1. It’s best to start this trek in the morning, when the Toa Payoh Lorong 7 neighbourhood is peaceful. The Ritual Murders took place 20 years ago to the day as we visited, and the residents we spoke to don’t remember the spine-chilling killings of nine-year-old girl Agnes Ng Siew Hock and ten-year- old boy Ghazali bin Marzuki; some didn’t even know about it (sorry, uncle!). Self-proclaimed medium Adrian Lim had lured the children separately to the flat and killed them as sacrifices to Kali, the Hindu goddess of eternal energy, time and change.
The bodies were left outside a lift at Block 11 (the block’s since been upgraded, but the sole lift remains) and under a tree between blocks ten and 11 respectively. A trail of blood led authorities to Lim’s three-room apartment, #07-467, at Block 12, a corner unit that looks over the main road. This block has not been upgraded, but the flat has since done away with Lim’s eclectic mix of religious symbols. The lift at the middle of the block must have been functioning at the time of the murders, but Lim and his accomplices – wife Tan Mui Choo, 27, and girlfriend Hoe Kah Hong, 26 – probably carried the little bodies down the seven 14-step flights in the stairwell next to the flat. The trio was hanged on 25 November 1988, after 41 days of trials and various appeals. Lim beamed and cried ‘Thank you, my Lord’ when his sentence was passed. The psychopath also smiled as he walked his green mile.
2. Cut through Toa Payoh Lorong 6 and 5 to get to the Toa Payoh Vista Market (74 Toa Payoh Lorong 4) where activity is buzzing until, well, the stocks run out – that’ll be around noon. This two-storey complex is a wet market of 80 stalls on the ground floor (check out the vast selection of red-meat cuts if you must stick to the theme), and 46 food stalls on the ground and second floor. Friendly old ladies and butchers will greet and ask if you’ve ‘taken your lunch yet’. For those who have not, there is a good selection for every appetite – from traditional drinks to cheese pratas. Unfortunately your hunger pangs may not have returned just yet, with images of the bloodbath still lingering.
3. A walk through Toa Payoh Central might restore the senses. Cross the senior-friendly lights at Lorong 4 towards the kid-friendly Toa Payoh Community Library (www.pl.sg). Those still feeling delicate should pick up a traditional ice-cream-in-rainbow-bread ($1) from Madam Lin’s ice cream cart (Sat & Sun only) parked at the beginning of Block 178 before making your way to the ’70s-styled Toa Payoh Town Park. No major crimes took place here, so rest well and take in the greenery of this former swampland before heading to the next destination.
4. Balestier Road. What a dusty, muffled yet analeptic locale; walking south along this wide, tree-sparse stretch you’ll notice tiles, paint and interior-design shophouses with shutters raised for business, while the furtive karaoke joints have pulled theirs down. The residents are split evenly between those who’ve lived here since time immemorial and those making temporary Singapore stopovers. ‘Neither here nor there’ seemed to be this neighbourhood’s stance, until five years ago when 33-year-old deliveryman Ser Eng Siong showed up and shook Balestier to its core.
In the daytime on 3 November 2006, Ser posed as a repair man and made his way into the Balestier Road flat of a newly arrived 18-year-old Chinese national. He strangled, choked, raped and sodomised the victim several times and then fled, only to commit the same crimes eight days later to two other women, aged 20 and 22, in their flat at nearby Farrer Park. This former amicable ‘Romeo’ of the neighbourhood was soon dubbed the ‘Beast of Balestier’. Ser was given a 28-year jail term and 24 strokes of the cane – though even a punishment that severe couldn’t erase the psychological damage he inflicted on his victims, or the community. That said, you’re walking on the streets in broad daylight, so kick aside those jitters; no crimes of the same scale have been reported since The Beast’s.
If you’re feeling pale, though, check in at the Original Herbal Shop (Boon Teck Rd, 414 Balestier Rd; 6250 5567) for a nourishing bowl of mango sago in milk ($3.50), and then the equally nutritive 811 XO Fish Head Bee Hoon (a bowl starts from $5.50) coffeeshop next door. Then hop on the 145 bus at the stop located right in front of the Original Herbal Shop to continue the walk at Kallang Riverside Park.
5. Alight at the Tai Pei Buddhist Centre (after the Esso, a standalone corner building with a giant Buddha on top. 2 Lavender St; 6298 3343) and continue your walk towards the peaceful surrounds of the canoe-filled Kallang River. Cross the road and you’ll get to one of the park’s vantage points. It was hereabouts, at around 9am on 16 June 2005, that 40-year-old male cleaner Asan Indasan discovered a cardboard box on the riverbank. It contained the naked pelvic and thigh regions of a woman’s lower abdomen. About 45 minutes later, the police found a red box 200m away on the opposite bank. Upon opening it, they found a headless upper torso with the arms attached.
The victim was 22-year-old Chinese national Liu Hong Mei. Liu had been having an affair with her 51-year-old immediate supervisor, Leong Siew Chor, for a year. According to Leong’s testimonies, a couple of months earlier, Liu suggested he leave his wife and three children. When Leong refused, Liu proposed that they die together. To show her ‘sincerity’ she let him strangle her with a towel first and then asked him to take his own life. Leong could not carry out his side of the suicide pact after taking Liu’s life, so in three hours, he cut her up into seven pieces and disposed of her from his Geylang flat. Her severed head and shins were found as far away as the Tuas incinerator, but her feet were never found – something to keep an eye out for, perhaps, as you reflect on your walk.