SINGAPORE - Two men who were the last to be seen with their schoolmate before she went missing for 13 years are now accused of murdering her.
Ahmad Danial Mohamed Rafa'ee, 35, one of the two, was charged in court on Thursday (Dec 17) with the murder of Ms Felicia Teo Wei Ling on June 30, 2007.
He and Ragil Putra Setia Sukmarahjana, 32, allegedly murdered Ms Teo, then 19, between 1.39am and 7.20am in a 10th-floor unit of Block 19 Marine Terrace, said court documents.
The two men are believed to have been the last to see Ms Teo when she went to the flat that night, said the police in a statement on Thursday. The three are said to have been friends, and studied at Lasalle College of the Arts, according to their online profiles.
A bespectacled Ahmad Danial - who wore his hair long, had ear piercings and was handcuffed - appeared in court via a video link.
The police said in a statement earlier on Thursday that Ahmad Danial was arrested on Tuesday.
They are searching for Ragil Putra Setia, who they believe is not in Singapore.
They are also looking for Ms Teo's remains.
Speaking to The Straits Times, a close friend of Ms Teo's who declined to be named said he, together with her friends and family, had mounted an extensive search for Ms Teo after she vanished.
They strongly believed that she had not run away, contrary to what netizens said, and her mother lodged a missing persons report on July 3 that year.
They conducted their own investigations, even going to the extent of approaching Ms Teo's telco provider to retrieve her phone records.
They also constantly monitored her social media accounts, said the friend, adding that he had been frustrated with the lack of progress in investigations.
After slightly over a year of searching, Ms Teo's parents encouraged him to "move on with life", said the friend.
"Her family really wanted me to live my own life, I'm very sure her mum was still hopeful to the end... I hope she can cope with this," he added.
The police said they had classified the case as a missing persons case in 2007, as they had found no facts to link the two men to Ms Teo's disappearance.
Both men had maintained to police that Ms Teo left the flat in the wee hours of June 30 that year.
The police said they conducted extensive investigations, including searching the flat and checking closed-circuit television footage in the vicinity, but did not find anything incriminating.
The police explained that they regularly review unsolved missing persons cases for further leads.
Interviews with Ms Teo's family and other witnesses were conducted during regular reviews. Police also checked on Ms Teo's bank accounts, e-mails and social media platforms to see if there were new digital footprints.
After a review in July this year, the case was referred to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), "given that the case has been unsolved for an extended period of time".
The police added that this is part of a process where selected cases that have been outstanding for a protracted period of time are surfaced to the CID for review.
A breakthrough came after the CID uncovered new leads while tracing the belongings that were believed to be in Ms Teo's possession when she was reported missing, said the police.
Media reports then said Ms Teo had her mobile phone and laptop with her, among other items, when she vanished.
The CID managed to link one of her belongings to Ahmad Danial.
Director of CID, Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police How Kwang Hwee, said: "I would like to commend the investigators for their hard work and determination to solve the case. The investigators managed to uncover new leads to throw light on what might have happened to the victim, identify the suspect and arrested him."
More than 200 people had been involved in the hunt for Ms Teo in 2007, distributing thousands of fliers bearing her photograph.
They ran advertisements in newspapers, and combed areas like Geylang, Yishun and Woodlands. They even extended their search to Johor Baru.
Founder of Crime Library Singapore Joseph Tan told ST that Ms Teo's parents approached the community organisation in July 2007 to seek help finding their daughter.
"I'm glad that there's some closure, but words cannot describe how sad this case is, especially since it was over 13 years," said Mr Tan, who added he called to check in on the family every two years and last spoke to them a few months ago.
Ahmad Danial has been remanded for investigations and is scheduled to return to court on Dec 24. The court heard that he is on medical leave.
If convicted of murder, he faces the death sentence.
How the tragedy unfolded
Ms Felicia Teo's disappearance in 2007 made headlines when her family and friends refused to believe the 19-year-old had run away. She is now believed to have been murdered by two men, one of whom was charged on Thursday.
Here is how events unfolded.
June 29, 2007
Ms Teo leaves her home in Bras Basah. This is the last time her parents see her.
Later, closed-circuit television footage shows her entering a lift in a Marine Terrace housing block with two men.
Ms Teo is believed to have been later killed by Ahmad Danial Mohamed Rafa'ee and Ragil Putra Setia Sukmarahjana in the flat between 1.39am and 7.20am on June 30, according to court documents.
July 3, 2007
Ms Teo's mother lodges a missing persons police report.
Police begin investigating and classify Ms Teo's case as a missing persons case as they do not find any facts linking the two men to her disappearance. The men told police that Ms Teo left the flat of her own accord.
Ms Teo's friends and family continue their own search.
Police regularly review the case.
Following a review, the case is referred to the Criminal Investigation Department, whose officers uncover new leads.
Ahmad Danial is arrested.
He is charged in court with murder. Police are searching for Ragil Putra Setia and Ms Teo's remains.