Singapore

Detective hunted down cop killer the old-fashioned way

Three individuals, whose stories are featured in the book Living The Singapore Story: Celebrating Our 50 Years 1965-2015, tell GAO WENXIN (wxgao@sph.com.sg) what life was like in the early years of independence

He hunted down cop killer the 'old-fashioned way'

Singapore may have low crime rates now but in the 60s and 70s, things weren't quite the same.

Former police detective Abd Rahman Khan Gulap Khan, 65, told The New Paper about a colleague who was killed by a gunman while investigating a minor traffic accident in July 1973.

Detective Ong Poh Heng, 28, was resolving an argument between a car driver and a bus driver when he was shot.

Since detectives wore plain clothes and carried only short-barrel revolvers that were easy to conceal, Detective Ong had to identify himself as a police officer.

When he did this, the armed criminal fired two shots at Detective Ong's chest and escaped with his Smith & Wesson revolver.

"In those days, criminals and robbers would often carry guns stolen from police officers. They would not hesitate to kill a cop," said Mr Rahman.

From the 1960s to 1980s, there were at least nine reported cases of police officers being shot dead.

Mr Rahman, who was a detective in the Rural West Division (now Jurong Police Division), worked with other detectives to establish the identity of the gunman, whom they nicknamed the Cop Killer.

Police then did not have the technology to collect evidence by using methods like conducting DNA analysis, so they solved the case the old-fashioned way - with a lot of legwork.

"We made friends with criminals, bargirls, in order to gain their trust," said Mr Rahman.

The detectives asked their informants in the "underworld" who they thought was the likely suspect.

One of them gave the police a lead, saying that one of the most confrontational thugs was a 20-year-old man called Botak (Malay for bald).

This was a breakthrough for Mr Rahman, as he knew the parents of Botak, whose real name was Hoo How Seng.

They lived near Mr Rahman's grandmother in Johor. So he visited her and dropped by Botak's family home and asked after him.

BREAKTHROUGH

Mr Rahman got a breakthrough when they told him Botak had moved to Singapore. They even gave him a photo of Botak as they wanted Mr Rahman to be able to recognise him.

The detective then got Hoo's address from the Malaysian immigration office.

Armed with the new information, six detectives planned to ambush Hoo at his residence in Cavenagh Road, only a short distance from the Istana.

Since he was armed, Mr Rahman said the police lured him out by making a phonecall to tip off his live-in girlfriend, Jenny, a cabaret girl.

He said: "We told her in Cantonese that they should escape, because the police were coming."

As Hoo escaped down the staircase, one of the detectives subdued him while Mr Rahman held on to his revolver.

Hoo still managed to fire three shots, triggering a shoot-out.

The first two bullets burned Mr Rahman's palm and the third grazed his stomach.

But the detectives eventually shot Botak in the head and he died 13 minutes later.

Mr Rahman spent 35 years in the police force, and although he is now working as a Security Operations Manager at the National University of Singapore, he still keeps his police contacts to contribute his experience when it is needed.

Looking back, being shot by the Cop Killer was not the most painful moment for Mr Rahman: "The three tetanus jabs they gave me in the hospital were much worse. I could not sleep on my buttocks for days."


LIVING THE SINGAPORE STORY: CELEBRATING OUR 50 YEARS 1965-2015

WHAT:

58 stories of Singaporeans from all walks of life, to celebrate 50 years of nation-building

WHERE:

Available at major bookstores and on Amazon,as well as all public libraries from today

PRICE:

$19.95

'Pirate taxi' driver goes straight for Comfort

TAXI MAN: Mr Teo Kim Swee started driving a Comfort taxi after registering for his licence in 1971. - TNP PHOTO: CHOO CHWEE HUA

TAXI MAN: Mr Teo Kim Swee started driving a Comfort taxi after registering for his licence in 1971. - PHOTO: COMFORT DELGRO

Back in the days when Singapore was part of the Third World, pirate taxis plied the streets.

Mr Teo Kim Swee, now 74, drove one in the late 1960s to supplement his income as a hawker.

"In my pirate taxi, I would drive fixed routes such as from Tanglin Halt to City Hall or Lau Pa Sat for a price of 50 cents," he said in Mandarin.

Mr Teo added that commuters liked to take pirate taxis, which were more convenient than buses.

But it was a risky business from the start since the police would confiscate the vehicle if the driver did not have a valid taxi licence.

So Mr Teo always kept one eye on the road and one eye out for cops. But it was not easy to spot policemen, as they were mostly in plain clothes.

CAR CONFISCATED

Although he was never caught, the police caught his business partner and confiscated the car they shared.

It had cost them more than $2,000 to buy the car, so it was a huge financial blow to him.

Mr Teo had come to love the freedom of driving so much that he started all over again by buying another car.

Due to a government crackdown on pirate taxis, he finally registered for his licence in 1971.

Mr Teo has been driving a Comfort taxi since then. After nearly 45 years, he will be retiring a day before his 75th birthday next month.

His job as a cabby has seen him raise a family, with four children and three grandchildren.

He still works nights like he did during his pirate taxi days but these days, his biggest headache comes from dealing with customers with a bad attitude.

But just being able to drive and to set his own working hours make it worthwhile.

And driving the night shift means cooler weather and fewer cars, he said.

"There are also fewer police summons at night," joked Mr Teo.

He started selling satay at 2 cents each

- TNP PHOTO: MOHD ISHAK

He has been in the satay business for 70 years and knows the exact flavours that appeal to the locals.

"Singaporeans feel that sweet satay tastes better. I know because I sell," said Mr Ngalirdjo Mungin, 94, in Malay.

Although Singaporeans have enjoyed the same taste of Mr Ngalirdjo's satay for decades, things have not always been the same for the satay man.

Before he set up his stall at Sims Drive Market And Food Centre in the 1970s, he used to peddle his satay as a street hawker.

"Back then, I had to look for customers. Now, my customers come to me."

Mr Ngalirdjo came from Java just after World War II in 1945.

AVOIDED BEING SOLD

"Many immigrants here would be sold to Malaysia as farmers but I did not want to be sold," he said.

Instead, he lived with other Javanese satay sellers at 97, Jalan Sultan, and was paid 10 cents a day to make satay.

There, he learnt the tricks of the trade and later sold his own satay.

He would carry two huge baskets of ingredients and a portable charcoal grill, and cover the area between the Esplanade area and Geylang.

"I also sold satay at Jalan Besar because I would get more business when there was a football match on," said Mr Ngalirdjo, who occupied a space at the back entrance of the stadium.

Satay was sold at two cents when he first arrived, then five cents in 1947 and 10 cents in the 1960s.

Fifty sticks a day was considered good business but the jovial man said he was quite blessed to get orders of hundreds of sticks from towkays.

He met his late wife, Madam Kamisah Dadi, thanks to his satay trade. She was selling her mother's kuih (Malay for cake) at the time.

After they got married, Madam Kamisah also helped him make satay.

His current stall is named after her.

The couple have 11 children and one of their sons runs the stall. But Mr Ngalirdjo still keeps an eye on the food quality.

"I still haven't retired. I hope my story will encourage people to do their own business and to work for themselves," he said.

"Back then, I had to look for customers. Now, my customers come to me."

- Mr Ngalirdjo Mungin

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