STRONG SMELL OF DEATH IN THIS SMALL ESTATE

STRONG SMELL OF DEATH IN THIS SMALL ESTATE

 

FIRST, a former resident was fatally stabbed at their hawker centre on Thursday afternoon.

 

By Celine Lim and Chong Shin Yen

 

 

11 March 2008

 

FIRST, a former resident was fatally stabbed at their hawker centre on Thursday afternoon.

 

Half an hour later, the suspect was shot dead by the police nearby.

 

That night, the police found a decomposing body in a unit in one of the blocks.

 

The next morning, yet another decomposing body was discovered in the same block.

 

The tiny Jalan Kukoh estate has seen its fair share of drama in the past week. There are 11 blocks, tucked away at the top of a hill just outside Chinatown.

 

And last Friday, the only hawker centre in the neighbourhood – at Block 1 – was abuzz with talk about the stabbing incident.

 

Here, they know each other mostly only by nicknames. Conversations take place in Hokkien.

 

A tanned and wiry man was holding court at one of the tables. He’s 45 but didn’t want to give his name – or nickname.

 

It was noon and there were three empty beer bottles on the table.

 

He said he was a close friend of Mr Tan Ah Chang, the man who was stabbed. Mr Tan, 52, an odd-job worker, was also known as Eh Gao (Hokkien for mute).

 

The nickname dated back to the 1970s, when Mr Tan was apparently a gang member.

 

‘He didn’t speak much, that was why,’ the friend explained.

 

‘But he had learnt to talk more over the years, so we started calling him Ang Gong Siao (tattoo crazy).’

 

Mr Tan had many tattoos, including an eagle on his left arm and a dragon on his right. They ran all the way down to his fingers.

 

An hour later, a couple in their 40s joined us at the table.

 

The man is known as Gek Mata (fake policeman) because he talks like a cop. His female companion is Sharon and they live together.

 

Gek Mata said: ‘You should talk to Dua Liap Ni. She was drinking at the next table when the stabbing happened.’

 

SORRY, WHO?

 

Gek Mata cupped his hands and brought them to his chest.

 

‘You don’t understand? It means big breasts in Hokkien,’ he said.

 

‘Other men like her because of that, but not me. She’s fat and she’s missing some of her front teeth.’

 

They heard from a stall owner that she left with the police right after the stabbing to assist in investigations.

 

The friend said: ‘I think the police took Aids away too. I haven’t seen him all day.’

 

Aids is a middle-aged man. He doesn’t have the disease, but earned the nickname because his skin is always peeling.

 

Many of the regulars have been staying away from the hawker centre, which has more than 20 stalls.

 

‘Police case, they don’t want to get involved,’ the friend added.

 

CHEAP BEER – ON CREDIT

 

Still, the drinks stalls did a roaring trade. Residents sat around chatting and knocking back bottles of beer. Most days, the drinking sessions go on till late at night.

 

The beer is cheap – $5 a bottle and you can buy on credit – and the company is free.

 

Most of the regulars are men in their 40s to 60s, but there are a few women too. Many of them have been living in the estate for years.

 

Some, like Mr Tan, have moved away, but they show up almost daily.

 

Gek Mata and Sharon are the newer residents of the estate. They moved in only a few weeks ago and are a daily fixture at the hawker centre.

 

Gek Mata already has a list of complaints: neighbours quarrel almost every day and just last week, someone in their block threw an oven down.

 

He said: ‘Once, a used sanitary pad landed right in front of me when I walked past one of the blocks. I don’t know if I was ‘suay’ (Hokkien for unlucky) or lucky that it didn’t land right on my head.’

 

The conversation switches back to the stabbing.

 

Mr Tan’s backpack is still at the hawker centre. Someone stole a peek. There was a knife inside.

 

‘Ang Gong Siao must have been attacked without warning. If not, he could have defended himself,’ his friend said.

 

Isn’t it strange for him to be carrying a knife?

 

‘He’s a plumber. It’s his work tool,’ he said.

 

They think that Mr Tan had fallen out with his killer, Lim Bock Song, 43, over money.

 

Lim, who is unemployed, was shot dead at Outram MRT Station, after he charged aggressively at a police officer with a knife. He lived with two friends in a one-room flat at Block 11.

 

Last September, a 34-year-old man was stabbed at the void deck of that block. Two men who lived in the estate were later arrested and charged in court.

 

We passed a resident on one of the floors. Did he know the dead guy?

 

Without batting an eyelid, he replied: ‘Which one are you talking about? The stabbing case or the decomposing ones?’

 

Last Thursday night, even as police officers were gathering evidence after the stabbing, they received complaints of a foul smell coming from a unit on the 12th floor.

 

They found the decomposing body of a man in his 40s, who lived down the corridor from Lim.

 

And at 11am the next day, the police were back. Another decomposing body – of a man in his 50s – was found in a unit two floors down.

 

On most days, you can stand at the staircase landing on the upper floors of the block and catch a nice breeze.

 

But not that day.

 

Each time the wind blew, it brought with it the sour stench of rotting flesh.

 

Source: The New Paper

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