Adrian Lim murders
In the early 1980s, the murders of two young children, Agnes Ng Siew Heok and Ghazali bin Marzuki, led to investigations that resulted in the capture of one of Singapore’s most notorious murderers: Adrian Lim, his wife Catherine Tan Mui Choo, and his mistress Hoe Kah Hong. The trial turned out to be the second-longest murder trial in Singapore at the time, lasting for about two months,1 during which disturbing accounts of rites and rituals were unveiled. The trio were ultimately sentenced to death and were hanged on 25 November 1988.
The bodies of Ng and Ghazali were found on 25 January 1981 and 7 February 1981, respectively, in similar locations at Toa Payoh Lorong 7.2 Nine-year-old Ng, the youngest of nine children, was a student who attended the Holy Innocents Chinese Girls’ School. She was last seen at the Church of Risen Christ in Toa Payoh, and her body was found in a bag at Block 11, Toa Payoh Lorong 7.3 She appeared to have died from suffocation, and there were also indications that she was sodomised and sexually abused.4
Ghazali was a 10-year-old schoolboy from Henry Park Primary School who had been playing in a playground with his cousins in Clementi when a lady (Hoe) approached them to request for help. Ghazali was then taken to Lim’s flat in Toa Payoh in a taxi. He was found dead between Blocks 10 and 11 in Toa Payoh. Post-mortem autopsy revealed that he had been drowned, although signs of asphyxia were also present. There were also three burn marks on his back and a puncture on his arm.5
A bloody trail near Ghazali’s body led police investigators to a flat in Block 12, Toa Payoh Lorong 7, which was occupied by Lim, Tan and Hoe. The flat contained various religious items, including pictures of Jesus Christ, as well as Hindu and Chinese idols, some of which were smeared with blood. Noticing a blood stain on the kitchen floor, the three were taken in for questioning by the police.6
Lim was then an unemployed 39-year-old who professed to be a medium with powers to cure people’s ailments. He would go into trances, often adopting different voices and speaking in a different language. He also performed tricks, and had convinced many of his clients to sleep with him, on the pretext of “cleansing” the evil in them, or through harnessing their fears and insecurities to his advantage.7
Born on 6 January 1942, Lim was the eldest of three children, and attended Anglo-Chinese School, only to drop out after Secondary One. He started work as an Internal Security Department informer for a few months, and then was with the Rediffusion radio broadcasting company for 14 years, working as a wireman and a bill collector.8 He had two children from his first marriage.9 During the trial, Lim claimed that he had taken lessons from a man known as Uncle Willie, who had “special powers”.10
Lim met Tan in 1974, when she was introduced to him for “treatment” by her friends at the bar where she was working.11 Lim subsequently persuaded Tan to become a prostitute to support him financially. After his divorce with his first wife, Lim married Tan in 1977,12 but continued to take on other “holy wives” in the years that followed.13
Tan was 26 years old at the time of trial,14 and the eldest of four children. She attended a few schools, such as the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus and Macpherson Secondary School, and was also sent to the Marymount Vocational Centre.15 Generally depressive by nature, she was taken in by the attention that Lim gave her, and stayed with him despite his ill-treatment and infidelities.16
Hoe’s mother brought her to Lim’s flat in 1979. Her sister, Lai Ho had been receiving “treatments” from Lim.17 Hoe, who was 25 years old at the time of trial,18 was working as a factory worker for Hewlett Packard at the time of her arrest.19 Convinced of Lim’s “powers”, Hoe was instrumental in bringing the children to Lim. Both Lim and Tan underwent electric shocks administered by Lim.20 Lim convinced Hoe that her husband, Loh Ngak Hua, had cast evil spells on her. Loh was subsequently killed during one of the electrocution sessions on 7 January 1980, but his death was judged to be an accident, given the testimony by Hoe that her husband was electrocuted while trying to switch on a faulty fan.21
The murders of Ng and Ghazali opened a complex case involving rituals of human sacrifice, consumption of human blood, and sexual perversion. During the days of the trial, crowds gathered outside the courts, and the proceedings were closely monitored and reported by the media.22
Glenn Knight was the deputy public prosecutor, while H. E. Cashin, J. B. Jeyaretnam and Nathan Isaac were the three defence counsels assigned by the High Court to defend Lim, Tan and Hoe respectively. The case was heard before Justice T. S. Sinnathuray and Justice F. A. Chua,23 and a team of witnesses, including psychiatrists who had observed the accused as well as other clients of Lim’s,24 were called to the stand. On 25 May 1983, the three accused were sentenced to death.25 While Lim accepted the verdict, both Tan and Hoe appealed on grounds of mental illness. Tan was represented by Francis Seow, and Hoe by Nathan Isaac again. In August 1986, their appeal was dismissed by Chief Justice Wee Chong Jin, Justice Lai Kew Chai and Justice L. P. Thean.26 Further appeals to the Privy Council of London did not succeed, and clemency from President Wee Kim Wee was also rejected.27
On 25 November 1988, Lim, Tan and Hoe were hanged at Changi Prison and their bodies cremated at the Mount Vernon Crematorium28 following a church service at the Church of the Holy Family in Katong.29
1. “All Three to Hang,” Straits Times, 28 May 1983, 14. (From NewspaperSG)
2. K. S. Sidhu, “Cops Find Body of Battered Boy,” Straits Times, 8 February 1981, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Ben Davidson and Maureen Chua, “We Tested Their Blood before Killing Them…,” Straits Times, 7 April 1983, 12; K. S. Sidhu, “Bid to Hunt Down Suitcase Killer,” Straits Times, 27 January 1981, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
4. “The Toa Payoh Child Murder Trial Starts,” Straits Times, 29 March 1983, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
5. Sidhu, “Cops Find Body of Battered Boy”; Ben Davidson, Maureen Chua and Philip Lee, “Bloodstained Idols Found in Flat, Packed Court Told,” Straits Times, 29 March 1983, 10; Ben Davidson and Maureen Chua, “I Killed to Get Even with the World, Says Adrian,” Straits Times, 5 April 1983, 12. (From NewspaperSG)
6. Sidhu, “Cops Find Body of Battered Boy”; Davidson, Chua and Lee, “Bloodstained Idols Found in Flat.”
7. Elena Chong, “Man: I’m Guilty of Toa Payoh Murders,” Straits Times, 17 September 1981, 1; “I Preyed on My Victims’ Superstitions,” Straits Times, 7 April 1983, 13. (From NewspaperSG)
8. Alan John, Unholy Trinity: The Adrian Lim ‘Ritual’ Child Killings (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2016), 27. (Call no. RSING 364.1523095957 JOH)
9. Ben Davidson and Maureen Chua, “Welder: I Saw Tan Carrying Ghazali,” Straits Times, 30 March 1983, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
10. “Spirits and Tricks from Uncle Willie,” Straits Times, 16 April 1983, 13. (From NewspaperSG)
11. John, Unholy Trinity, 36, 44.
12. John, Unholy Trinity, 40, 50.
13. Ben Davidson and Maureen Chua, “I Was Totally under Adrian’s Influence, Accused Tells Court,” Straits Times, 27 April 1983, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
14. “3 Murder Accused for a Month’s Check in Hospital,” Straits Times, 28 February 1981, 17. (From NewspaperSG)
15. John, Unholy Trinity, 41–42.
16. Davidson and Chua, “Was Totally under Adrian’s Influence.”
17. John, Unholy Trinity, 56.
18. “3 Murder Accused for a Month’s Check.”
19. Ben Davidson and Maureen Chua, “Hoe Talks about Her First Visit to Adrian’s Flat,” Straits Times, 5 May 1983, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
20. Davidson and Chua, “Tested Their Blood before Killing Them…”; Davidson and Chua, “Was Totally under Adrian’s Influence.”
21. Davidson and Chua, “Tested Their Blood before Killing Them…”; “Blood Drinks at Death Flat,” Straits Times, 9 April 1983, 10 (From NewspaperSG); “Preyed on My Victims’ Superstitions”; Ben Davidson and Maureen Chua, “We Are Revulsed by Lim’s Conduct: Judge,” Straits Times, 26 May 1983, 9; Oei Sin Geok, “Adrian Lim: $70,000 is Christina’s,” Singapore Monitor, 28 October 1984, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
22. 3 Murder Accused for a Month’s Check”; Philip Lee, “Chamber of Horrors,” Straits Times, 10 April 1983, 16. (From NewspaperSG)
23. Ben Davidson and Maureen Chua, “I Stumbled onto Adrian’s Flat, Says Inspector,” Straits Times, 31 March 1983, 12; M. Gretchen, Ben Davidson and Maureen Chua, “Guilty! Death for All Three,” Straits Times, 26 May 1983, 1; Davidson and Chua, “Revulsed by Lim’s Conduct.”
24. Davidson and Chua, “Saw Tan Carrying Ghazali”; Davidson, Chua and Lee, “Bloodstained Idols Found in Flat”; Ben Davidson and Maureen Chua, “I Gave Adrian $100,000, Says Ex-Dance Hostess,” Straits Times, 8 April 1983, 12. (From NewspaperSG)
25. Gretchen, Davidson and Chua, “Guilty! Death for All Three.”
26. Elena Chong, “Court Erred on Tan’s State of Health, Says Counsel,” Straits Times, 19 November 1985, 11; Ben Davidson, “Adrian Lim’s wife, Girlfriend Lose Appeal,” Straits Times, 5 August 1986, 11. (From NewspaperSG)
27. Brendan Pereira, “Cult Murder Adrian Lim, Wife and Mistress Hanged,” Straits Times, 26 November 1988, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
28. Pereira, “Adrian Lim, Wife and Mistress Hanged.”
29. John, Unholy Trinity, 239.
N. G. Kutty, Adrian Lim’s Beastly Killings (Singapore: Aequitas Management Consultants, 1989). (Call no. RCLOS 364.1523095957 KUT)
Sharon Teng, “Murder Most Malevolent,” BiblioAsia (Jul–Sep 2017)
Sit Yin Fong, I Confess (Singapore: Heinemann Asia, 1989). (Call no. RSING 364.1523095957 SIT)
Sit Yin Fong, Was Adrian Lim Mad? (Singapore: Heinemann Asia, 1989). (Call no. RSING 345.5957067 SIT)
The information in this article is valid as at 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.