Dad, 77, found dead in drain after family's 12-day search
Family members of Mr Ow Lew Bin are still grappling with his death
For 12 days, the family fanned out across Singapore, frantically searching for a 77-year-old man.
The outcome, said Mr Ow Lew Bin's daughter-in-law, Madam Mabel Yeo, "was the worst".
The elderly man had left his 13th-floor flat to bet on 4D and possibly have a few beers on June 5 last year.
It was part of his routine but when he was still not back by nightfall, his wife informed her son, who made a police report the following day.
It was only 12 days later, on June 17, that Mr Ow was found - dead in a drain beside an expressway.
His body was so badly decomposed that pathologists could not determine the cause of death.
Yesterday, State Coroner Marvin Bay said in his findings that Mr Ow's death was a tragic misadventure and ruled out foul play.
But Mr Ow's family remain puzzled as to how he ended up dead in a drain next to the Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE), about 2km from his Marsiling Crescent home.
Madam Yeo, 45, told The New Paper: "My mother-in-law cannot accept that he went there himself.
"He could have been looking for a quiet place to drink, but he would've gone to a park.
"It's unusual that he ended up in an area so far from home."
At 1.35pm on June 5, Mr Ow told his wife he was going to Woodlands Centre Road to buy 4D.
Madam Yeo said he often went for evening walks on his own. It had been his habit for more than 20 years.
His disappearance sparked the start of a stressful search by his family.
Over the next 11 days, they printed over 300 posters appealing for information about the elderly man and pasted them at various locations in Marsiling and Woodlands.
They spent about four to five hours each day looking for Mr Ow, said Madam Yeo, a housewife.
"In the day, I would take my three young daughters and walk around Woodlands, asking people if they'd seen my father-in-law."
She added that her husband would join them after work even though she insisted he concentrate on his work.
"My brothers-in-law also went about pasting posters and asking for help. They were so tired that they would just fall asleep whenever they sat down to rest," she said.
She thanked members of the public who had helped search for Mr Ow.
"One day, some Residents' Committee members spotted us pasting the posters and we thought they would scold us," said Madam Yeo. "Instead, they offered to help spread the word via their website.
"It's touching that many came forward to help us. We really appreciate it."
Their search even took them to Bedok after someone told them Mr Ow was spotted there.
Madam Yeo said the family also considered searching for him in Johor Baru.
"It's only after this (search) that we realised Singapore is actually not that small. It took so much effort just to find one person."
On June 17, a worker who was cutting grass discovered Mr Ow's body in the 1m-deep drain beside the BKE in the direction of the Woodlands Checkpoint.
PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO
The news hit the family hard, especially Mr Ow's wife, said Madam Yeo.
Her husband coped by busying himself with removing the homemade notices they had pasted all over Marsiling.
"During the 12 days, we feared he may have got lost, fallen or kidnapped. But we always thought he was alive," she said, choking up.
"This outcome... was the worst."
She described Mr Ow, who has five sons and eight grandchildren, as soft-spoken and easy-going.
Today, the family is recovering from the news and is trying to move on, she said.
"We've accepted the fact he's gone. We will miss him."
During the 12 days, we feared he may have got lost, fallen or kidnapped. But we always thought he was alive.
- Mr Ow Lew Bin's daughter-in-law, Madam Mabel Yeo
Elderly man's death an unfortunate misadventure
He had been observed by his family members to be acting strangely just before his disappearance, said State Coroner Marvin Bay in his findings yesterday.
The instances included standing by the side of the road and yelling at passing cars, and getting lost while travelling between familiar places.
Mr Ow Lew Bin's son also told police that on the day his father went missing, the elderly man was not able to recognise the family car even though he was just 10m away.
Mr Ow did not seek medical attention as no one in the family had a history of dementia.
His family members did not link his odd behaviour with any form of mental illness or cognitive disability, said Mr Bay.
Mr Ow's daughter-in-law told The New Paper that she was unaware of her father-in-law behaving strangely.
Mr Bay also said that Mr Ow had been observed to be prone to losing his balance and had a few falls.
Mr Ow's son told the police that his father had fallen a few times after drinking alcohol at coffee shops.
The state coroner ruled out foul play or suicide and said Mr Ow's death was caused by an accidental fall into the drain.
Mr Bay added that the elderly man was never diagnosed for any severe or chronic conditions that could have caused a sudden death.
While no fractures were found, Mr Ow's body was too decomposed to rule out soft tissue injuries, Mr Bay said.
As such, he said Mr Ow died from an unfortunate misadventure.
Detect early, medicate to slow down dementia
One in 10 Singaporeans above 60 suffer from it.
But dementia is not a normal part of ageing and you should be on alert as soon as the early symptoms appear, said Dr Philip Yap, senior consultant and director of Khoo Teck Puat Hospital's geriatric centre.
"Many people think it's part and parcel of ageing but it's not. Seek medical advice as soon as you see a decline in someone's ability and memory," he added.
Dementia is a disease that affects the brain, causing the cells to die at a faster rate.
As a result, the mental abilities of the person with dementia decline, leading to failing memory, deterioration of intellectual function and personality changes.
Dr Yap said early diagnosis will allow for appropriate actions such as arranging for day care, caregiver education and support, as well as medication.
"If detected early, medication and proper care will help slow the progress of dementia in a patient. It also gives the family time to prepare."
Those who are suffering from middle or advanced stages of dementia should not be left alone, he advised.
- Forgetfulness and short-term memory problems.
- Decline in ability to carry out daily chores such as cooking.
- Poor judgment, such as buying inappropriate things or unable to count money.
- Neglecting personal hygiene such as not shaving or showering.
Alzheimer's Disease Association, Singapore
6377-0700 (Mondays to Fridays, 9am to 6pm)
Community Psychogeriatric Programme
6850-1840 (Mondays to Fridays, 8.30am to 6pm)
Only for residents living in North-east and South-east CDC Districts
Aged Psychiatry Community Assessment & Treatment Service
6389-2175 (Mondays to Fridays, 8am to 5.30pm)
Only for residents living within the North and Central CDC Districts