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Tue, Nov 17, 2009
The New Paper
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Killing flesh and blood out of kindness
by Elysa Chen

FOR some, taking their own lives isn’t enough. They do what is unthinkable to others – killing their own children first.

Ironically, the killers usually see their horrendous act as one of kindness, say experts.

Last week, restaurant manager Ng Chee Kiang, 39, was believed to have killed his son, 5, and daughter, 3, before setting fire to his Ang Mo Kio flat.

He then fell to his death.

Consultant psychiatrist Tommy Tan said people who commit murder-cum-suicide do so because they do not want to leave their loved ones behind.

He said: “Usually, they suffer from severe depression. They feel the world holds nothing but suffering for them, and are under the delusion that they cannot let their loved ones suffer as well.”

Ng was believed to have had marital problems.

Recalling a case which he handled a few years ago, Dr Tan described how a Singaporean family made a suicide pact after they were beset with financial trouble.

The family left for Australia in 2004 to start a new life. In March 2005, the couple decided to kill their two children by poisoning them before committing suicide.

When they saw their elder daughter suffering and having seizures, they changed their mind and took the children to hospital.

Dr Tan said: “These people are not killing their loved ones out of anger, but out of kindness. They feel that they are doing the right thing for their family members.”

The children survived and enjoy a good relationship with their mother, said Dr Tan. The father was deported to Singapore in March this year.

Dr Tan said the impulse to kill a loved one before committing suicide is not restricted to parent-children relationships. There have also been cases of spouses dying in this way.

He added that people who commit murder and suicide usually think about doing so for a long time.

“It’s not a sudden decision. They agonise over it and rationalise about their decision for a long time, thinking about what would happen to their children if they killed themselves, and come to the conclusion that their children would not survive without a father or mother.”

Such tragedies happen when people suffering from severe depression refuse to see a psychiatrist, possibly because of the stigma attached to seeking psychiatric help.

Dr Tan said: “It’s ironic. People see a stigma associated with seeing a psychiatrist, but not in the act of killing someone else and taking their own lives.”

Ms Christine Wong, executive director of Samaritans of Singapore, said research had shown that not all people who commit suicide have mental health problems at the time of death. “Feelings of desperation and hopelessness are more accurate predictors of suicide,” she said.

Those who commit murder-suicide will continue to inflict pain on those they leave behind.

Dr Tan said wives may blame themselves for contributing to their husbands’ depression. They might also feel betrayed by their husbands for taking their children.


Getting help:

  • Call 1800 221 4444 - the SOS 24-hour helpline provides a listening ear. Callers can remain anonymous and what they share with SOS is strictly confidential.
  • See an SOS counsellor. Call the hotline to make an appointment.
  • E-mail [email protected] – an e-mail befriending service if they prefer to write.
  • Join SOS Healing Bridge. This support group helps those who lose someone to cope with the grief and receive comfort and understanding from others who have suffered a similar loss.

In the Ang Mo Kio murder-suicide, Ng’s wife was devastated by her children’s deaths. Neighbours heard her yelling at her husband as he lay dying: “You stupid man! You burn my flat, my children are still inside.”

Ms Wong said that in such cases, the loss is complicated by the trauma and stigma of the manner of death.

She said: “Those left behind by a suicide struggle with intense feelings of abandonment, anger, guilt and shame.

“While there are common emotions faced by the survivors, the grieving and bereavement process can be extremely individual and unique, as they cope with their pain and loss differently.

“Many survivors find it helpful to talk about their grief. Other than talking to family members or friends, which can be difficult due to the stigma attached to suicide, survivors can also call the SOS 24-hour helpline, e-mail us, see an SOS counsellor or join a support group.”

Dealing with signs of suicide

Ms Christine Wong, executive director of Samaritans of Singapore, said someone could be contemplating suicide if he:

  • Talks about suicide and has a preoccupation with death
  • Is looking for ways to die
  • Makes statements about hopelessness, helplessness, or worthlessness
  • Shows unusual changes in moods or behaviour
  • Makes arrangements to set his affairs in order
  • Starts giving things away, such as prized possessions.

What you can do:

If a person displays warning signs of suicide, ask him about it to determine if he’s in immediate danger, and get help if needed. A suicidal person should see a doctor or mental health professional immediately.

  • Never keep a plan for suicide a secret and don’t try to play down the problems.
  • If you feel the person isn’t in immediate danger, acknowledge the pain as legitimate and offer to work together to get help.
Part 2: Took son 'to be with him'

This article was first published in The New Paper.

readers' comments
Neighbours heard her yelling at her husband as he lay dying: “You stupid man! You burn my flat, my children are still inside.”

Something wrong with the couple's relationship. It should be 'our flat, our children' and not 'my flat, my children'.
Posted by broken.arrow on Wed, 18 Nov 2009 at 14:44 PM
There were 2 cases. Copycat in this kind of tragedy must be stopped. With respect to the dead, no kindness can be found in killing one's own children. Adults tend to stand at the shoes of the killer to view the bad situation. What's the perception of the kids struggling to survive the attack? Each human has his/her will to take problems in this world. Parents should let their kids to face the problems. Let them live and die on the reasons they themselves know. Parents suffering financial issues, collectors bombardment, repossession of assets should repay their borrowings and cut back. Suicide can never be the option. A person thinking of “just quit” ending life should see a psychiatrist. Psychiatrist is a kind of physician to help a patient. There is no stigma to see a physician. Healing the depression is like healing a fever. A physician's help is necessary. .....
Posted by last_laugh on Wed, 18 Nov 2009 at 11:29 AM

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