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,
during which disturbing accounts of rites and rituals were unveiled.
The trio were ultimately sentenced to death and were hanged on 25
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. 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. She
appeared to have died from suffocation, and there were also
indications that she was sodomised and sexually abused.
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.
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
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
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. He had two children from his first marriage. During the
trial, Lim claimed that he had taken lessons from a man known as Uncle
Willie, who had “special powers”.
Lim met Tan in 1974, when she was introduced to him
for “treatment” by her friends at the bar where she was working. Lim
subsequently persuaded Tan to become a prostitute to support him
financially. After his divorce with his first wife, Lim married Tan in
1977, but continued to take on other “holy wives” in the years that
Tan was 26 years old at the time of trial, 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. 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.
Hoe’s mother brought her to Lim’s flat in 1979. Her
sister, Lai Ho had been receiving “treatments” from Lim. Hoe, who was
25 years old at the time of trial, was working as a factory worker for
Hewlett Packard at the time of her arrest. Convinced of Lim’s
“powers”, Hoe was instrumental in bringing the children to Lim. Both
Lim and Tan underwent electric shocks administered by Lim. Lim
convinced Hoe that her husband, Loh Ngak Hua, had cast evil spells on
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.
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.
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, and a team of witnesses, including psychiatrists
who had observed the accused as well as other clients of Lim’s, were
called to the stand.
On 25 May 1983, the three accused were sentenced to
death. 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. Further appeals to the Privy Council of London did not succeed,
and clemency from President Wee Kim Wee was also rejected.
On 25 November 1988, Lim, Tan and Hoe were hanged
at Changi Prison and their bodies cremated at the Mount Vernon
Crematorium following a church service at the Church of the Holy
Family in Katong.
Rajendra Munoo - Singapore Infopedia
Guilty As Charged: Adrian Lim and his 2 'holy'
wives kidnapped, tortured and killed 2 children
Adrian Lim, a charlatan medium seen by many as the
very embodiment of evil, and his two “holy” wives, kidnapped, tortured
and killed a pair of children
May 15, 2016
The first victim was little Agnes Ng - curled up in
the fetal position inside a travel bag by the lift landing. She was
discovered by a 25-year-old carpenter at the ground floor of Block 11,
Toa Payoh Lorong 7, as he headed back home after a night out at the
movies on Jan 25, 1981.
“They found the bag, opened the zipper and out
popped her head,” said retired police officer S.K. Menon, who was then
the officer-in-charge of the CID’s Special Investigation Section.
He did not know it then, but the nine-year-old girl
was the first of the two ritual murder victims of Adrian Lim, an
unemployed 39-year-old who claimed to be a medium, his wife Catherine
Tan Mui Choo and his mistress Hoe Kah Hong.
Agnes was abducted by Hoe at the Church of the
Risen Christ in Toa Payoh and taken to Lim’s flat. She was injected
with a sedative and then suffocated. She was also sexually assaulted
A week after her death, either Tan or Hoe, called
Agnes’ mother threatening to “chop” Agnes’ sister up.
But with few clues at the scene where the body was
found, cracking the case was difficult, said Mr Menon. The pressure
was truly on when the trio’s second victim, Ghazali Marzuki, 10, was
found almost two weeks after Agnes.
“He was just lying there on the grass patch,” said
Mr Menon, 78, when asked how the body was found, just metres from
Ghazali had been playing with his cousins in a
playground in Clementi the day before when they were approached by Hoe
asking for help.
Ghazali was taken to Lim’s flat, where he was
drugged, choked then drowned. There were also three burn marks on his
back and a puncture on his arm.
This time, there was a trail of blood leading from
Ghazali’s body all the way to Lim’s residence at Block 12.
“He did not realise the body was dripping blood
from the nose,” said Mr Menon. “The blood, that was his undoing.”
Officers cordoned off the area and searched the
block house-to-house. When they got to the seventh floor, they found
Lim, dressed in a shirt and pants, seemingly about to make a run for
it, said Mr Menon.
“(The house) was very eerie, it was lit with amber
light, and right in front when you go in is the altar.”
Officers found various religious items in the flat,
and on the altar Mr Menon mentioned, there were crucifixes and Hindu
and Chinese idols, some of which were smeared with blood.
Suspicions were aroused further when a drop of
blood was spotted on the kitchen floor.
“I asked him about it and he said Chinese New Year
was just over and he had been killing chickens in the kitchen,” said
Mr Menon, adding that tests later revealed it to be human blood. “He
was a class-one con man.”
Officers searched the house thoroughly, and also
found vials of blood in the fridge, but the most damning evidence was
a single piece of paper.
“We found a slip of paper inside (a telephone book)
with both their names, Agnes and Ghazali’s, we knew then that was the
man,” said Mr Menon, noting that while the girl’s name had been
included in media reports, Ghazali’s body had been found only that
Lim and the two women were arrested and taken into
custody. They later confessed that the murders were a malicious act of
At that point in time, the police were
investigating a rape charge against Lim. He was annoyed and angry with
the constant questioning and claimed that he was framed. He decided to
exact revenge on the police by murdering children, sending Tan and Hoe
to hunt for victims.
The court heard details about the depraved
lifestyles of Hoe, Tan and Lim, his work as a medium and how he
subjected his victims to electroshock therapy. Hoe’s husband Benson
Loh was subjected to the torture some years earlier and died. At the
time, Hoe told investigators that he had been electrocuted while
trying to switch on a broken fan.
The case had so shocked and horrified Singapore
that crowds gathered outside the courts to catch a glimpse of the trio
and get a first-hand experience of the trial.
On May 23, 1983, all three were sentenced to death.
Lim accepted the verdict but Tan and Hoe appealed, claiming mental
illness. Both appeals were dismissed.
The trio were hanged on Nov 25, 1988, at Changi
Prison and cremated at Mount Vernon Crematorium.
“In all my years as a police officer, I never came
across anything else like this,” said Mr Menon. “People were so scared
that some of them did not want to send their children to school”.
Victim: Agnes Ng
Agnes Ng Siew Hock was a nine-year-old who went to
the Holy Innocent’s Chinese Girl School.
She was the youngest of nine siblings.
She was last seen alive by her sister Pauline and a
friend at the Church of Risen Christ in Toa Payoh at about 4pm, on Jan
She was there waiting for her sister to finish
classes before returning home together.
Her body was found in a brown vinyl bag on Jan 25,
at about 2.20am near a staircase at Block 11 Toa Payoh by a man
returning from a midnight show. Adrian Lim’s flat was at Block 12.
Her home at Block 233 was not far away from where
she was found.
She had been sexually assaulted and suffocated — it
seems by a hand covering her nose and mouth.
According to a forensic expert during the trial, it
would have taken her 10 minutes to die.
Victim: Ghazali Marzuki
Ghazali Marzuki, who studied in Henry Park Primary
School, was 10.
He was staying with his grandmother at Block 344,
Clementi Avenue 5, on Feb 6 for the Chinese New Year holidays.
While at a playground with two cousins, a woman
She asked for help to collect some things from a
Ghazali agreed to help, and followed her into a
That was the last time he was seen alive.
In the early hours of Feb 7, Mr Fung Joon Yong, who
lived at Block 12 in Toa Payoh, saw Catherine Tan stepping out of a
lift, carrying a child over her shoulder. Adrian Lim was with her.
They went in the direction of Blocks 10 and 11.
Later that morning, Ghazali’s body was found near a
hedge just in front of Block 10. The boy had been drugged with a
sedative and drowned — his head pushed into a tub of water.
Burn marks were also found, but these were believed
to have been caused by electrocution after he died.
The mastermind: Adrian Lim
He was born on Jan 6, 1942 and was the eldest of
He dropped out of Anglo-Chinese School after
Secondary One, and was involved a myriad of jobs — from an informer
for the Internal Security Department to a bill collector.
He spent 14 years with broadcasting company
Rediffusion, but had always been obsessed with the supernatural.
After learning Malay and Thai spells from a bomoh
named Uncle Willie, he quit to become a self-proclaimed medium —
claiming to have powers to heal. He would speak in different languages
when in a trance, and persuaded women to sleep with him in order to
cleanse the “evil” in them.
According to his doctor, Lim went to his clinic at
least 40 times for hormone injections to increase his sexual potency.
Lim told the police that most of his “abilities”
such as fortune reading were mere tricks to get young women to sleep
with him because he believed it would prolong his life. He had two
children with his first wife.
The mastermind's “holy” wife 1: Catherine Tan
Neglected by her parents for her brothers, Tan grew
up longing for attention.
At 17, she left home after the death of her
grandmother, with whom she shared a close relationship, and became a
She was just 20 when she went to see Lim in 1974
for treatment on the advice of her nightclub friends. And fell under
She moved into his flat - a situation that Lim’s
legal wife could not accept. Within days, she took their kids and
In front of an altar of Chinese and Indian deities,
Tan was made his “holy wife”. They married officially in 1977, after
He beat her up and convinced her into prostitution
and to work as a striptease performer.
He also got her to convince other women to sleep
with him as part of their “treatment”, and to prostitute themselves as
The mastermind's “holy” wife 2: Hoe Kah Hong
Her own mother took her to see Lim. The factory
worker became a true believer in Lim’s powers, despite being subjected
to electric shocks. He convinced her that she was an illegitimate
child, and that her problems were caused by her husband Benson Loh
Ngak Hua, a welder.
During a “treatment” session on Jan 7, 1980, Mr Loh died of
electrocution at the hands of Lim. Hoe told police he died while
switching on a faulty fan.
The trail of blood
In a search of the area where Ghazali was found, police were led to
the lift at Blk 12 where a resident had seen Catherine Tan with the
boy. A bloodstain was found in the vicinity.
Police decided to search the higher floors.
More blood stains were found between the fifth and sixth storey
staircase and the staircase leading to the seventh storey.
They decided to check the units on the seventh storey, the first of
which was Adrian Lim’s. He was in the corridor. They spoke and Lim
agreed to a search of his home.
It was very messy inside. In the kitchen, police found what seemed to
be a bloodstain on the floor.
More police were called in to conduct a thorough search.
Tan and Hoe Kah Hong had returned by this time. Lim called them his
wife and girlfriend, and told police they lived together.
A pair of slippers, shorts and a handkerchief — all stained were blood
— were discovered. They belonged to Lim. A bloodstained blouse
belonging to Hoe was found in a pail.
Pills containing the drug found in Ghazali were seized, along with a
syringe believed to contain his blood. Strands of hair that seemed
like Ghazali’s were found under a carpet and under a sofa.
Lim, Tan and Hoe were arrested and the next day, charged with murder.
‘We decided to kill small children to get even with the whole world’
During the trial, it was revealed that Adrian Lim killed the two
children as revenge after being allegedly framed for rape by cosmetics
seller Lucy Lau Kok Huang — another whom Lim claimed as a “holy wife”.
On Nov 7, 1980, Ms Lau went to police to report that Lim had raped
her. He was charged and had to report to police each time he extended
his bail. He described this as an inconvenience to him and his holy
wives. He later told the court that he could not accept that as a
“ladies man” whom women fell for, he had been accused of rape. He
claimed Ms Lau was jealous of his other “holy wives” and tried to get
revenge after he refused to get rid of them.
“I felt that I had been framed and that the police had been blind. We
(with Tan and Hoe) wanted revenge and had a meeting. At the meeting,
we decided to kill small children,” Lim said.
On the stand, he later testified that his main reason for killing the
children was to offer them as sacrifice to the deity Kali, who would
help him escape the rape charge and solve other problems.
The needle-in-egg trick
Adrian Lim used the trick to convince people of his abilities. He
admitted in court that it was nothing but a scam. He first heated a
needle, turning it black. When the needle was hot, it would easily
penetrate an egg as the heat softened the shell. Powder will then be
used to cover the hole where the needle went in.
Hoe's shocking testimony
She told police how she first met Adrian Lim. Her mother took her and
her sisters to him for help. One of her sisters, she said, had become
unstable after being jilted.
She was amazed when Lim rubbed eggs on her sister and broke them to
reveal black needles.
On another visit, she said Lim had pointed a snake at her and her
sister, making them vomit. He then covered their faces with black
cloth and immersed their legs in a tub of water for electricshock
treatment. “Suddenly I trembled all over and saw light everywhere
although my face was covered by black cloth. After the treatment, he
said I was prettier than before.”
She went to stay with Lim a few days later. She said she was made to
drink their urine to ward off evil spirits. She said in the days that
followed she was brainwashed into believing that her parents had cast
evil spirits into her. A mock wedding was held for her and Lim in
front of an altar. He told her to collect her things from her home and
move in with him. When she returned with her mother, Lim made her beat
her mother with a broom.
“Whenever Lim wanted me to do something, he would say that the old
master had entered him and had instructed that he pass the message to
me. I would then do his bidding.”
Hoe said her husband Benson Loh went on to spend the weekends in Lim’s
flat, at Lim’s behest. On the day of his death, Loh and Hoe were tied
together for electricshock therapy. All of a sudden she lost
consciousness, she said. When she came to, she saw Lim and Tan trying
to revive her husband. She was convinced by Lim to tell police that
her husband was accidentally electrocuted.
When Lim took the stand, he admitted to murdering Loh. He said Loh’s
presence stopped him from having sex with Hoe.
After Lim’s arrest for rape, he spoke of his plan to kill children.
In Dec 1980, he told Hoe to get the “fish” — the code for children.
She got a girl aged 10 to follow her from Toa Payoh Central. But Lim
rejected the girl because she was Indian and the deity he worshipped,
called Kaliammam, was Hindu.
Hoe picked up another girl from Clementi. She was Chinese. But Lim
said she was too skinny.
The third girl she brought back made Lim panic when she called her
friend on the phone, and told Lim that the friend had seen her being
led away by a woman.
Agnes Ng was the fourth girl. Hoe said they pricked her finger and
each of them took a sip. When Agnes went to the toilet, they killed
her there. “I immersed her head in the tub of water. Lim stepped on
Agnes’ body while Catherine held her legs,” said Hoe.
Lim then told her that he wanted a boy next, and to find someone with
money so he could collect ransom before the murder.
Hoe said she chose Ghazali Marzuki because he looked like her dead
husband. They consumed his blood too, before drowning him, she said.
After a 41-day trial, Lim, Tan and Hoe were all sentenced to hang.
Arguments that the trio were suffering from mental illness were
Justice T.S. Sinnathuray said Lim was “purposeful in his pursuits,
patient in his planning and persuasive in his performance for personal
power and pleasure”.
“We are revulsed by his abominable and depraved conduct.”
The judge called Tan an “artful and wicked person” who was always a
“willing party to Lim’s loathsome and nefarious acts”.
In contrast, Hoe was a “simple person who can be easily influenced”.
When three police vans took the three back to jail, some in the crowd
gathered in the streets booed.
Toa Payoh ritual murders
The Toa Payoh ritual murders took place in
Singapore in 1981. On 25 January the body of a nine-year-old girl was
found dumped next to the lift of a block of flats in the Toa Payoh
district and, two weeks later, a ten-year-old boy was found dead
nearby. The children had been killed, purportedly as blood sacrifices
to the Hindu goddess Kali.
The murders were masterminded by Adrian Lim, a
self-styled medium, who had tricked scores of women into believing he
had supernatural powers. His victims offered money and sexual services
in exchange for cures, beauty, and good fortune.
Two of the women became his loyal assistants; Tan
Mui Choo married him, and Hoe Kah Hong became one of his "holy wives".
When the police investigated a rape charge filed by one of Lim's
targets, he became furious and decided to kill children to derail the
investigations. On each occasion, Hoe lured a child to Lim's flat
where he or she was drugged and killed by the trio. Lim also sexually
assaulted the girl before her death.
The trio were arrested after the police found a
trail of blood that led to their flat. Although the case name
suggested ritualistic murders, the defendants said they did not
conduct prayers, burning of joss sticks, ringing of bells, or any
other rituals during the killings.
The 41-day trial was the second longest to have
been held in the courts of Singapore at the time. None of the
defendants denied their guilt. Their appointed counsels tried to spare
their clients the death sentence by pleading diminished
responsibility, arguing that the accused were mentally ill and could
not be held entirely responsible for the killings. To support their
case they brought in doctors and psychologists, who analysed the
defendants and concluded that they had exhibited schizophrenia, and
depressions of the psychotic and manic order.
The prosecution's expert, however, refuted these
testimonies and argued that they were in full control of their mental
faculties when they planned and carried out the murders. The judges
agreed with the prosecution's case and sentenced the trio to death.
While on death row, the women appealed to the Privy Council in London
and pleaded for clemency from the President of Singapore to no avail.
Lim did not seek any pardons; instead, he accepted his fate and went
smiling to the gallows. The three were hanged on 25 November 1988.
The Toa Payoh ritual murders shocked the public in
Singapore, who were surprised by such an act taking place in their
society. Reports of the trio's deeds and the court proceedings were
closely followed and remained prominent in the Singaporean
consciousness for several years. Twice, movie companies tried to
capitalise on the sensation generated by the murders by producing
motion pictures based on the killings; however, critics panned both
films for indulging in gratuitous sex and violence, and the movies
performed poorly at the box office. The actions and behaviour of the
three killers were studied by academics in the criminal psychology
field, and the rulings set by the courts became local case studies for
Singaporean society in the 1980s
Early in the nineteenth century, immigrants flooded
into Peninsular Malaysia, colonising the Straits Settlements including
the island city of Singapore. Migrants and natives held differing
beliefs, but over time the boundaries between those belief systems
blurred. Most of the population believed in spirits that inhabit the
jungles, and in gods and devils that hover around, capable of
benevolence and mischief.
Certain people claimed that they could
communicate with these supernatural beings. Through rituals in which
they danced and chanted, these spirit mediums—tang-kees and bomohs—invited
the beings to possess their bodies and dole out wisdoms, blessings,
and curses to their believers. As time passed and the cities grew, the
jungles gave way to concrete structures and the mediums' practices
moved deeper into the heartland of communities.
By 1980, 75% of the residents in Singapore were
living in public housing. Government-built high-rise blocks of flats
clustered in the population centres, of which the Toa Payoh district
was typical. Although a high density of people lived in each block,
the residents mostly kept to themselves, valuing their privacy and
tending to ignore what was happening around their homes.
During this time, Singapore was a relatively
peaceful society—a stark contrast to the prevalence of secret
societies, triads and gang warfare during the pre-independence days.
The low crime rate, brought on by strict laws and tough enforcement,
gave citizens a sense of security. Nonetheless, the government warned
against complacency and lectured in its local campaigns, "Low crime
doesn't mean no crime". In 1981, three Singaporeans committed a crime
that shocked the nation.
Two murders, three arrests
For several years, a medium in Block 12, Toa Payoh
Lorong 7, had been performing noisy rituals in the middle of the
night. The residents complained several times to the authorities, but
the rituals would always resume after a short time.
On the afternoon of 24 January 1981, nine-year-old
Agnes Ng Siew Hock (simplified Chinese: 黄秀叶; traditional Chinese: 黃秀葉;
pinyin: Huáng Xìuyè) disappeared after attending religious classes at
her church in Toa Payoh. Hours later, her body was found stuffed in a
bag outside a lift in Block 11, less than a kilometre (five-eighths of
a mile) from the church.
The girl had been smothered to death; the
investigation revealed injuries to her genitals and semen in her
rectum. Although the police launched an intensive investigation,
questioning more than 250 people around the crime scene, they failed
to obtain any leads.
On 7 February ten-year-old Ghazali bin Marzuki was
found dead under a tree between Blocks 10 and 11. He had been missing
since the previous day, after being seen boarding a taxi with an
unknown woman. Forensic pathologists on the scene deemed the cause of
death as drowning, and found on the boy suffocation marks similar to
those on Ng. There were no signs of sexual assault, but burns were on
the boy's back and a puncture on his arm. Traces of a sedative were
later detected in his blood.
The police found a scattered trail of blood that
led to the seventh floor of Block 12. Stepping into the common
corridor from the stairwell, Inspector Pereira noticed an eclectic mix
of religious symbols (a cross, a mirror, and a knife-blade) on the
entrance of the first flat (unit number 467F).
The owner of the flat, Adrian Lim, approached the
inspector and introduced himself, informing Pereira that he was living
there with his wife, Tan Mui Choo, and a girlfriend, Hoe Kah Hong.
Permitted by Lim to search his flat, the police found traces of blood.
Lim initially tried to pass the stains off as candle wax, but when
challenged claimed they were chicken blood.
After the police found slips of paper written with
the dead children's personal details, Lim tried to allay suspicions by
claiming that Ghazali had come to his flat seeking treatment for a
bleeding nose. He discreetly removed hair from under a carpet and
tried to flush it down the toilet, but the police stopped him;
forensics later determined the hair to be Ng's.
Requesting a background check on Lim, Pereira
received word from local officers that the medium was currently
involved in a rape investigation. Lim overheard them and became
agitated, raising his voice at the law enforcers. His ire was mimicked
by Hoe as she gestured violently and shouted at the officers. Their
actions further raised the investigators' suspicions that the trio
were deeply involved in the murders. The police collected the
evidence, sealed the flat as a crime scene, and took Lim and the two
women in for questioning.
Born on 6 January 1942, Adrian Lim (simplified
Chinese: 林宝龙; traditional Chinese: 林寶龍; pinyin: Lín Bǎolóng) was the
eldest son of a middle-class family. Described at the trial by his
sister as a hot-tempered boy, he dropped out of secondary school and
worked a short stint as an informant for the Internal Security
Department, joining the cable radio company Rediffusion Singapore in
1962. For three years, he installed and serviced Rediffusion sets as
an electrician before being promoted to bill collector.
In April 1967, Lim married his childhood sweetheart
with whom he had two children. He converted to Catholicism for his
marriage. Lim and his family lived in rented rooms until his 1970
purchase of a three-room flat—a seventh floor unit (unit number 467F)
of Block 12, Toa Payoh.
Lim started part-time practice as a spirit medium
in 1973. He rented a room where he attended to the women—most of whom
were bargirls, dance hostesses, and prostitutes—introduced to him by
his landlord. Lim's customers also included superstitious men and
elderly females, whom he cheated only of cash. He had learned the
trade from a bomoh called "Uncle Willie" and prayed to gods of various
religions despite his Catholic baptism.
The Indian goddess Kali and "Phragann", which Lim
described as a Siamese sex god, were among the spiritual entities he
called on in his rituals. Lim deceived his clients with several
confidence tricks; his most effective gimmick, known as the "needles
and egg" trick, duped many to believe that he had supernatural
abilities. After blackening needles with soot from a burning candle,
Lim carefully inserted them into a raw egg and sealed the hole with
In his rituals, he passed the egg several times
over his client while chanting and asked her to crack open the egg.
Unaware that the egg had been tampered with, the client would be
convinced by the sight of the black needles that evil spirits were
Lim particularly preyed on gullible girls who had
deep personal problems. He promised them that he could solve their
woes and increase their beauty through a ritual massage. After Lim and
his client had stripped, he would knead her body—including her
genitals—with Phragann's idol and have sex with her.
Lim's treatments also included an electro-shock
therapy based on that used on mental patients. After placing his
client's feet in a tub of water and attaching wires to her temples,
Lim passed electricity through her. The shocks, he assured her, would
cure headaches and drive away evil spirits.
Tan Mui Choo
Catherine Tan Mui Choo (simplified Chinese: 陈梅珠;
traditional Chinese: 陳梅珠; pinyin: Chén Méizhū) was referred to Lim by
a fellow bargirl, who claimed the spirit medium could cure ailments
and depression. Tan, at that time, was grieving the death of her
grandmother to whom she had been devoted. Furthermore her estrangement
from her parents weighed on her mind; having been sent away at the age
of 13 to a vocational centre (a home mostly for juvenile delinquents),
she felt unwanted by them. Tan's visits to Lim became regular, and
their relationship grew intimate.
In 1975 she moved into his flat on his insistence.
To allay his wife's suspicions that he was having an affair with Tan,
Lim swore an oath of denial before a picture of Jesus Christ. However,
she discovered the truth and moved out with their children a few days
later, divorcing Lim in 1976. Lim quit his Rediffusion job and became
a full-time medium. He enjoyed brisk business, at one point receiving
S$6,000–7,000 (US$2,838–3,311) a month from a single client. In June
1977, Lim and Tan registered their marriage.
Lim dominated Tan through beatings, threats, and
lies. He persuaded her to prostitute herself to supplement their
income. He also convinced her that he needed to fornicate with young
women to stay healthy; thus, Tan assisted him in his business,
preparing their clients for his pleasure.
Lim's influence over Tan was strong; on his
encouragement and promise that sex with a younger man would preserve
her youth, Tan copulated with a Malay teenager and even with her
younger brother. The boy was not her only sibling to be influenced by
Lim; the medium had earlier seduced Tan's younger sister and tricked
her into selling her body and having sex with the two youths. Despite
the abuses, Tan lived with Lim, enjoying the dresses, beauty products
and slimming courses bought with their income.
Hoe Kah Hong
Born on 10 September 1955, Hoe Kah Hong (simplified
Chinese: 何家凤; traditional Chinese: 何家鳳; pinyin: Hé Jiāfèng) was eight
years old when her father died; she was sent to live with her
grandmother until she was fifteen. When she returned to her mother and
siblings she was constantly required to give way to her elder sister
Lai Ho. Under the perception that her mother favoured her sister, Hoe
became disgruntled, showing her temper easily.
In 1979 her mother brought Lai to Lim for
treatment, and became convinced of Lim's powers by his "needles and
egg" trick. Believing that Hoe's volatile temper could also be cured
by Lim, the old woman brought her younger daughter to the medium.
After witnessing the same trick, Hoe became Lim's loyal follower. Lim
desired to make Hoe one of his "holy wives", even though she was
already married to Benson Loh Ngak Hua. To achieve his goal, Lim
sought to isolate Hoe from her family by feeding her lies. He claimed
that her family were immoral people who practiced infidelity, and that
Loh was an unfaithful man who would force her into prostitution.
Hoe believed Lim's words, and after going through a
rite with him she was declared by the medium as his "holy wife". She
no longer trusted her husband and family, and became violent towards
her mother. Three months after she had first met Lim, Hoe moved from
her house and went to live with him.
Loh sought his wife at Lim's flat and ended up
staying to observe her treatment. He was persuaded by her to
participate in the electro-shock therapies. In the early hours of 7
January 1980, Loh sat with Hoe, their arms locked together and their
feet in separate tubs of water. Lim applied a large voltage to Loh,
who was electrocuted, while Hoe was stunned into unconsciousness. When
she woke, Lim requested her to lie to the police about Loh's death.
Hoe repeated the story Lim had given her, saying that her husband had
been electrocuted in their bedroom when he tried to switch on a faulty
electric fan in the dark. The coroner recorded an open verdict, and
the police made no further investigations.
Despite her antipathy towards Loh, Hoe was affected
by his death. Her sanity broke; she started hearing voices and
hallucinating, seeing her dead husband. At the end of May she was
admitted to the Woodbridge Hospital. There, psychologists diagnosed
her condition as schizophrenia and started appropriate treatments. Hoe
made a remarkably quick recovery; by the first week of July, she was
discharged. She continued her treatment with the hospital; follow-up
checks showed that she was in a state of remission. Hoe's attitude
towards her mother and other family members began to improve after her
stay in the hospital, although she continued to live with Lim and Tan.
Rape and revenge
With Hoe and Tan as his assistants, Lim continued
his trade, tricking more women into giving him money and sex. By the
time of his arrest, he had 40 "holy wives". In late 1980 he was
arrested and charged with rape. His accuser was Lucy Lau, a
door-to-door cosmetic salesgirl, who had met Lim when she was
promoting beauty products to Tan.
On 19 October, Lim told Lau that a
ghost was haunting her, but he could exorcise it with his sex rituals.
She was unconvinced, but the medium persisted. He secretly mixed two
capsules of Dalmadorm, a sedative, into a glass of milk and offered it
to her, claiming it had holy properties. Lau became groggy after
drinking it, which allowed Lim to take advantage of her. For the next
few weeks, he continued to abuse her by using drugs or threats.
In November, after Lim had given her parents a loan
smaller than the amount they had requested, Lau made a police report
about his treatment of her. Lim was arrested on charges of rape, and
Tan for abetting him. Out on bail, Lim persuaded Hoe to lie that she
was present at the alleged rape but saw no crime committed. This
failed to stop the police enquiries; Lim and Tan had to extend their
bail, in person, at the police station every fortnight.
Frustrated, Lim plotted to distract the police with
a series of child murders. Moreover, he believed that sacrifices of
children to Kali would persuade her supernaturally to draw the
attention of the police away from him. Lim pretended to be possessed
by Kali, and convinced Tan and Hoe that the goddess wanted them to
kill children to wreak vengeance on Lau. He also told them Phragann
demanded that he have sex with their female victims.
On 24 January 1981, Hoe spotted Agnes at a nearby
church and lured her to the flat. The trio plied her with food and
drink that was laced with Dalmadorm. After Agnes became groggy and
fell asleep, Lim sexually abused her. Near midnight, the trio
smothered Agnes with a pillow and drew her blood, drinking and
smearing it on a portrait of Kali. Following that, they drowned the
girl by holding down her head in a pail of water. Finally, Lim used
his electro-shock therapy device to "make doubly sure that she was
dead". They stuffed her body in a bag and dumped it near the lift at
Ghazali suffered a similar fate when he was brought
by Hoe to the flat on 6 February. He, however, proved resistant to the
sedatives, taking a long time to fall asleep. Lim decided to tie up
the boy as a precaution; however, the boy awoke and struggled.
Panicking, the trio delivered karate chops to Ghazali's neck and
After drawing his blood, they proceeded to drown their
victim. Ghazali struggled, vomiting and losing control of his bowels
as he died. Blood kept streaming from his nose after his death. While
Tan stayed behind to clean the flat, Lim and Hoe disposed the body.
Lim noticed that a trail of blood led to their flat, so he and his
accomplices cleaned as much as they could of these stains before
sunrise. What they missed led the police to their flat and resulted in
Two days after their arrest, Lim, Tan and Hoe were
charged in the Subordinate Court for the murders of the two children.
The trio were subjected to further interrogations by the police, and
to medical examinations by prison doctors.
On 16–17 September, their case was brought to the
court for a committal procedure. To prove that there was a case
against the accused, Deputy Public Prosecutor Glenn Knight called on
58 witnesses and arrayed 184 pieces of evidence before the magistrate.
While Tan and Hoe denied the charges of murder, Lim pleaded guilty and
claimed sole responsibility for the acts. The magistrate decided that
the case against the accused was sufficiently strong to be heard at
the High Court. Lim, Tan, and Hoe remained in custody while
Judiciary, prosecution, and defence
The High Court was convened in the Supreme Court
Building on 25 March 1983. Presiding over the case were two judges:
Justice Thirugnana Sampanthar Sinnathuray, who would deliver judgment
on serial murderer John Martin Scripps 13 years later, and Justice
Frederick Arthur Chua, who was at the time the longest serving judge
in Singapore. Knight continued to build his case on the evidence
gathered by detective work. Photographs of the crime scenes, together
with witness testimonies, would help the court to visualise the events
that led to the crimes.
Other evidence—the blood samples, religious
objects, drugs, and the notes with Ng and Ghazali's names—conclusively
proved the defendants' involvement. Knight had no eyewitnesses to the
murders; his evidence was circumstantial, but he told the court in his
opening statement, "What matters is that [the accused] did
intentionally suffocate and drown these two innocent children, causing
their deaths in circumstances which amount to murder. And this we will
prove beyond all reasonable doubt."
Tan, with Lim's and the police's permission, used
$10,000 of the $159,340 (US$4,730 of US$75,370) seized from the
trio's flat to engage J. B. Jeyaretnam for her defence. Hoe had to
accept the court's offer of counsel, receiving Nathan Isaac as her
Since his arrest, Lim had refused legal
representation. He defended himself at the Subordinate Court hearings,
but could not continue to do so when the case was moved to the High
Court; Singapore law requires that for capital crimes the accused must
be defended by a legal professional. Thus Howard Cashin was appointed
as Lim's lawyer, although his job was complicated by his client's
refusal to cooperate.
The three lawyers decided not to dispute that
their clients had killed the children. Acting on a defence of
diminished responsibility, they attempted to show that their clients
were not sound of mind and could not be held responsible for the
killings. If this defence had been successful, the defendants would
have escaped the death penalty to face either life imprisonment, or up
to 10 years in jail.
After Knight had presented the prosecution evidence
the court heard testimonies on the personalities and character flaws
of the accused, from their relatives and acquaintances. Details of
their lives were revealed by one of Lim's "holy wives".
Private medical practitioners Dr. Yeo Peng Ngee and
Dr. Ang Yiau Hua admitted that they were Lim's sources for drugs, and
had provided the trio sleeping pills and sedatives without question on
each consultation. The police and forensics teams gave their accounts
of their investigations; Inspector Suppiah, the investigating
officer-in-charge, read out the statements the defendants had made
during their remand. In these statements Lim stated that he had killed
for revenge, and that he had sodomised Ng. The accused had also
confirmed in their statements that each was an active participant in
There were many contradictions among these
statements and the confessions made in court by the accused, but Judge
Sinnathuray declared that despite the conflicting evidence, "the
essential facts of this case are not in dispute". Lim's involvement in
the crimes was further evidenced by a witness who vouched that just
after midnight on 7 February 1981, at the ground floor of Block 12, he
saw Lim and a woman walk past him carrying a dark-skinned boy.
On 13 April Lim took the stand. He maintained that
he was the sole perpetrator of the crimes. He denied that he raped
Lucy Lau or Ng, claiming that he made the earlier statements only to
satisfy his interrogators.
Lim was selective in answering the questions the
court threw at him; he verbosely answered those that agreed with his
stance, and refused to comment on the others. When challenged on the
veracity of his latest confession, he claimed that he was bound by
religious and moral duty to tell the truth.
Knight, however, countered that Lim was inherently
a dishonest man who had no respect for oaths. Lim had lied to his
wife, his clients, the police, and psychiatrists. Knight claimed Lim's
stance in court was an open admission that he willingly lied in his
earlier statements. Tan and Hoe were more cooperative, answering the
questions posed by the court. They denied Lim's story, and vouched for
the veracity of the statements they had given to the police. They told
how they had lived in constant fear and awe of Lim; believing he had
supernatural powers, they followed his every order and had no free
will of their own.
Under Knight's questioning, however, Tan admitted
that Lim had been defrauding his customers, and that she had knowingly
helped him to do so. Knight then got Hoe to agree that she was
conscious of her actions at the time of the murders.
Battle of the psychiatrists
No one doubted that Lim, Tan, and Hoe had killed
the children. Their defence was based on convincing the judges that
medically, the accused were not in total control of themselves during
the crimes. The bulk of the trial was therefore a battle between
expert witnesses called by both sides.
Dr Wong Yip Chong, a senior
psychiatrist in private practice, believed that Lim was mentally ill
at the time of the crimes. Claiming to be "judging by the big picture,
and not fussing over contradictions", he said that Lim's voracious
sexual appetite and deluded belief in Kali were characteristics of a
mild manic depression.
The doctor also said that only an unsound mind
would dump the bodies close to his home when his plan was to distract
the police. In rebuttal, the prosecution's expert witness, Dr Chee
Kuan Tsee, a psychiatrist at Woodbridge Hospital, said that Lim was
"purposeful in his pursuits, patient in his planning and persuasive in
his performance for personal power and pleasure".
In Dr Chee's opinion, Lim had indulged in sex
because through his role as a medium he obtained a supply of women who
were willing to go to bed with him. Furthermore, his belief in Kali
was religious in nature, not delusional. Lim's use of religion for
personal benefit indicated full self-control. Lastly, Lim had
consulted doctors and freely taken sedatives to alleviate his
insomnia, a condition which, according to Dr Chee, sufferers from
manic depression fail to recognise.
Dr R. Nagulendran, a consultant psychiatrist,
testified that Tan was mentally impaired by reactive psychotic
depression. According to him she was depressed before she met Lim, due
to her family background. Physical abuse and threats from Lim deepened
her depression; drug abuse led her to hallucinate and believe the
Dr Chee disagreed; he said that Tan had admitted to
being quite happy with the material lifestyle Lim gave to her,
enjoying fine clothes and beauty salon treatments. A sufferer from
reactive psychotic depression would not have paid such attention to
her appearance. Also, Tan had earlier confessed to knowing Lim was a
fraud, but changed her stance in court to claim she was acting
completely under his influence.
Although Dr Chee had neglected Lim's physical abuse
of Tan in his judgment, he was firm in his opinion that Tan was
mentally sound during the crimes. Both Dr Nagulendran and Dr Chee
agreed that Hoe suffered from schizophrenia long before she met Lim,
and that her stay in Woodbridge Hospital had helped her recovery.
However, while Dr Nagulendran was convinced that Hoe suffered a
relapse during the time of the child killings, Dr Chee pointed out
that none of the Woodbridge doctors saw any signs of relapse during
the six months of her follow-up checks (16 July 1980 – 31 January
1981). If Hoe had been as severely impaired by her condition as Dr
Nagulendran described, she would have become an invalid. Instead, she
methodically abducted and helped kill a child on two occasions. Ending
his testimony, Dr Chee stated that it was incredible that three people
with different mental illnesses should share a common delusion of
receiving a request to kill from a god.
In their closing speeches, the defence tried to
reinforce the portrayal of their clients as mentally disturbed
individuals. Cashin said that Lim was a normal man until his
initiation into the occult, and that he was clearly divorced from
reality when he entered the "unreasonable world of atrociousness",
acting on his delusions to kill children in Kali's name.
said that due to her depression and Lim's abuse, Tan was just "a
robot", carrying out orders without thought. Isaac simply concluded,
"[Hoe's] schizophrenic mind accepted that if the children were killed,
they would go to heaven and not grow up evil like her mother and
others." The defence criticised Dr Chee for failing to recognise their
The prosecution started its closing speech by
drawing attention to the "cool and calculating" manner in which the
children were killed. Knight also argued that the accused could
not have shared the same delusion, and only brought it up during the
trial. The "cunning and deliberation" displayed in the acts could not
have been done by a deluded person. Tan helped Lim because "she loved
[him]", and Hoe was simply misled into helping the crimes.
Urging the judges to consider the ramifications of
their verdict, Knight said: "My Lords, to say that Lim was less than a
coward who preyed on little children because they could not fight
back; killed them in the hope that he would gain power or wealth and
therefore did not commit murder, is to make no sense of the law of
murder. It would lend credence to the shroud of mystery and magic he
has conjured up his practices and by which he managed to frighten,
intimidate and persuade the superstitious, the weak and the gullible
into participating in the most lewd and obscene acts."
On 25 May 1983, crowds massed outside the building,
waiting for the outcome of the trial. Due to limited seating, only a
few were allowed inside to hear Justice Sinnathuray's delivery of the
verdict, which took 15 minutes. The two judges were not convinced that
the accused were mentally unsound during the crimes. They found Lim to
be "abominable and depraved" in carrying out his schemes. Viewing her
interviews with the expert witnesses as admissions of guilt,
Sinnathuray and Chua found Tan to be an "artful and wicked person",
and a "willing [party] to [Lim's] loathsome and nefarious acts".
The judges found Hoe to be "simple" and "easily
influenced". Although she suffered from schizophrenia, they noted that
she was in a state of remission during the murders; hence she should
bear full responsibility for her actions. All three defendants were
found guilty of murder and sentenced to be hanged. The two women did
not react to their sentences. On the other hand, Lim beamed and cried,
"Thank you, my Lords!", as he was led out.
Lim accepted his fate; the women did not, and
appealed against their sentences. Tan hired Francis Seow to appeal for
her, and the court again assigned Isaac to Hoe. The lawyers asked the
appeal court to reconsider the mental states of their clients during
the murders, charging that the trial judges in their deliberations had
failed to consider this point. The Court of Criminal Appeal reached
their decision in August 1986.
The appeal judges reaffirmed the decision of their
trial counterparts, noting that as finders of facts, judges have the
right to discount medical evidence in the light of evidence from other
sources. Tan and Hoe's further appeals to London's Privy Council and
Singapore President Wee Kim Wee met with similar failures.
Having exhausted all their avenues for pardon, Tan
and Hoe calmly faced their fates. While waiting on death row the trio
were counselled by Catholic priests and nuns. In spite of the
reputation that surrounded Lim, Father Brian Doro recalled the
murderer as a "rather friendly person". When the day of execution
loomed, Lim asked Father Doro for absolution and Holy Communion.
Likewise, Tan and Hoe had Sister Gerard Fernandez as their spiritual
counsellor. The nun converted the two female convicts to Catholicism,
and they received forgiveness and Holy Communion during their final
On 25 November 1988 the trio were given their last
meal and led to the hangman's noose. Lim smiled throughout his last
walk. After the sentences were carried out, the three murderers were
given a short Catholic funeral mass by Father Doro, and cremated on
the same day.
The trial on the Toa Payoh ritual murders was
closely followed by the populace of Singapore. Throngs of people
constantly packed the grounds of the courts, hoping to catch a glimpse
of Adrian Lim and to hear the revelations first-hand. Reported by
regional newspapers in detail, the gory and sexually explicit
recounting of Lim's acts offended the sensibilities of some; Canon
Frank Lomax, Vicar of St. Andrew's Anglican Church, complained to The
Straits Times that the reports could have a corrupting effect on the
His words received support from a few readers.
Others, however, welcomed the open reporting, considering it helpful
in raising public awareness of the need for vigilance even in a city
with low crime rates. Books, which covered the murders and the trial,
were quickly bought by the public on their release.
The revelations from the trial cast Lim as evil
incarnate in the minds of Singaporeans. Some citizens could not
believe that anyone would willingly defend such a man. They called
Cashin to voice their anger; a few even issued death threats against
him. On the other hand, Knight's name spread among Singaporeans as the
man who brought Adrian Lim to justice, boosting his career. He handled
more high-profile cases, and became the director of the Commercial
Affairs Department in 1984. He would maintain his good reputation
until his conviction for corruption seven years later.
Even in prison, Lim was hated; his fellow prisoners
abused and treated him as an outcast. In the years that followed the
crime, memories remained fresh among those who followed the case.
Journalists deemed it the most sensational trial of the 80s, being
"the talk of a horrified city as gruesome accounts of sexual
perversion, the drinking of human blood, spirit possession, exorcism
and indiscriminate cruelty unfolded during the 41-day hearing".
Fifteen years from the trial's conclusion, a poll
conducted by The New Paper reported that 30 per cent of its
respondents had picked the Toa Payoh ritual murders as the most
horrible crime, despite the paper's request to vote only for crimes
committed in 1998. Lim had become a benchmark for local criminals; in
2002 Subhas Anandan described his client, wife-killer Anthony Ler, as
a "cooler, more handsome version of [the] notorious Toa Payoh
During the 1990s, the local film industry made two
movies based on the murder case, the first of which was Medium Rare.
The 1991 production had substantial foreign involvement; most of the
cast and crew were American or British. The script was locally written
and intended to explore the "psyche of the three main characters". The
director, however, focused on sex and violence, and the resulting film
was jeered by the audience at its midnight screening. Its 16-day run
brought in $130,000 (US$75,145), and a reporter called it "more
bizarre than the tales of unnatural sex and occult practices
associated with the Adrian Lim story".
The second film, 1997's God or Dog, also had a
dismal box-office performance despite a more positive critical
reception. Both shows had difficulty in finding local actors for the
lead role; Zhu Houren declined on the basis that Adrian Lim was too
unique a personality for an actor to portray accurately, and Xie
Shaoguang rejected the role for the lack of "redeeming factors" in the
On the television, the murder case would have been
the opening episode for True Files, a crime awareness programme in
2002. The public, however, complained that the trailers were too
gruesome with the re-enactments of the rituals and murders, forcing
the media company MediaCorp to reshuffle the schedule. The Toa Payoh
ritual murders episode was replaced by a less sensational episode as
the opener and pushed back into a later timeslot for more mature
viewers, marking the horrific nature of the crimes committed by Lim,
Tan, and Hoe.