It was a sunny Sunday noon, like any other normal weekends in Singapore. Yet a tragic case happened and shocked the Singapore society; an unsolved case that still baffles many till this day, even after 43 years.
On 17 September 1972, at around 1230pm, 22-year-old Malaysian seamstress Chan Chee Chan (Zeng Lizhen, 曾麗珍) suddenly screamed and collapsed at Queen’s Circus. She had suffered a gunshot at her chest, while walking back from a shopping centre to her Tanglin Halt flat with her younger sister Chan Kim Moy (Zeng Jinmei, 曾锦梅).
A passing-by police patrol car immediately attended to her and called an ambulance. With blood gushing out of the wound, Chan Chee Chan was rushed to the Singapore General Hospital. The hospital staff at first thought she was stabbed, but it was later diagnosed as a wound caused by a gunshot. She was shot slightly above her chest, and the bullet entered her heart after deflected by a bone. Chan Chee Chan was pronounced dead at the hospital after 11 hours of unconsciousness.
The bullet extracted from Chan Chee Chan’s wound was of .22 calibre. The police, initially suspected that it was fired from a flat within Tanglin Halt, proposed two theories; a sharpshooter or sniper, with a score to settle, aimed and shot her from a flat. Or it could be a case of an accidental discharge of a rifle, perhaps, from someone while he was cleaning his weapon.
The shooting was later classified as a murder case by the police, and a big hunt was launched to nab the mysterious Queenstown gunman. Witnesses, whether they had seen the shooting or heard the gunshot, were appealed to come forward. Hundreds of residents living at Tanglin Halt were interviewed. Other investigations were also carried out, including the checking of firearms’ licenses.
Unlike today, private firearm licenses were abundant from the fifties to seventies. By the early seventies, there were still more than 5,000 firearm owners in Singapore, although the majority was owned by the various gun clubs’ members. Almost of half of the firearms accounted for were shotguns, followed by 1000-plus rifles. Revolvers, pistols and air rifles made up the remaining. At Queenstown, there were several registered gun owners living at Queenstown. By Monday 19 September 1972, seven guns were seized and ballistic tests were conducted, but the results proved to be negative. More islandwide raids were then conducted by the police.
The shooting case dominated the newspapers’ headlines for days.
Who was the murderer? What was his motive? Or was it an accident?
An unnamed firearm expert came forward to propose a new theory. He believed that the weapon used was a .22 pistol or revolver instead of a .22 rifle, and the bullet was shot at a close range, possibly from a passing car at Queen’s Circus. He cited two reasons. First, if a .22 rifle was used, a telescopic lens would be required as the nearest block of flats was more than 150 yards (approximately 137m) away. According to the expert, he did not know anyone in Singapore who possessed a telescopic lens.
Secondly, a .22 game-hunter’s bullet would have penetrated the victim’s chest and left a gaping hole in her back. A target practice bullet, although it would not have penetrated the body, would have to be fired very accurately. It was very unlikely that the gunman could make his kill with only a single precise shot. Hence, the firearm expert deduced that the gunman was hired to kill the victim, and had followed and shot her at Queen’s Circus.
Another speculation was that it might be a case of wrong identity, in which the target was actually Chan Chee Chan’s sister Chan Kim Moy, and the assassin was her rejected suitor or a hired killer.
Chan Chee Chan was from Kluang, Malaysia, and had nine siblings and a longtime boyfriend. She had been in Singapore since 1970, working as a seamstress at East Coast and living at a relative’s home at Tanglin Halt with her two sisters Kim Moy and Loy Koon. Upon hearing the tragic news, Chan Chee Chan’s mother, elder sister and brother rushed to Singapore. The mother, devastated by the loss of her daughter, claimed the body from the mortuary on Tuesday morning to bring back to Kluang for burial.
The forensic report submitted in 1973 concluded the case as unsolved. Since then, it has been more than four decades. The case remains open today, and the murderer, if there was ever one, is still at large all these years. Hopefully, the victim’s family could move on in life with their departed rested in peace.
Published: 16 January 2016