In 1979 the four children of the Tan family were discovered dead at home by their parents. The children, aged between five and ten, had been viscously hacked to death and left in a heap on the bathroom floor. Also known as the Geylang Bahru Family Murders, the culprit of the heinous act has never been identified and the murders remain unsolved.
The Tan Family
The Tan Family consisted of 38-year-old father Tan Kuen Chai and 30-year-old mother Lee Mei Ying and their four young children. The children were Tan Kok Peng, age 10, Tan Kok Hin, 8, Tan Kok Soon, 6, and Tan Chin Nee, who was the youngest of the children at age 5 and the couple’s only girl.
The family lived in Geylang Bahru, Singapore occupying a one-room flat in Block 58. Tan Kuen Chai and Lee Mei Ying ran a minibus business which took children to and from school and.
The three brothers studied at Bendemeer Primary School. Little Tan Chin Nee was in her second year at a nearby PAP kindergarten.
On January 6, 1979, the parents left the family home around 6 30 am to begin their morning rounds. The children were still in bed when the couple left, which was usually the case.
At 7:10 am the mother phoned the house, as she often would, to wake them. There was no answer the first time she called. She rang twice more but still no one answered.
Starting to grow a little concerned she phoned a neighbour. She asked them if they would go knock on the door and make sure everything was ok. The neighbour happily obliged and went to rouse the children from their slumber by knocking on the door. No reply was forthcoming.
The neighbour let the parents know they were unable to get an answer. At around 10 am the couple returned home and entered the flat.
The Murders Of The Tan Children
The couple went into the bathroom and were met with a ghastly scene. In a pile on the floor in front of them lay the four young children.
It was a shocking scene. The children, all dressed in pants and t-shirts, had been stacked on top of each other. They had all suffered horrendous injuries from the savage and frenzied attack.
Each had over twenty slashes to their heads and bodies. Tan Chin Nee, the young girl, also had slash marks on her face. The right arm of the eldest child, Tan Kok Peng, had almost been severed showing the sheer brutality of the murders.
The Crime Scene
At the crime scene investigators found little. They discovered a trace amount of blood near the kitchen sink, indicating the killer had cleaned himself before leaving. The eldest child had several strands of hair in his hand. This led investigators to believe he had put up a fight during the attack.
Investigators found no sign of forced entry, nor from what they could tell had anything been stolen. There was also no sign of the murder weapons either. They believed these to be a dagger and a cleaver, or something similar. A couple of reports say these were missing from the Tan family kitchen but more official sources don’t seem to mention this.
Law enforcement began to believe that this was a crime that had been planned in advance. This was due to the killer leaving little evidence and also seemingly knowing the children would be alone. The killer was also someone the family knew in their opinion. Shortly afterwards this theory would seemingly be proved correct.
On January 7, 1979, Tan Kok Peng, Tan Kok Hin, Tan Kok Soon and Tan Chin Nee were buried at Choa Chu Kang Cemetery. The four children were buried in their best clothes encircled by their schoolbags textbooks, and beloved toys. During the funerals, Lee Mei Ying fainted numerous times as her children were put into their individual caskets.
CID questioned over one hundred neighbours and family members but found very little information to aid their investigation. Two women were taken in for questioning but released later the same day, it was never revealed why or if they had been of any help. Several appeals were also made to the public also with no significant results.
There were reports that someone had seen Lee Mei Ching arguing with a man from a nearby flat but the individual who apparently witnessed this couldn’t be traced. Another witness who claimed he had seen a couple near the crime scene, one of whom was covered in blood, turned out to be a hoax.
The Chilling Taunt
Two weeks after the young members of the Tan family had been horrifically murdered the parents received a chilling taunt. The couple were sent a card for Chinese New Year. The image on the card was of children playing. The message on the card, written in Mandarin and signed off as “The Murderer”, read:
“Now you can have no more offspring ha ha ha”
Lee Mei Ching had been sterilized after the birth of her youngest daughter, something only someone close to the Tan family at some point would have known. Furthermore, the card referred to the couple as Ah Chai and Ah Eng, the couples nicknames.
Law enforcement were now almost certain a friend, neighbour or relative of the Tan family had committed the dastardly massacre of the four young children. The problem was they could see no clear motive, the best they could argue was that the sick and twisted murders were motivated by revenge. The Tan family, however, were adamant they had no enemies.
The Tontine Theory
Lee Mei Ching’s brother revealed another theory. He told the media that his sister and her husband were part of an illegal tontine scheme. Here is what a tontine scheme is:
“An organization of individuals who enter into an agreement to pool sums of money or something of value other than money, permitting the last survivor of the group to take everything”cited from https://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/tontine
The Singapore CID looked into this possibility but could find no evidence to support it.
It’s worth pointing out that this theory doesn’t make that much sense. Surely for the killer to benefit from the scheme he would have had to kill the senior members of the Tan family and not the children.
A person of interest was brought to the attention of the CID when a Toa Payoh taxi driver came forward with new information. The taxi driver told investigators that on the morning of the murders at around 8 am he picked up a man along Kallang Bahru Road, not far from the crime scene. He stated the man had bloodstains down his left-hand side and that upon exiting the taxi a knife banged against the door.
The taxi driver said the man was in his 20’s and he gave a description. Upon seeing this the children’s father Tan Kuen Chai identified the suspect. Tan Kuen Chai told CID the young man was a neighbour who regularly called at the residence to use their phone and was known as “Uncle” to the Tan family.
The man was picked up by CID and placed in a line-up. The taxi driver picked him out as the man he had given a lift to on the morning of the brutal murders. Despite this, the neighbour, known only as “Uncle”, was released two weeks later due to a lack of evidence against him.
The Geylang Bahru Family Murders were never solved and sadly it doesn’t seem like they ever will be. Despite the tragic murders been something no family would ever truly get over the Tan family did at least get some sort of happiness back in their lives.
After trying and failing to adopt a child Lee Mei Ying had surgery to reverse her sterilization and on December 30, 1983, she gave birth to a baby boy.