A funeral director from Singapore is facing charges of abetting suicide for allegedly helping her boyfriend end his life by inhaling nitrogen gas.
If convicted, Alverna Cher Sheue Pin, a 39-year-old single mother of two daughters who runs a high-profile funeral business, will face a 10-year prison sentence and a fine. She cannot be caned under the law as she is a woman.
Her boyfriend, Wee Jun Xiang, a 32-year-old music composer, had died on the afternoon of May 16 last year. Medics found his lifeless body in a multi-storey carpark and pronounced him dead at the scene, classifying it as an unnatural death.
His mother, who only wanted to be identified as Mrs Yang, told a local tabloid last year that she had rushed to the scene after being informed of her son’s death and discovered him in the driver’s seat. It is not known why Wee took his own life.
Cher, who became a suspect early on during police investigations, was arrested and hauled to court in December. She was initially charged with the greater crime of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, and was looking at life imprisonment.
New charge sheets presented in court this week shed more light on Cher’s involvement in the death, as she allegedly assisted Wee by turning the valve of a nitrogen gas tank “four to five times”, reported Today newspaper. It is claimed that she also contacted a man she knew to dispose of the tank and other items used by Wee to end his life.
Cher was also charged this week for lying to police after telling an officer that Wee had been suffering chest pains for weeks, and that she believed that he died of a heart attack. She was offered bail of $100,000 on Oct. 26. Her pre-trial conference will be held on Nov. 30.
Often dressing in black and appearing via video link, Cher addressed earlier court sessions by appealing for her family. “I'm a single mum and the sole breadwinner so I really need to pass money to my parents,” she said.
Attempted suicide is no longer a crime in Singapore, with the act decriminalized through the reform of a criminal law bill in 2019. Suicide remains the leading cause of death among people between the ages of 10 and 29 in the city-state.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, help is available. Call 1-800-273-8255 to speak with someone now or text START to 741741 to message with the Crisis Text Line.
Follow Heather Chen on Twitter.