Singapore

Down syndrome girl missing for 18 hours

Woman with Down syndrome left her home in Ang Mo Kio and wandered alone to Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre

All she wanted to do on May 30 was to go for a walk.

But it turned out to be a 18-hour adventure from Ang Mo Kio to Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre for the 26-year-old woman with Down syndrome.

Miss Ling Hui Ru's family was frantic, but had no way of tracking her as she had left her mobile phone at her sister's home.

It was only after they posted online a plea for help that a member of the public recognised Miss Ling and she got home safely.

That Saturday, Miss Ling, her father Robert Ling, 52, and her brother Ling Kim Lin, 37, who also has Down's Syndrome, had gone for a barbecue at her sister's home.

The sister, Madam Lynn Ling, a 38-year-old property agent, lives with her husband and his family in Jurong.

When the trio returned to Ang Mo Kio at about 11pm after the barbecue, Miss Ling threw a tantrum and refused to go up to their flat. So her father and her brother left her at the void deck.

Madam Ling told The New Paper: "She often goes out on her own without our permission. She has an iPhone which we use to track her, but this time, she had nothing on her."

Miss Ling had left her phone at Madam Ling's home.

SEARCH

After a fruitless search at 11.30pm, Mr Ling called Madam Ling to alert her of Miss Ling's disappearance.

At 4am, Madam Ling searched her estate in case her sister had somehow made her way back there.

After an hour, Madam Ling went home and posted information about her missing sister on Facebook.

The next morning, she received a call from a man who said he had seen Miss Ling at a traffic light near JCube at 2am.

Madam Ling and her husband rushed to the mall in Jurong East and drove around the area to find her.

At around 2pm, another man who had seen the Facebook post called Madam Ling, saying he had spotted Miss Ling walking around the Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre.

The couple drove there immediately, but could not find her at first. They searched the nearby West Coast Park before returning to the wholesale centre where they saw her coming out of a neighbouring building at 5pm.

Miss Ling told her sister that she had merely wanted to explore. It is still a mystery how she got to Pasir Panjang.

Madam Ling said: "I was very happy to have found her. I was worried that she could have been attacked or sexually abused."

She also told TNP that their father owns a bicycle shop at the void deck of their flat in Ang Mo Kio and that their brother helps him out at the shop.

WILL WANDER

Miss Ling is often home alone and will wander off whenever she is bored.

"She is quite independent and can take care of herself. But she gets rebellious occasionally and it is not easy to discipline her," added Madam Ling, who plans to open a bubble tea shop next to her father's bicycle shop so that she can help keep an eye on Miss Ling.

She often goes out on her own without our permission. She has an iPhone which we use to track her but this time, she had nothing on her.

- Madam Lynn Ling

TNP INFOGRAPHICS: PRADIP KUMAR SIKDAR

SPECIAL NEEDS PERSONS MUST ALWAYS CARRY ID

A spokesman from Autism Recovery Network (Singapore), or ARN, said that parents or caregivers should provide forms of identification for persons with special needs.

It should include basic information about the person and contact details of the caregivers.

She added that it would help if parents or caregivers take note of the care recipients' favourite places.

Local blogger Lee Kin Mun, better known as mrbrown, remembers how his autistic daughter went missing in June 2012.

Faith, 14, broke off from her mother at Dhoby Ghaut MRT station during the evening peak hour.

She was found after an hour's search and with help from Twitter.

Mr Lee told The New Paper that the ordeal has made him extra vigilant.

He said: "Now, we try to ensure Faith has some form of ID on her, be it her student MRT card or her wrist road ID tag.

"The tag is a Velcro wrist band with her name, our contact numbers and a description of her condition.

"At least if she is lost, someone can identify her and contact us."

The ARN advises members of the public to alert the police before approaching a special needs person who appears to be lost.

Speak to the person in a calm voice and try to probe for names or other basic information.

If it causes agitation, give the person space to calm down, but keep within sight.

KEEPING TRACK

Developmental Disability Registry ID card

The card displays the basic information such as name and date of birth. The caregiver can choose to also list address, emergency contact number and the cardholder's special needs on the card.

Road ID tag

This wrist tag is commonly used by individuals engaging in outdoor activities. The information displayed on the tag can be customised. Local blogger Lee Kin Mun, better known as mrbrown, got a Road ID tag for his daughter Faith, who has autism.

Phone tracking app

There are various tracking apps available for Apple and Android devices. These apps use the Global Positioning System to identify the phone's whereabouts.

trackSAFE Personal Tracker

This is a tracking device that provides the user's whereabouts in real time. It allows the caregiver to store up to three phone numbers for alerts. There is also an SOS button that the user can press and the stored phone number will be alerted to the user's whereabouts.

Down's SyndromeMissing Person