Man found dead in Hougang drain: His dementia 'had become very pronounced'

David Sun
The Straits Times
November 4, 2022

An open verdict was declared by the coroner in the case of Mr William Leck Swe Chua, who was found dead in a drain in Hougang in January.

Mr Leck, 80, had gone missing after leaving his home in Hougang on Jan 1.

His body was found at around 7.10pm on Jan 3 wedged in a metal grate in a drain near 42 Defu Lane 7.

He was last seen alive at around 4.30pm, when cameras in the area spotted him entering a carpark in Defu Lane.

In a summary of his findings on Friday, State Coroner Adam Nakhoda said Mr Leck suffered from dementia, and in the time leading up to his death, his condition had become very pronounced.

The coroner said that while there was no evidence of external injuries or trauma and the police did not suspect foul play, the state of decomposition of his body meant the cause of his death could not be established.

He added that death by unnatural cause also could not be unequivocally established, and gave an open verdict based on this.

The coroner said that according to Mr Leck’s partner, who lived with him in a flat in Hougang Avenue 5, Mr Leck had no medical issues except for dementia, which he was diagnosed with in 2020.

His dementia had worsened since the diagnosis, and by December 2021, he could recall only events from the past, and had no recollection of recent events.

The partner, who was identified as Madam Yap, said they did not have any personal issues and had regularly communicated with each other.

She added that Mr Leck did not have any financial issues and did not express thoughts of suicide.

Mr Leck had gone missing twice before, but had returned home by himself on both occasions.

His niece said that during the funeral wake, one of his old friends said Mr Leck would often hang out at a carpark in Defu Lane with a colleague from a funeral parlour he used to work at in his younger days.

The coroner said the niece believed Mr Leck had gone to the carpark on Jan 1 based on his memories.

On the day he went missing, Madam Yap had been able to call him three times.

The first time he said he was at a temple, but she could not find him there.

The second time he said he was at a traffic junction, but was unable to provide further details.

The third time she said Mr Leck had answered the call, but did not speak.

The coroner said he was of the opinion that Mr Leck was disoriented when he went to the carpark in Defu Lane that afternoon.

Cameras in the area had captured him washing his hands in a puddle, and going in and out of the carpark six times.

When he entered the seventh time, he was not seen leaving again.

Heavy rain was reported in the area that night.

The coroner opined that Mr Leck was in the open drain when the rain came down, and that the water had carried his body towards the metal grate.

He added that it would be purely speculative to fathom a reason as to why Mr Leck’s shorts, wallet and mobile phone were found elsewhere in the carpark.

In closing his findings, he extended his sincere condolences to Mr Leck’s next of kin, who were not in the courtroom on Friday.

The Straits Times

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