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Foreign worker on trial for murder of domestic worker girlfriend in Singapore hotel room

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Bangladeshi Ahmed Salim, 31, strangled his girlfriend Nurhidayati, 34, at Golden Dragon Hotel after she refused to break up with her other boyfriend. — Google Maps screenshot via TODAY
Bangladeshi Ahmed Salim, 31, strangled his girlfriend Nurhidayati, 34, at Golden Dragon Hotel after she refused to break up with her other boyfriend. — Google Maps screenshot via TODAY

SINGAPORE, Sept 15 — After dating for five years, Bangladeshi worker Ahmed Salim and his girlfriend, Nurhidayati Wartono Surata, decided to get married the following year.

But during their engagement, Nurhidayati, 34, a domestic worker from Indonesia, started seeing other men which led Ahmed to ask his mother to find a bride for him back home.

They continued their relationship despite the circumstances but things came to a head on Dec 30, 2018 at the Golden Dragon Hotel in Geylang when she refused to break up with another foreign worker.

Ahmed, 31, killed her and took her belongings before leaving her in the room.

He returned to his dormitory and told his roommate he had killed somebody.

Prosecutors laid out these facts today — the first day Ahmed began standing trial in the High Court for one charge of murder.

If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Ahmed is represented on a pro bono basis by Eugene Thuraisingam, Chooi Jing Yen and Hamza Malik from Eugene Thuraisingam LLP.

Their relationship

The court heard that they began dating in May 2012 following a chance encounter.

In November 2017, they got engaged, however, around May, she began dating a Bangladeshi plumber whom Ahmed found out and confronted her about. 

His mother then found him a bride in Bangladesh and he was to marry in early 2019. 

Ahmed and the victim continued dating but quarrelled frequently about her relationship with the plumber. 

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Hay Hung Chun said that on one occasion, Ahmed pressed a towel over her mouth “in an attempt to kill her” but he released it when she struggled and apologised.

Around November 2018, Nurhidayati began dating another man — a Bangladeshi general fitter.

On December 9, 2018, Ahmed grew incensed upon discovering his girlfriend’s new beau.

“He decided to kill her. He planned to strangle her with a drawstring taken from his jacket it was easy to conceal. He was also aware that it was illegal to carry weapons in public,” DPP Hay told the court.

Ahmed arranged to meet her on December 23 at the Golden Dragon Hotel.

While he had the drawstring in his pants pocket, he did not carry out his plan to strangle her as she lied to him that she had not met her new boyfriend in person, said DPP Hay.

Later that evening however, she called Ahmed and broke up with him. 

He asked her to continue seeing him till he returned to Bangladesh to get married but she refused. 

They agreed to meet one last time on December 30.

Strangled with towel and drawstring

That morning, Ahmed withdrew the bulk of his savings — S$1,150 (RM3,488) — from an automated teller machine.

He met Nurhidayati at the void deck of the block of flats where she worked and they went to the hotel.

DPP Hay said that at the hotel, Ahmed threatened to kill the deceased if she continued her relationship with her new boyfriend.

“He rounded the towel around her neck on three different occasions that day. On the first two occasions, he did not tighten the towel and the deceased removed it,” he added. 

The third time, however, he tightened the towel around her neck, stepped on one end and pulled the other end while she struggled and blood flowed out of her ears, DPP Hay told the court.

Ahmed then removed the towel when she fell motionless but tightened his drawstring around her neck to ensure she was dead after he heard air rushing out of her mouth.

He also pressed the towel over her face, twisted her head from left to right, then dressed her and left the room.

He returned to the room, saw she was in the same position and then left for good taking with him, her S$30, her mobile phone and ez-link card.

When Ahmed returned to his dormitory, he told his roommate to remit S$1,000 in cash to his father in Bangladesh. He also told the other man he had killed somebody.

A hotel receptionist discovered the victim in the room later that day. Ahmed was arrested the next morning after attempting to return to Bangladesh.

An autopsy showed that Nurhidayati’s cause of death was strangulation and cervical spine injury.

Possible two defences

Thuraisingam told Judicial Commissioner Mavis Chionh that they will rely on two defences: Diminished responsibility and grave and sudden provocation.

Both psychiatric experts for the prosecution and defence agreed that Ahmed suffered from an adjustment disorder at the time but disagreed on whether it substantially impaired his mental responsibility for Nurhidayati’s death.

In relation to grave and sudden provocation, Thuraisingam said they will argue that Nurhidayati uttered “harsh and humiliating words” to Ahmed shortly before her death.

She allegedly said: “Other man is better than you in bed and better financially. If you don’t believe, I will take a video next week to show you.”

In response, DPP Hay said the prosecution will seek to prove that Ahmed made this up and no such argument took place.

As for the diminished responsibility defence, Thuraisingam said Ahmed had overreacted to the stressor of Nurhidayati’s “repeated infidelity” and her alleged harsh words.

The trial continues this afternoon. — TODAY

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