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The Straits Times
Aug 14, 2023
The elderly woman lived alone in her flat in Teban Gardens, with few to no visits from relatives or friends.
She was single, childless, and her parents were dead.
By the time her decomposed body was found in the kitchen toilet on April 24, her facial features were beyond recognition.
Her hands were so decayed that forensics officers could not lift her fingerprints.
She also had no teeth or dental records.
DNA pulled from her bone marrow proved futile in identifying her as well.
The authorities had tried matching it with her brother’s, but it revealed that they were not biologically related.
He told the police she was adopted.
With all three identification tests failing, the woman was marked simply as “Unknown”.
She was declared dead at 6.45pm on April 24 in the flat on the fourth storey of Block 48 Teban Gardens Road.
But on Monday, almost four months after she was found, “Unknown” was finally identified by the coroner as Madam Tham Yoke Hing, 66.
During the coroner’s inquiry into the case, investigation officer (IO) Benjamin Sim said a neighbour living in the unit directly below Madam Tham had water leakage issues from the ceiling on April 21.
He was unable to contact her to discuss the issues, and so called the Housing Board, who could not reach Madam Tham either.
The HDB contacted her elder brother, who then asked Madam Tham’s niece to check on her at the flat.
When the niece could not get a response after knocking on her door on April 24, she called the police.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force broke the lock at the gate to enter the flat, where they found the body.
IO Sim said there were no signs of forced entry or of a struggle, and the police did not suspect foul play.
He said the authorities had tried to identify the body using fingerprinting, dental records and DNA checks, which were unsuccessful. So, they relied on circumstantial evidence.
Neighbours said Madam Tham did not have relatives or friends visit her often, and she did not like visitors because of the state of her home. No details were provided in court regarding this.
They told the police Madam Tham would go to the market at 9am daily.
But the last time anyone saw her was two to three weeks before her body was found.
IO Sim said neighbours had always seen Madam Tham wearing a jade bangle and a metal watch.
These two items were found on the body, and neighbours recognised them.
State Coroner Adam Nakhoda said on Monday that as the bangle and watch were found on the body, and based on the evidence given by the neighbours, he accepted the body was that of Madam Tham.
Her cause of death was hypertensive heart disease, which was consistent with her known medical history.
The coroner ruled it was a death by natural causes, and extended his condolences to Madam Tham’s family.