HDB contractors break open door to repossess Toa Payoh flat -- and find skeletal remains

Samuel Devaraj
The Straits Times
Apr 7, 2023

Over two years, officers from the Housing Board visited a Toa Payoh flat eight times due to unpaid rent.

When contractors broke open the door on June 16, 2022, after HDB decided to repossess the unit, the skeletal remains of a human were found.

On Thursday, State Coroner Adam Nakhoda recorded an open verdict on the case.

He said that while DNA evidence indicated that the remains likely belonged to Madam Cheng Ah Imm, a 73-year-old woman who had been living in the unit, this could not be determined with certainty.

The court heard that Madam Cheng had lived in the fourth-floor unit at Block 15, Toa Payoh Lorong 7, with one of her brothers until 2016, when he moved into a home.

The last time rent was paid was on March 23, 2020. 

Investigation officer Soon Zhi Yuan testified that a neighbour said she had seen an elderly woman at the unit in 2021, but did not know who she was.

When HDB officers went to the unit on June 16, 2022, they found old fliers outside the locked door.

DNA samples obtained from an oxygen mask used by Madam Cheng’s brother were compared with the remains. It showed that the two sets of DNA were from siblings. 

As the sample was not obtained directly from the brother, it was not enough to prove conclusively that the remains belonged to Madam Cheng, said State Coroner Nakhoda.

The police had ruled out foul play.

In 2020, the remains of a woman in her 80s were found at The Shore Residences, a condo in Amber Road near Katong Shopping Centre.

She had not been seen outside her home for months and letters began piling up at her door.

Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan was told about the “missing” woman and he notified the police.

In another case, National Environment Agency officers entered a house in Sembawang Hills Estate for a mosquito check in 2006 after complaints from neighbours. They found a human skeleton in a toilet.

In September 2015, a contractor hired by the Building and Construction Authority entered the same house to erect a temporary roof after parts of it had collapsed. A worker clearing rubble from a bedroom found another set of bones – a human skull and a thigh bone.

The house belonged to a pair of reclusive sisters who would have been 81 and 68 respectively in 2006. The state coroners in both cases ruled out foul play and declared an open verdict on the causes of death.

The Straits Times

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