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Brisbane stabbing: 'Ardent suitor' of Singaporean charged with her murder

After her marriage fell apart, Ms Narayanan moved to Australia to further her studies. At her parents' suggestion, she met a prospective suitor, who has now been charged with her murder.
After her marriage fell apart, Ms Narayanan moved to Australia to further her studies. At her parents' suggestion, she met a prospective suitor, who has now been charged with her murder.PHOTO: FACEBOOK PAGE OF MEENATCHI NARAYANAN

Victim's grieving family recalls her friendship with Aussie stabbing suspect

She had been married before but the arranged match ended badly after a year and Ms Meenatchi Narayanan wanted no more of that.

Instead, she went back to school. She moved to Brisbane in Australia about two years ago for a master's and then an advanced master's degree in finance.

At her parents' suggestion, she struck up a friendship last November with an Indian national working in South Africa, who became "an ardent suitor", according to her father L. Narayanan.

Now, Senthil Kumar Arumugam, 31, has been charged with stabbing the 27-year-old Singaporean to death in a hotel room in Brisbane.

Ms Narayanan was found in the Travelodge hotel at Mount Gravatt at 12.30am on Tuesday with multiple stab wounds in her abdomen.

Arumugam was charged with her murder in a bedside hearing yesterday at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, where he was under police guard and recovering from stab wounds which, according to Australian news reports, were self-inflicted.

He did not enter a plea and the verdict was adjourned. He will be remanded in custody until a hearing at the Brisbane Magistrates Court on May 5.

Last night, in Ms Narayanan's family home in Race Course Road, a steady stream of weeping friends and relatives stopped by to see her family.

"She was good-looking, charming, and very kind to everyone," said Mr Narayanan. "The boy had very strong feelings for her."

Shanthi, as her family called her, had a "phobia" of marriage after her arranged marriage fell apart. "She was completely focused on her studies," said Mr Narayanan, a 60-year-old business owner.

He said Arumugam's family had approached him through a mutual friend and he agreed to an introduction. He described Arumugam as a polite boy who neither drank nor smoked.

Ms Narayanan and Arumugam made contact over the Internet. He also kept in close contact with her parents and brother, messaging them frequently. In January this year, she travelled to India with her family and met Arumugam in person for the first time.

Friends said Ms Narayanan had been dating a Singaporean for about five months but had broken up with him. The former boyfriend declined to speak to The Straits Times.

Meanwhile, Arumugam had plans to further his studies in Australia and wanted to take a look at the schools there, said Mr Narayanan.

Before he left for Australia, Arumugam sent a message, asking for Mr Narayanan's consent to meet his daughter there.

"I said, why not, nothing wrong with that," said Mr Narayanan, starting to tear up. He added that he had told Arumugam not to broach the subject of marriage and Arumugam had replied that he would respect that wish.

According to her family, Arumugam met Ms Narayanan on Sunday for lunch and a walk through the Queensland University of Technology campus, where she was studying.

Later, he sent Ms Narayanan's mother, Selvi, a Facebook message telling her: "My feelings and respect for her had (sic) grown much higher now." He also called Mrs Narayanan "mom".

But Ms Narayanan had wanted more time and space and told him so, said her only sibling, older brother Letchumanan Narayanan, an officer in the Singapore Armed Forces.

He said his sister had told him she was beginning to have "mixed feelings" about Arumugam but was not worried about him.

Mr Letchumanan also said Ms Narayanan told him by Skype that she had agreed to see Arumugam off to the airport for his flight, scheduled for 3am on Tuesday, and would meet him at his room at the Travelodge on Monday night. The family did not hear from her again.

On Monday night, Mr Narayanan called his daughter just before he left on a flight to Chennai, which would have been about 9.45pm in Brisbane, he said. The calls went unanswered.

At 4am, his wife sent him a text as she could not get in touch with Ms Narayanan after multiple calls and text messages.

"My wife told me, something is wrong. That's not Shanthi. She will call us. No matter what, she will call us," recalled Mr Narayanan.

He called her friends and then the student hostel, which patched him through to the police instead. Mr Narayanan immediately booked a flight home.

"She was my life," said Mr Narayanan, voice choked with tears as he looked around her room, where she had last stayed in January.

"She always told us, 'Don't worry, I'll be here to look after you guys. I'll stay here forever.'"

asyiqins@sph.com.sg

wamanda@sph.com.sg

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