.13
Tan Yee Lin
1. Huang Na case. (2004, December 23). The New Paper, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Ng, A. (2006, October 24). Took's clemency plea rejected. Today, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Guilty as charged: Huang Na, 8, killed by man she treated as an uncle. (2016, May 17). The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
4. Guilty as charged: Huang Na, 8, killed by man she treated as an uncle. (2016, May 17). The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
5. Singapore Academy of Law. (n.d.). Took Leng How v Public Prosecutor  2 SLR 70;  SGCA 3: Points 8–10. Retrieved 2016, December 20 from SingaporeLaw.sg website: http://www.singaporelaw.sg/sglaw/laws-of-singapore/case-law/free-law/court-of-appeal-judgments/12816-took-leng-how-v-public-prosecutor-2006-2-slr-70-2006-sgca-3
6. Chia, D., & Low, C. L. (2005, July 28.) Took confessed 18 times. The New Paper, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Chia, D., & Low, C. L. (2005, July 28.) Took confessed 18 times. The New Paper, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Anandan, S. (2009). Subhas Anandan: The best I could. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish, pp. 165–166. (Call no.: RSING 340.092 ANA)
9. Singapore Academy of Law. (n.d.). Took Leng How v Public Prosecutor  2 SLR 70;  SGCA 3: Point 14. Retrieved 2016, December 20 from SingaporeLaw.sg website: http://www.singaporelaw.sg/sglaw/laws-of-singapore/case-law/free-law/court-of-appeal-judgments/12816-took-leng-how-v-public-prosecutor-2006-2-slr-70-2006-sgca-3
10. Ng, A. (2006, October 24). Took's clemency plea rejected. Today, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Ng, A. (2006, October 24). Took's clemency plea rejected. Today, p. 4; Ng, A. (2006, November 4). A picture of calm. Today, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Chia, D. (2005, October 10). Why not? The New Paper, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG
13. Ho, L-Y. (2009, April 19). We didn’t spend the $126,000 carelessly. The New Paper, pp. 6–7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
Au Yong, J. (2005, July 31). Who is the real Took? The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
Chia, D. (2006, January 26). After appeal against death sentence fails, Took Leng How's dad says: 'I should not have asked him to surrender'. The New Paper, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
Chong. C. K. (2005, August 27). Killing was done in 'calm and calculated manner'. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
Ho, A. (2006, February 25). Huang Na verdict: The nose and the noose. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
The information in this article is valid as at 2009 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.