Singapore

Undertaker on ownership of shophouses: 'I'm glad this nightmare is over'

After divorce, Roland Tay gets to keep shophouses where business is run

While undertaker Roland Tay has provided funeral services in some headline-making murder cases, for victims such as Liu Hong Mei and Huang Na, and even for Ah Meng, the zoo's famous orangutan, his services for ordinary folk are no less important to him.

Stacked in his Lavender Street office are scores of identity cards that once belonged to persons of limited means for whom he rendered funeral services pro bono.

He quoted a note found in the flat of a woman who committed suicide in 2011: "If anything happens to my body please contact Roland Tay."

Mr Tay, 73, last week assumed total ownership of Direct Funeral Services, the casket company he founded, where his 33-year-old daughter Jenny is managing director.

The business is run out of two Lavender Street shophouses, which the High Court awarded him in the division of matrimonial assets after his divorce from Ms Sally Ho and for which she got more than $1.4 million.

Under the terms of the High Court division, Mr Tay received 60 per cent and Ms Ho 40 per cent of the total matrimonial assets worth some $11 million. Ms Ho was also required to hand over all her interests in other businesses - Direct Singapore Funeral Services and 24 Hours Funeral Services.

"The Lavender Street premises are important to me. I was born there, and I've been in the area for over 70 years. People walk in here, rich or poor, because they know I am here," said Mr Tay.

Last week, his daughter, son-in-law Darren Cheng, 34, who is the chief executive, and other staff decked the office with red ribbons to celebrate, after seven years of litigation to get the properties back, he said.

He was married to Ms Ho for about four years before the divorce was finalised in 2013.

Both Mr Tay and Ms Ho provided disputed versions about how the properties were acquired. He said most of the funds were his and she said they were hers. The court found insufficient evidence for a holistic picture and divided the properties based on the parties' direct and indirect contributions.

Mr Tay said that after the split, his daughter Jenny, from his second marriage, stepped in to help. The thrice-married Mr Tay has a son and daughter from his first marriage and two daughters from his second.

"I am feeling relieved though there are some loose ends to tie up. I am glad this nightmare is finally over," he said.

- ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHRISTIE CHIU

COURT & CRIME