The Orchard Towers double murder

The Orchard Towers double murder refers to the murders of Kho Nai Guan, aged 46, and his girlfriend Lan Ya Ming, aged 30, by Michael McCrea in 2002. The British financial adviser, with the help of three others, dumped the bodies in a car which was subsequently abandoned in the car park of Orchard Towers.1

Michael McCrea (alias Mike Townsend), a British financial adviser, was convicted of murdering his driver-and-friend, Kho Nai Guan, and the latter’s girlfriend, Lan Ya Ming, in his Pinewood Gardens apartment in Balmoral Park on 2 January 2002. McCrea was assisted by his girlfriend, Audrey Ong. After the murders, the duo obtained the help of two friends, Gemma Louise Ramsbottom and Justin Cheo Yi Tang, to search the apartment for Kho’s valuables and dispose of the bodies.2

Kho’s body was found stuffed in a wicker chest at the back of a silver-coloured Daewoo Chairman 400,3 while the body of Lan was bundled in cloth in the boot. The car was abandoned in the car park of Orchard Towers. The bodies were only discovered on 7 January 2002 due to the foul smell emanating from the car. Both McCrea and Ong had fled Singapore on 5 January 2002.4

McCrea had met and hired Kho as his chauffeur in 1998. After they became friends, he invited Kho and his girlfriend, Lan, to live in his Pinewood Gardens apartment in Balmoral Park. Ong moved into the apartment in mid-2001, when she became McCrea’s girlfriend and secretary.

The murder of Kho on 2 January 2002 was triggered by a quarrel after Kho made a derogatory remark in Mandarin about Ong. Angered by Kho’s act, McCrea retaliated by pushing and punching Kho. Kho fought back but was eventually overpowered and strangled by McCrea.5

Lan then tried to leave but was detained in Kho’s bedroom by McCrea and Ong who wanted to find out where Kho might have hidden drugs or money in the apartment. However, she was unable to provide relevant information. McCrea then called a friend, Gemma Louise Ramsbottom, to help him search for the money in the apartment while Ong called her friend, Justin Cheo Yi Tang,6 to request for help in disposing a “dead rat”. Both Ramsbottom and Cheo claimed they were threatened with bodily harm if they did not cooperate.7

As Ramsbottom had her two daughters with her, Ong left the apartment to find a babysitter for the children. When she returned on 3 January 2002, she found Lan motionless on the floor. McCrea told her that Lan was dead. However, when McCrea was placing plastic bags around Lan’s head before transporting her body, she moved and appeared to go into convulsions. McCrea then “managed to suppress her until she stopped moving”.8 The autopsy later showed that she had been suffocated to death.9

On 4 January 2002, the two bodies were deposited in the car and eventually abandoned in the car park of Orchard Towers. McCrea and Ong then fled Singapore for London on 5 January 2002.10

After being at large for about six months, McCrea and Ong were arrested in Melbourne in June 2002. Ong was deported first to Singapore in 2003 where she faced charges of concealing evidence. She was sentenced on 7 February 2003 to 12 years in jail for her part in the disposal of the bodies of the murder victims.11

McCrea was eventually extradited to Singapore from Australia and arrived in Singapore on 28 September 2005,12 after a three-year battle against deportation. Singapore had agreed that he would not be hanged for the murders before Australia agreed to deport him.13

Both Ramsbottom and Cheo testified against McCrea14 during the trial where he pleaded guilty to two charges of culpable homicide and one charge of concealing evidence of the killings. He was sentenced by Justice Choo Han Teck to 24 years in jail on 29 June 2006.15

This was based on the maximum sentence of 10 years’ jail for the murders of Kho and Lan respectively as well as an additional four years for the disposal of evidence.16 His appeal was dismissed by Singapore’s Court of Appeal as the three-judge body felt he was not remorseful for the crime.17

Tan Yee Lin

1. Jose Raymond, “Whodunnit,” Today, 16 November 2002, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
2. Tracy Sua and Tanya Fong, “Two Helped Couple to Conceal and Flee,” Straits Times, 2 July 2006, 4; Tracy Sua and Tanya Fong, “From Shared Home to Gory Crime Scene,” Straits Times, 2 July 2006, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
3. “Orchard Towers Killing: Woman Nabbed after Extradition,” Straits Times, 11 November 2002, 4; Selina Lum, “Covering Up a Double Murder,” Straits Times, 8 February 2003, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
4. Joy Frances, “She Wanted Acid to Dissolve Body,” Today, 8 February 2003, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
5. Chong Chee Kin, “He Treated ‘Ah Guan’ Like His Brother,” Straits Times, 30 June 2006, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
6. Joycelyn Wong, “THE CRIME,” New Paper, 8 February 2003, 14. (From NewspaperSG)
7. Lee Ching Wern, “Gory, Bizarre,” Today, 13 November 2003, 2; Frances, “She Wanted Acid to Dissolve Body.”
8. Frances, “She Wanted Acid to Dissolve Body.”
9. Sua and Fong, “From Shared Home to Gory Crime Scene.”
10. Selina Lum, “Covering Up a Double Murder,” Straits Times, 8 February 2003, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
11. Selina Lum, “Cover-Up Woman Jailed for 12 Years,” Straits Times, 8 February 2003, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
12. “Suspect in Double Murder Extradited,” Straits Times, 28 September 2005, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
13. Sandy Kaye, “Briton Ordered Extradited to Singapore,” Straits Times, 16 November 2002, 8; “Murder Accused Arrives to Face Trial,” New Paper, 29 September 2005, 16. (From NewspaperSG)
14. Sua and Fong, “Two Helped Couple to Conceal and Flee.” 
15. “Orchard Towers Murderer Jailed for 24 Years,” Today, 30 June 2006, 6; Chong Chee Kin, “Briton Receives Stiff 24 Years for Killing Two,” Straits Times, 30 June 2006, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
16. “Why McCrea Got Stiff 24-Year Jail Term,” Straits Times, 7 July 2006, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
17. “McCrea's Appeal for Lighter Sentence Rejected,” Today, 23 August 2006, 6; Chong Chee Kin, (2006, August 23). “McCrea Fails to Get Jail Term Cut,” Straits Times, 23 August 2006, 3. (From NewspaperSG)

The information in this article is valid as at 2 August 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.