Body found in suitcase in Perth river

The body of Ms Annabelle Chen (above) was found stuffed in a suitcase weighed down by tiles (left) and dumped in the Swan River in Perth. The reclusive 57-year-old woman lived near the river.
The body of Ms Annabelle Chen was found stuffed in a suitcase weighed down by tiles (above) and dumped in the Swan River in Perth. The reclusive 57-year-old woman lived near the river.PHOTO: WA POLICE

PERTH • Police remain baffled by the murder of a wealthy Asian woman whose body was found stuffed in a suitcase, weighed down by tiles and dumped in the Swan River.

For nine weeks, detectives had no idea who she was despite more than 450 calls from people trying to help and cooperation from the authorities across Asia to try to establish a DNA match, according to The Australian daily.

It said the lack of a breakthrough led to speculation in Perth's Chinese-speaking community that the woman could have been a newly arrived foreign bride, or perhaps an "invisible" foreign worker without a visa.

The breakthrough came last Friday after the daughter of 57-year- old Ms Annabelle Chen reported her missing. This led police to search Ms Chen's home in the affluent suburb of Mosman Park. Her body was identified on Monday.

Detective Senior Sergeant Tom Mills said Ms Chen's daughter last saw her at her Perth home on June 30, three days before her body was found by two fishermen. Her home is 500m from the river's edge.


The body of Ms Annabelle Chen (above) was found stuffed in a suitcase weighed down by tiles and dumped in the Swan River in Perth. The reclusive 57-year-old woman lived near the river. PHOTO: WA POLICE

The daughter returned to Perth from Melbourne last Friday because she was concerned about her mother's safety.

"She had been trying to get in touch with her mother for a period of time and had been unsuccessful," Senior Sgt Mills was quoted as saying. "That wasn't unusual in itself."

Ms Chen, who is divorced, was apparently estranged from most of her family. "It's a very extended family but it's a very complex situation in relation to the family, so I'm not prepared to go into too much detail," Senior Sgt Mills said.

Media reports described Ms Chen as an extremely spiritual woman who was interested in art and did not have a job but was financially self-sufficient. The petite woman also lived a reclusive life, with one report saying that when she bought the Mosman Park home in 2001, she had all the windows tinted to block prying eyes.

"Nobody knows much about her. She just used to drive in and drive out," said a neighbour.

Senior Sgt Mills said she came to Australia in 1999 and spoke several languages, including Malay. She could also speak Mandarin and Cantonese. He did not say which country she was originally from.

He also said there was nothing to indicate that anything took place at Ms Chen's home or that the tiles found in the suitcase came from it.

Police are now appealing for members of the public who knew or spoke to Ms Chen to come forward.

"The key for us in this investigation is learning more about her, and the public can play an important role in that," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2016, with the headline 'Body found in suitcase in Perth river'. Print Edition | Subscribe