The ex-husband and daughter of a woman whose body was found stuffed in a suitcase floating in the Swan River appeared in a Perth court yesterday, charged with murder of the former Singapore businesswoman.
Police allege Ban Ah Ping, 65, and his daughter, Tiffany Yiting Wan, 25, who were remanded in custody, murdered 57-year-old Ms Annabelle Chen some time between June 30 and July 2 in her Mosman Park home in Perth's south-west. Her body was then allegedly stuffed into a suitcase and wheeled into the nearby Swan River on a makeshift trolley rigged up with a child's scooter and a chopping board.
Ms Chen's identity had remained a mystery for nine weeks after the suitcase was spotted by a squid fisherman downstream at East Fremantle on July 2.
Distinctive floral tiles that were allegedly used to weigh down the suitcase are similar to tiles found in another Mosman Park property previously owned by Ms Chen. Police said Ms Chen and her daughter moved to Perth from Singapore in 1999. Ms Chen and Ban had married in Singapore in 1985 and divorced in the late 1990s or early 2000s.
Major crime squad Detective Senior Sergeant Tom Mills, speaking at a press conference after the court proceedings, said Ban had residences in Singapore and Malaysia and was a frequent visitor to Australia.
Police confirmed he was not extradited or arrested. He is believed to have flown to Perth in recent weeks and voluntarily given a statement to police. He attended Wan's graduation from a Melbourne university on Aug 4.
Wan previously told police she last saw her mother at her Mosman Park home on June 30. Wan had flown to the Western Australia capital at the beginning of September, concerned that she could not make contact with her mother, and lodged a missing persons report.
Ms Chen paid $570,000 in cash for the Mosman Park home in 2001 so that her daughter could be close to the prestigious Methodist Ladies' College. Wan graduated from the college in 2009, and moved to Melbourne two years later.
Det-Sen Sgt Mills said Wan was a frequent visitor to Perth in the years after she had relocated to the Australian east coast.
He would not comment on whether Ms Chen had had any contact with her ex-husband since their divorce. She is understood to have received a settlement of more than $10 million from Ban.
She was his second wife, and step-mother to his twin daughters from a previous relationship. Det-Sen Sgt Mills said the step-children and their step-mother had very little contact.
He said Ms Chen, who has relatives in Taiwan, was a private and religious person. She was also an avid reader, with bookmarks visible in most of the books in her Mosman Park home. She did not flaunt her wealth, and led a frugal lifestyle.
He said it also appeared that Ms Chen had an interest in either Chinese or natural medicines. He appealed to anyone who may have had contact with Ms Chen to contact the police.
Ban and Wan did not speak during their brief appearance yesterday in the Perth Magistrate's Court. They will appear again in court on Oct 26.