Client pawed her and boasted about sexual exploits
Some of S'pore's worst serial rapist's victims were female professionals whose jobs involved meeting male clients alone
She thought she was about to clinch a major deal, but her "client" had his eye on something else - her.
Realty firm ERA Singapore assistant marketing manager Linda Yang, 26, thought she was about to close the deal when her 50-year-old client suddenly became touchy-feely.
As they were walking and discussing the deal, she felt his hand wandering down from her head to her shoulders and then her back.
Miss Yang, who was a year into her job in January, said: "I used my handbag to create a barrier between us, but somehow, he got past it to touch me."
He also used a suggestive tone when talking to her and digressed into inappropriate topics, such as his sexual history.
"He told me he was a Libra and shared in detail how he made love to his ex-girlfriends.
"I felt uncomfortable, but I couldn't just walk away. I didn't know how to react. When I eventually left the meeting, he even winked at me," Miss Yang said.
Her interaction with this client ended when her boyfriend told her to stay away from him as "things were getting out of hand".
Miss Yang realised things could have ended a lot worse when she found out about serial rapist Azuar Ahamad, who was sentenced to 37½ years in jail and 24 strokes of the cane last week.
The 44-year-old had raped and sexually assaulted eight women and molested another 14, many of them sales executives and working professionals like Miss Yang.
The prosecution called him "the worst serial rapist to be dealt with in Singapore".
While meeting these women posing as a potential client, Azuar would spike their drinks and take advantage of them while they were unconscious.
Said Miss Yang: "I do not mind sharing my story with everyone as I hope that more (sales) agents will become aware of such people and be more careful."
She now e-mails her potential clients first to suss them out. Only when she is certain they are genuine, would she agree to meet them.
Sometimes, her boyfriend would tag along for protection during her first meetings with new clients.
Her boyfriend, who is in the same industry, would also contribute to the discussion.
Azuar's reign of terror finally ended when one of his would-be victims, an insurance agent, took her boyfriend along to their meeting. After drugging her, the rapist was surprised by the boyfriend and was subsequently arrested by the police. (See report above.)
It seems that it is not only women who may be treated inappropriately by lascivious clients.
Mr Eric Cheng, the chief executive of property firm ECG Holdings, told The New Paper: "Seven years ago, at an apartment in Ubi, a male agent was greeted at the door by his female client in her 30s, clad in her sports bra and panties.
"As they discussed the deal, she told him, 'Let's not talk at the dining table, let's talk on the bed'. My agent left right away and reported it to the company."
In another incident eight years ago, in Marine Parade, a male agent had his thighs rubbed by a female client. The woman in her 40s was wearing skimpy clothes, Mr Cheng said.
"I don't understand why this happens. It might be because there are many lonely people out there."
Several female executives contacted by TNP said most of them have met unsavoury characters at least once in their careers.
An insurance agent, who wanted to be known only as Michelle, said intuition is important in such situations.
Once, while door-knocking with a female colleague to peddle their products, two topless men greeted them at the door.
Michelle, who is in her 20s, said: "They tried to talk to us about what we were selling, but the whole flat was filled with smoke.
"It looked scary and dangerous. We found an excuse to leave tactfully and went to the next unit."
Enthusiasm makes agents easy targets: Bosses
Real estate firm PropNex Realty's chief executive officer Mohamed Ismail Gafoor believes that people like property and insurance agents are targeted by sexual predators due to the nature of their job.
"To start with, why did a person (like convicted rapist Azuar Ahamad) target these groups of people?
"Simply put, agents work independently and in their interest to close a deal, they cannot ignore potential clients. This enthusiasm makes them easy targets," he said.
Do not meet new clients alone, choose the right meeting place and ask the right questions to see if the client is genuine.
Mr Ismail said: "At the end of the day, the risk is inherent in this job.
"If I'm not comfortable with the client, I would rather lose the deal than take that risk."
He said that new agents in his company would always be paired up with a manager.
New agents undergo six training sessions to get familiarised with the do's and don'ts of dealing with customers, including errant ones.
Property firm ECG Holdings' chief executive Eric Cheng said his company has a tag-team system in which every agent is paired with another.
"If anything happens to one of them, the other person would know where he or she is," he said.
Instinct is important, said PropNex Realty senior sales associate director Joan Bagus, who is in her 30s.
"It is common for people in our industry to meet clients one-on-one.
"But if you go to their home to meet them, instinct tells you to stay at the door, or see if the spouse or their children are inside to indicate whether it is safe to enter," said Ms Bagus.
The property agent, who has been in the industry for 14 years, gave some pointers on how female agents should deal with male clients.
"Before meeting them, check over the phone if the wife is around.
"Better still, deal with the wife directly," she said.
But some agents may be "desperate enough" to hook their clients that they ignore what their instincts tell them, Ms Bagus said.
ERA Singapore assistant marketing manager Linda Yang calls these agents "black sheep" for being willing to go further than necessary to clinch the sale.
How rapist worked
THE NEW PAPER, MAY 28
Serial rapist Azuar Ahamad, 44, was caught after he was surprised by his intended victim's boyfriend, who was keeping an eye on her.
The insurance agent became drowsy after drinking a cup of drugged coffee that Azuar had given her at their meeting.
Her boyfriend, who was sitting at another table, confronted Azuar, who was arrested by the police.
In sentencing Azuar, Justice Chan Seng Onn said his offences came to light only by "sheer luck" due to this incident.
The woman, who had not been sexually assaulted, testified in court against Azuar, who had adopted various personas and lied about his personal details to meet his victims.
He would portray himself as a working professional to induce his victims to continue communicating with him online.
During their meetings, usually at a place of his choosing, he would drug the women with spiked drinks.
When his victims lost consciousness, he would take them to a hotel and rape, sexually assault or molest them. He would also film the acts.
His victims would have no recollection of what had happened when they woke up.
Azuar would pretend that he had helped them home or cleaned up after them when they were intoxicated.
The prosecution said this was "a well-conceived and cunning modus operandi to lure his victims and commit offences against them".