Body in suitcase: Perth victim may have had Singapore links

Ms Annabelle Chen's neighbours described her as "Mrs Invisible" to the media in Perth.
Ms Annabelle Chen's neighbours described her as "Mrs Invisible" to the media in Perth.

Newspaper gives name of her former husband, saying he was a Singaporean

More than two months after the body of a reclusive 57-year-old woman was found in a suitcase in a river in Western Australia, further twists have emerged, including possible links to Singapore.

Despite an ongoing police investigation and intense media interest since Ms Annabelle Chen's identity was finally revealed last week, there is still little known about her or her origins.

Police have not confirmed her place of birth but said that the divorced mother spoke Malay, Cantonese, Mandarin and English.

The name of her former husband was given as "Ah Ping Ban" in Perth's The Post newspaper, which said he was a Singaporean.

Police have refused to confirm details about Mr Ban.

Western Australia Police are not releasing information regarding Ms Chen's former husband, a spokesman told The Straits Times yesterday.

Police in Perth continue to investigate the case and have been scouring Ms Chen's various current and former properties for clues.

It has emerged that floral green ceramic tiles found in the suitcase - apparently to weigh it down - matched those in a bathroom in a house which she owned between 2005 and 2009. The tiles were presumably stored by her or the killer.

A report in The Australian newspaper last Friday said Ms Chen moved to Australia in 1999, "after some time living in Singapore".

Police again refused to comment on this, saying only:  "Ms Chen moved to Australia in 1999 and lived at her home on Meath Mews, Mosman Park, from 2002. WA Police are not releasing further information regarding her residential status prior to 1999."

It is understood that property records indicate she also went by the names Pei-Wen Ban Chen and Chen Pei-Wen Ban.

Police have said she was a reclusive, caring, spiritual person who practised Buddhism and Catholicism.  

"We're trying to piece everything we can about Annabelle's life - who she knew, who she associated with, where she went," Detective Senior Sergeant Tom Mills told 6PR radio.

"We do know she was an extremely private person, very spiritual, very religious and was a very good artist apparently."

Ms Chen's body was found on July 2, after two fishermen saw a blue SB Polo-brand suitcase partly submerged in the Swan River.

For two months, police were unable to identify the woman in the suitcase and knew only that she was of Asian origin.  It was reported only that she died a violent death.

It is believed Ms Chen had three children though none has spoken publicly. One of the daughters, who lives in Melbourne, became concerned about the lack of contact from her mother and flew to Perth and filed a missing person's report, which led to Ms Chen being identified. The daughter apparently last saw her mother during a visit to Perth on June 30.

Police yesterday advised local media that Ms Chen's family members in Perth did not want to comment.

According to The Post, a weekly newspaper, Ms Chen had been paranoid about her security before she bought her home in 2001.  

She reportedly had twin daughters who attended Methodist Ladies' College, a leading private school in Perth. It is also believed that she had a younger daughter, who is in her mid-20s.

Neighbours said Ms Chen kept to herself, and described her as "Mrs Invisible" to local media.

Police have reportedly spoken to their counterparts overseas and across Australia for more clues.

The owners of the home from which the ceramic tiles were matched reportedly had no information about her and are not believed to be suspects.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 13, 2016, with the headline 'Perth victim may have had S'pore links '. Print Edition | Subscribe