Let relatives stake claim, says sisters' cousin

The state may have taken possession of the house that belonged to Madam Pearl Tan and Madam Ruby Tan, but the decision has left a relative of the sisters a little disappointed.

"Some of the relatives should have been allowed to stake a claim," said Madam Eunice Tan, 90, a cousin of the sisters, the two last-known residents of the single-storey terraced house off Upper Thomson Road where two sets of skeletal remains were found in 2006 and 2015. The sisters would have been 81 and 68 in 2006.

"I did not make the claim because I am a government pensioner and I do not need the money," said the retired school principal. "But some of the relatives are related by blood."

Madam Tan does not know which relatives made a claim on the sisters' estate.

"We were not close," said Madam Tan of her relationship with Pearl and Ruby. "My grandfather had two wives; Pearl is from the other side of the family."

She said she lost touch with Pearl and Ruby in the 1980s.

While the auction of the house may close the chapter on one of the most storied houses in Singapore, the mystery of the last days of its inhabitants remains unsolved.

Most of the residents in the neighbourhood do not remember much about the sisters, who kept mostly to themselves.

"It was so long ago, we didn't know much about them then. We still do not know much about them now," said a neighbour who lives a few houses away, shooing this reporter away.

Previous media reports said Pearl, the older sister, was a civil servant who worked in the administrative section of the National Library.

Younger sister Ruby reportedly suffered from schizophrenia and had an outpatient treatment history with the Institute of Mental Health.

In July 2006, after the first set of skeletal remains was found, it was clear that one sister was dead and the other missing, but it was unclear which was which.

The police released a photo of Ruby in an appeal for public information, but nothing was known to have come out of the appeal.

In 2015, the High Court declared that both sisters were presumed dead. In a twist, the second set of skeletal remains, believed to be Ruby's, was found in the house, several months after she was presumed to have died.

Madam Tan has some regret about not keeping in touch with her cousins when they were alive.

"They had chosen to keep to themselves and it was also difficult to reach out to them," she added.

Toh Yong Chuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 25, 2018, with the headline 'Let relatives stake claim, says sisters' cousin'. Print Edition | Subscribe