Ganesan also made his name in legal circles

Although best known for his role in boosting Singapore's football scene, N. Ganesan also worked as a lawyer for almost five decades, handling several prominent cases.

As state coroner, he ordered a police probe into Grand Prix driver Sunny Ang over the death of bar hostess Jenny Cheok who vanished during a diving trip near Sisters Island with him in 1963.

It emerged that Ang had insured the 22-year-old for $400,000 before she disappeared. He was convicted for murder and executed in 1967. It marked the first time the prosecution had won a case based entirely on circumstantial evidence as the body was not found.

Then-Straits Times news editor Peter Yeo Toon Joo said in a Facebook tribute post: "Ang kept pressing Gane to give a verdict after his coroner's inquiry.

"Gane, a great sleuth, told me that aroused his suspicion. Ang wanted a death certificate to be issued quickly so that he could collect the insurance money.

"Gane said that Ang's impatience was what tipped him off."

Lawyer P. Suppiah, 85, remembers Ganesan as the coroner who probed the death of Singapore soccer great Awang Bakar.

The 1950s national team idol collapsed in a match at RAF Changi in 1964 and died in hospital aged 28.

"I remember giving a statement then on Bakar's death who was found to have died of heart failure," said Mr Suppiah, who was then Singapore Amateur Football Association vice-president.

He first came to know Ganesan in London when they went to read law. "He was very much a fun-loving man and as a lawyer was even-paced in his work."

In a 1993 interview with The Sunday Times, Ganesan had said: "I enjoy the court work.

"It's very exciting and certainly less laborious than sitting in the office doing research and writing.

"Part of criminal work is also like social work, and I like that too."

Ganesan was a police officer for five years before he joined the legal service in 1962. In his first hearing as a magistrate in July that year, he acquitted taxi owner A. Noor Mohamed of giving false information to police, finding the case "fraught with discrepancies".

He served as a magistrate, deputy public prosecutor and district court judge. In April 1963, he was appointed state coroner and went into private practice in 1967.

In 1969, he defended 26-year-old William Tan, who was convicted of the murder of a motorcyclist killed in a collision with his car in Bedok Road.

The jury's murder verdict drew the death sentence but Tan succeeded on appeal with lawyer David Marshall's help and served a jail term instead.

Ganesan ended his legal career in 2011 and lawyer S. Radakrishnan, who also worked with him, said: "Ganesan was passionate about his clients, was very friendly, easy-going and likeable."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 05, 2015, with the headline 'Ganesan also made his name in legal circles'. Print Edition | Subscribe