Skeletal remains found in house off Upper Thomson: Other storied houses in Singapore

The house at 17, Jalan Batai, where two skeletal remains were found about 10 years apart, will be put up for sale by auction by the Government on Feb 27, 2018.
The house at 17, Jalan Batai, where two skeletal remains were found about 10 years apart, will be put up for sale by auction by the Government on Feb 27, 2018.ST PHOTO: ALVIN HO

SINGAPORE - A house can hold so much more than a family within its walls - some homes are the subject of myths and stories that live on long after its inhabitants have moved out or passed on.

The Straits Times takes a look at some houses in Singapore with storied pasts, be it a grisly murder or a bitter court battle.

1. Skeletal remains in house at 17, Jalan Batai

On Tuesday, the Government put up a house in Sembawang Hills Estate for auction.

It was sold for $2.23 million to a local contractor in 12 minutes.

The Public Trustee's Office took ownership of the house at 17, Jalan Batai, in 2015 after it had remained in a dilapidated state for more than a decade.

The house belonged to two reclusive sisters - Madam Pearl Tan Leen Hee, a former civil servant, and Madam Ruby Tan. They would have been 81 and 68 in 2006.

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


The house at 17, Jalan Batai, where two skeletal remains were found about 10 years apart. PHOTO: ST FILE

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

In 2006, National Environment Agency officers entered the house for an inspection after neighbours complained of mosquito breeding.

They found a human skeleton in a toilet.

In 2015, a contractor hired by the Building and Construction Authority entered the house to erect a temporary roof. A worker clearing rubble from a bedroom then found another set of bones - a human skull and a thigh bone.

The house, which sits on 1,720 sq ft of land, or about the size of two four-room Housing Board flats, was missing a front door and windows when ST visited last week.

Ms Tricia Tan, an estate agent from real estate company Knight Frank who is handling the auction, said there was some interest in bidding for the house.

"The location is not bad, but some people may be pantang,'' she said, using the Malay term for "superstitious".

2. The Gerald Crescent house that Yang Yin nearly swindled a widow out of


Retired physiotherapist Chung Khin Chun nearly lost her property at 2F, Gerald Crescent when former tour guide Yang Yin tried to swindle her out of it. PHOTO: ST FILE

On Feb 22, estate agency Savills Singapore put up a property off Yio Chu Kang Road for sale by tender, or closed auction, at a minimum price of $35 million.

The 31,882 sq ft property at 2F, Gerald Crescent, belongs to retired physiotherapist Chung Khin Chun, 91, who nearly lost it when former tour guide Yang Yin, 43, tried to swindle her out of it.

The land, about the size of half a football field, has a 999-year lease that started in 1879.

"The bulk of the sale (proceeds) will go to charity," Madam Chung's niece Hedy Mok, 64, told The Sunday Times.

"With the sale, we want to put what happened behind us," she added.

Madam Chung met Yang in 2008 on a trip to China, when he was her tour guide.

A year later, Yang moved into her bungalow and brought his family here. He coaxed the widow to grant him Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) to manage her financial affairs. He also got her to make a will where he stood to inherit everything, including the house.

Yang's ruse was exposed by Madam Mok in 2014, who spirited her aunt away from the house when Yang was overseas.

Madam Mok also started a series of legal actions, including evicting Yang from the bungalow and revoking the LPA and the will.

The will has since been thrown out by the courts.

Madam Chung has been living with Madam Mok at her semi-detached house off Upper East Coast Road since 2014.

The tender for the sale, which has drawn about 10 inquiries so far, closes on March 22.

3. Geylang house, the site of the Kallang body parts murder


A gruesome murder that has been dubbed the Kallang body parts murder is believed to have taken place in a home at 114, Lorong 3 Geylang. PHOTO: SHIN MIN DAILY NEWS FILE

A home at 114, Lorong 3 Geylang, is believed to be the site of a gruesome murder that has been dubbed the Kallang body parts murder.

In June 2005, 22-year-old Chinese national Liu Hong Mei, was killed by her lover and supervisor Leong Siew Chor, who chopped her body up into seven parts.

It is believed to have taken place between the mornings of June 15 and 16 at Leong's Geylang Housing Board flat on the ninth floor.

He told police that he dragged her body into the kitchen where he stripped her and pulled her body into the kitchen toilet. Using a chopper, he cut her body into pieces.

Her body parts were split into seven bags and boxes and dumped in the Kallang and Singapore rivers.

Leong was hanged for her murder two years later at the age of 52.

4. The fabled 'haunted' Matilda House


Left abandoned for two decades, the Matilda House in Punggol Central inspired many stories of hauntings. PHOTO: ST FILE

The six-bedroom, single-storeyed, red-tiled bungalow was built by Mr Joseph Cashin, a descendant of one of Singapore's oldest Irish families, in 1902. It is named after his mother but was a gift to his wife.

Located in Punggol Central, it was used as the family's weekend resort, complete with massive fruit orchards.

After the house fell into disuse, it was acquired by the Government in the mid-1980s and gazetted for conservation by URA in 2000.

Left abandoned for two decades, the house in Punggol Road fell into ruins and inspired many stories of hauntings.

Residents living in the area reportedly call it a guiwu, or "ghost house" in Mandarin, and Istana Menanti, or "The Waiting Palace" in Malay.

Popular myths surrounding the house include rumours that it is "impossible to demolish", that workers fell ill or even died while doing construction work there, and that a woman with long hair has been spotted sitting in the surrounding trees.

In 2015, it became a clubhouse for the residents of A Treasure Trove condominium.

5. Geylang Bahru murder house


Four children were found slashed to death in the bathroom of the one-room flat in Block 58, Geylang Bahru. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM ERESOURCES.NLB.GOV.SG

On Jan 6, 1979, four children were murdered in a HDB flat in Geylang Bahru.

The three boys and one girl, aged between five and 10, were found slashed to death in the bathroom of the one-room flat in Block 58, Geylang Bahru.

Each of them suffered at least 20 slash wounds in the neck and head area.

Even seasoned Criminal Investigation Department officers were sickened by the find.

The boys, Tan Kok Peng, 10, Kok Hin, eight, Kok Soon, six, and their sister, Chin Nee, five, were sound asleep when their parents left for work at 6.35am.

The Tans, who operated a school bus service, were at work when the murders took place.

They came home three hours later to find them dead.

A pathologist report said that the injuries were caused by two weapons, most likely a chopper and a dagger. There could also have been more than one attacker.

A meat chopper was missing from the kitchen. The murder weapons were not found.

The murders remain unsolved to this day.

6. Family home of famous chicken rice founder being tussled over in court


The surviving sons of the founder of Swee Kee, once Singapore's most famous chicken rice shop, are in a court fight over the family's Branksome Road home. PHOTO: ST FILE

The third son of the founder of Swee Kee, once Singapore's most famous chicken rice shop, sued his two older brothers over the family home in Katong, a report last year said.

The Branksome Road home was sold for $16 million in 2015.

The third son, Mr Moh Tai Siang, 59, claims one-quarter of the proceeds should go to him, even though he had, in 1985, transferred his share of the house to second son Tai Tong, also known as Freddy, and youngest son Tai Suan, known as Royston.

Tai Siang contended that Freddy, 61, and Royston, 58, have been holding his stake in trust for him all these years.

Their father, the late Mr Moh Lee Twee, opened Swee Kee Chicken Rice Restaurant in Middle Road in 1949. It closed in 1997.

Mr Moh had bought the house as a home for his extended family in 1957.

He died in 1977, but his widow continued to stay there until she died in 2015. The sons, except for Freddy, moved out.

When Tai Siang faced financial difficulties in 1985, he claimed his mother and eldest brother, Tai Sing, asked him to transfer his share to Freddy and Royston to avoid putting the family home at risk.

Tai Siang alleged that his mother had told him he would get his share back when he was "old" or the house was sold. The transfer was handled by a law firm. A legal document stated that $200,000 was paid for Tai Siang's share but he denies receiving the money.

Freddy and Royston denied they were holding Tai Siang's stake in trust for him and contended he had sold them his stake decades ago.

SOURCES: eresources.nlb.gov.sg, The Straits Times archives