Monday, June 20, 2005

A Clean City No More?

Looking for body parts in incineratorA horrific crime was discovered last week in safe Singapore when dismembered body parts of a 22-year-old Chinese factory worker were found dumped unceremoniously into the Singapore River. The grisly find of the nude torso was discovered at the Kallang Riverside Park on Thursday, a popular location for morning joggers and brisk-walkers. Two notable elements in the case stand out: a single China girl working in a sweat shop for marginal earnings; and a "family man" enstrangled with the sexual attraction of a young foreign female. It is unlikely that this is the type of "buzz" the authorities had in mind when they rammed through their unpopular foreign talent policies and opened the floodgates to bar-top dancing, gays in civil service and two casinoes to boot. It is also questionable whether this is the Swiss standard of living promised by the former prime minister Goh Chok Tong.

Two years ago, at the age of 20, Miss Liu Hong Mei travelled far from her hometown in Chaoyang, Changchun City (Jilin province) in north-eastern China, to seek her fortune in Singapore.

She found a job as a production operator in a semiconductor factory, earning about S$900. She worked hard for two years. Colleagues described her as a friendly, soft-spoken young girl.

Then about a year ago, she reportedly fell in love - with a man more than twice her age. He was her supervisor, Leong Siew Chor, age 50, slightly balding, slim and bespectacled. She knew he was married with two daughters and a son.

But still, they started dating. Many of her colleagues knew about their affair and advised her against seeing him. Yet Miss Liu persisted. Then something went tragically wrong. Miss Liu didn't turn up for work on Tuesday, 14th June 2005.

Worried, her colleagues at Agere Systems, a company packaging computer circuit chips and employs half of their workforce from China, lodged a missing person's report with the police.

Their hearts must have sunk when news broke the next day that a woman's chopped-up body parts had been found, washed up on the banks of the Kallang River. Two cleanly severed parts - a woman's upper torso and the lower half of her body, cut at the pelvis and knee joints - were found in separate cardboard boxes.

While the police mounted a massive search for the rest of the body, forensic experts scrambled to identify the woman, comparing her fingerprints with those in the database for foreigners with work permits. Within 24 hours they were able to place a name to the headless corpse. It was Miss Liu's.

The police moved swiftly, going to her workplace at Serangoon North Avenue 5 to gather evidence. They took Leong away for questioning after searching his locker and checking the bags of all those who worked there. Investigators also went to his four-room flat in Geylang Lorong 3, where they found green plastic bags. Miss Liu's upper and lower torsos had been found wrapped in green plastic bags. At 6am on Friday, Leong was arrested.

CID officers took him back to his flat that night for three hours, handcuffed and shackled, and took away some possible clues like his computer and bicycle.

On the evening of Saturday 18th June, Miss Liu's partially decomposed head and lower limbs were recovered.

'We tracked down the cleaning company that was contracted to clean the river and managed to stop the garbage from being incinerated.' He added that they did not expect to find Miss Liu's feet in the pile as investigations had showed that they were 'disposed of somewhere else'. CID officers intercepted the load at around 10.30am, about half an hour before the pile was scheduled to be taken from the Pandan Road cleaning company to the Tuas incinerator. The rubbish was an accumulated pile collected over a three-day period, from Wednesday to Friday.

DSP Adrian Quek, Head of Special Investigation Section with the Criminal Investigation Department said: "We had to literally, physically go through three tonnes of garbage, opening up every single plastic bag to make sure it's not what we are looking for. So in the midst of the search, we managed to discover a yellow plastic bag. And when we opened it up, we found something wrapped inside a newspaper and on further examination, we realised it was a human head. The head was partially decomposed but we could still see very prominent features such as the ear and the length of the hair. It appeared to be at least shoulder length hair."

Leong was charged with Miss Liu's murder. The murder was believed to have taken place at his Geylang flat between 9.30am on Wednesday 15th June 2005 and 9.15am the next day, while his family was holidaying in Thailand.