Guilty As Charged: 25 crimes that shook Singapore

The parents of Huang Na, eight, who was killed in 2004, at the cremation at Mandai Crematorium. The story of her murder is one of the 25 that are published in Guilty As Charged.
The parents of Huang Na, eight, who was killed in 2004, at the cremation at Mandai Crematorium. The story of her murder is one of the 25 that are published in Guilty As Charged. PHOTO: ST FILE
The Straits Times associate news editor Abdul Hafiz Abdul Samad edited Guilty As Charged, while ST executive multimedia designer Sally Lam (both above) designed it.
The Straits Times associate news editor Abdul Hafiz Abdul Samad edited Guilty As Charged, while ST executive multimedia designer Sally Lam (both above) designed it. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

A collection of 25 true-crime stories that have shaken Singapore since 1965 has hit the bestseller list.

Adrian Lim, the "medium" who tortured and murdered two children with the help of his "holy wives".

Tan Chor Jin, the half-blind gangster, dubbed the "One-Eyed Dragon", who gunned down a nightclub owner and then conducted his own (failed) defence in court.

Mimi Wong, the dance hostess who became the first woman in Singapore to get the death penalty, for fatally stabbing to death her Japanese lover's wife.

These are some of the names that grabbed headlines and chilled Singaporeans at one point in time. Now, their faces leer up at readers from the grungy cover of Guilty As Charged, a collection of 25 true- crime stories that have shaken Singapore since 1965.

This gallery of rogues was first put together as an e-book by The Straits Times in collaboration with the Singapore Police Force in 2015.

It has now been published by Straits Times Press as a physical book, which hit shelves at the end of last month and today makes its debut on the ST bestseller list for non-fiction.

  • Memorable cases

  • THE SWIMMING TRUNK GANG (1975)

    This gang of four robbers had a unique modus operandi - they would break into homes wearing nothing but swimming trunks and rob families at knifepoint.

    They were believed to have been responsible for 500 offences over 30 months. Their total haul by the time they were arrested was nearly $500,000, an all-time local record.

    They were sentenced in 1975 to a total of 64 years in jail and 144 strokes of the cane. In their mitigation, all four blamed the high cost of living.

    THE RITUAL MURDERS (1981)

    Charlatan medium Adrian Lim and his two "holy wives", Catherine Tan and Hoe Kah Hong, kidnapped, tortured and killed children in a series of murders that terrified the nation.

    The first victim, nine-year-old Agnes Ng, was abducted from a church and taken to Lim's flat, where she was sexually assaulted and suffocated.

    Two weeks later, the body of 10-year-old Ghazali Marzuki was found. He had been lured away from a playground, then drugged, choked and drowned. A trail of blood led policemen from the body to Lim's flat.

    Lim, a self-professed "ladies' man", said in court that he had decided to kill small children as a sacrifice to the goddess Kali, who would help him escape an earlier rape charge.

    Lim and his "wives" were sentenced to death and hanged in 1988.

    HUANG NA'S MURDER (2004)

    The disappearance of eight-year-old Huang Na, daughter of a vegetable stall worker from China, sparked one of Singapore's biggest manhunts.

    More than 20 days later, her badly decomposed body was found stuffed inside a brown cardboard box less than half her size at Telok Blangah Hill.

    Penang-born vegetable packer Took Leng How, a playmate of Huang Na's, was arrested over her murder.

    In his police statement, he said he strangled her after a game of hide-and-seek caused her to go into spasms. He was sentenced to death and hanged in 2006.

ST associate news editor Abdul Hafiz Abdul Samad, 44, worked with the police to narrow down a list of crimes that left their impact on Singaporeans.

"In the early years after Independence, Singapore was very different from how it is today and policing it was very different too," he says.

"There were gun battles at Bras Basah, gangsters who were not afraid to kill or be killed."

The stories in the book were written by 11 ST reporters based on old articles from news archives and edited by Mr Hafiz, who is married with a son.

He was also given the opportunity to view never-before-seen crime scene photos, such as of the interior of Lim's flat and the implements he used to kill his young victims.

ST executive multimedia designer Sally Lam, 49, who designed the book, used stark typography and a multitude of black- and-white photos to take the reader through a visual journey of the crimes.

The mother of three often had to work on the book in the wee hours and found it "creepy", especially the stories about the murder of children such as Nonoi, two, who died after being repeatedly dunked in a pail of water by her stepfather.

Mr Hafiz says he was astounded by the sheer audacity of some of the criminals featured, such as cop- killer Lim Ban Lim, who was the most wanted gunman in Singapore and Malaysia in the 1960s.

Lim underwent plastic surgery and even dressed as a woman to disguise himself during his nine-year crime spree.

He was so notorious that after he was killed by the police in a pasar malam shootout in 1972, 33 inmates escaped from a reformative training centre just to attend his funeral.

Mr Hafiz was also impressed by the derring-do of the police officers who put their lives on the line to catch these criminals.

In a 1973 ambush of young gangster Hoo How Seng, for instance, policemen disguised themselves as noodle sellers and petrol station attendants.

When Hoo drew his revolver, an officer jammed his finger against the trigger to prevent him from firing. He broke his finger, but his colleagues were eventually able to shoot Hoo dead.

Says Mr Hafiz of the crimes in the book: "This was an important slice of history and we wanted to remind people of Singapore's darker side.

"It reminds us of our mortality and how anything could happen at any time, so we should not take our safety for granted."

•Guilty As Charged ($26.75) is available at all leading bookstores. Reader discretion is advised.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2017, with the headline '25 crimes that shook Singapore'. Print Edition | Subscribe