The naked body & story behind Adrian Chua's Sentosa Cove pool in S'pore

Updated: 23 Jul 2010
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TRAGIC DEATH: The naked body of Li Hong Yan was found floating in the lap pool of a Sentosa Cove bungalow on March 24. Her death marks the start of her family's long, painful journey to Singapore. PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO
It was a tragic ending for a young and pretty Chinese woman who was looking to earn a living in Singapore and ended up making the headlines for the wrong reason. It is the mysterious death of a village girl from China. She was Li Hong Yan (李洪艳), a part-time karaoke hostess whose naked body was found in a lap pool of a multi-million dollar Sentosa Cove bungalow, Singapore, in late March 2010.
Li Hong Yan was a 24-year-old village girl from northeast China’s Heilongjiang province. Her naked body was found floating face-down in the lap pool at the back of the Sentosa Cove house by a maid at about 8am on March 24, 2010.
Ms Li had arrived in Singapore on Nov. 10, 2009, and started working the following month as a catering supervisor at a restaurant and catering business in Tuas. She was also moonlighting as a karaoke hostess in a number of KTV lounges in Havelock Road, aiming to support her parents - impoverished soya bean farmers, who had never know what was the true life their daughter had been living in Singapore, until her untimely death.
A nice makeover picture of Ms Li Hong Yan, a Zhang Ziyi look-alike,
as the media had reported.
Mr. Adrian Chua Boon Chye.
The house owner, Mr. Adrian Chua Boon Chye, 39, is the founder and chief executive officer of Roundhill Capital, a real estate investment advisory firm. He is unmarried and is said to have lived at the three-storey house along Ocean Drive for over a year.
Mr. Adrian Chua Boon Chye reportedly met the slim, 1.6m, long-haired beauty Li Hong Yan, at Las Vegas De' Palace, a karaoke lounge in Havelock Road.
They were believed to have left together and gone to a Boat Quay pub before heading to Mr Chua's waterfront house in Sentosa Cove's Ocean Drive, one of which sold for $ 30 million late last year.
She spent the night and was found by a maid about 8am the next day, floating face down in his 1.3m lap pool. She had no apparent physical injuries, and it is believed she drowned. Police have classified the case as unnatural death and are still investigating.
Ms Li's death unleashed something of a whirlwind when her parents received a call in Heilongjiang from her Chinese national friend, Ms Zhao Fan Ru, on the morning of March 25, informing them about it. Her illiterate father Li Kui You, 58, and his wife, Madam Sun Jing Fang, 49, who had never been out of the country, called Ms Li Hong Bo and other relatives to try to make sense of it all and help them get to Singapore.
It is one of an impoverished family, bereaved and bewildered by a tragedy they can hardly comprehend, who sell everything they own to make a desperate journey to Singapore to bring home their daughter's body.
Mr Li, desperate to raise money to fly here, sold the only valuable asset he owned - about 20,000 sq m of family land - to a fellow villager for 15,000 yuan. He also raised 37,000 yuan in loans from relatives.
The party of five - Ms Li's parents and sister, her sister's mother in-law Madam Fang Shu Hui and her relative, lawyer Bai Bao Hui - set out for Singapore, arriving here on April 7 after a trying five-day journey by car, train and plane.  
MEMORIES: The album cover (above) of Ms Li's studio photos shows the long-haired beauty in swimwear - one of her sexier pictures. Brother Ai Hui flips through the album that she left behind in Dalian before she came to Singapore. It is relatively cheap to get studio shots in Dalian, so creating personal albums is popular. Her brother says she liked to look good. ST PHOTOS: NEO XIAOBIN 
FAMILY REFLECTIONS: Mementos and photographs stuffed into the frame of a mirror at the Li family home in Li Ming village. The mirror catches the eye when you walk into the single-room thatched hut. The snaps show Ms Li Hong Yan with her hand covering her mouth, sister Hong Bo with her son at an amusement park, and brother Ai Hui in his military attire. ST Photo: Neo Xiaobin
Ms Li had largely disappeared from the headlines by then, but her family's trauma was just starting.
Coping with grief and fatigue was just part of it. There was the lack of funds and the high cost of Singapore living, the helplessness of being in a foreign land and the stress of dealing with the media.
For 10 days, the family stayed in the same room in Ipoh Lane that Ms Li had rented here, surviving on bread and cup noodles. They hoped for answers that would paint a clearer picture of what happened, but got none. Another blow came when they learnt through Chinese newspaper reports that Ms Li was not working as a hairdresser here as she claimed but was moonlighting as a karaoke hostess.
Amid this despair, a fortunate turn: Singaporean undertaker Roland Tay and wife Sally Ho, of Direct Singapore Funeral Services, read about their plight in the newspapers and volunteered their help. The couple arranged the wake and funeral, picked up the tab, completed the necessary paperwork and helped them deal with the media.
Mr Tay, who has donated his services in past high-profile tragedies and murder victims such as Chinese national Huang Na and Kallang body-parts victim Liu Hong Mei, said: 'They have nothing, and there was no one for them to turn to. I just wanted to help them ease their problems.'
That did not make the funeral arrangements any less traumatic for Ms Li's parents. They broke down and collapsed several times after seeing their daughter's body at the Singapore General Hospital morgue.
On April 10, Mr Tay received permission from Sentosa Cove's management for the family to perform a Taoist ceremony by the bungalow pool where Ms Li is believed to have died. The family brought with them Ms Li's favourite clothes - a white hooded top, blue jeans and a pair of white sneakers. The clothes were laid neatly on the grass by the pool as a monk performed the rites and chanted prayers.
There was no sign of Mr Chua at the ceremony, nor any activity inside the bungalow. Its green, woven curtains were drawn shut. Dead leaves had settled at the bottom of the pool. Also absent was Ms Li's father, who was so physically and emotionally traumatised that he missed the service at Mandai Crematorium on April 11.
Then, another fortunate turn. Newspaper photos of the grieving family prompted more than 20 anonymous well-wishers, mostly Singaporeans, Caucasians and Chinese nationals here, to come forward with condolences and $ 35,000 in donations.
The final leg of the family's journey began on April 16, an overcast and wet Friday.
At Changi Airport, they handcarried all their luggage, including an A3-sized red suitcase containing a wooden urn holding Ms Li's ashes. At the check-in queue, as if all strength had departed him, Mr Li let out a sigh and sank to the floor on his haunches. He hardly spoke till back in Dalian airport 12 hours later, when he broke down in the arms of relatives.
Greeting them was Ms Li's brother Ai Hui, 21, a lance corporal with the People's Liberation Army, who had not seen his family since he enlisted with the Shenyang Military Region in Liaoning Province two years ago. He was allowed out with special permission on compassionate grounds.
TEARFUL REUNION: Emotions spilling over as the Li family arrive at Dalian airport - the Singapore part of their ordeal is over but the sea burial yet to come. Ms Li's father, Mr Li Kui You (second from left), is supported by relatives Zhang Yan Hui (left) and Yang Ming Hui, while Ms Li's brother Ai Hui (right) and aunt Sun Jing Hua (third from right) help her mother Sun Jing Fang. ST PHOTOS: NEO XIAOBIN 
The relatives had no idea what transpired in Singapore, except that Ms Li accidentally fell into a pool and drowned.
'If the rest of the relatives found out exactly what she was working as in Singapore, I'm afraid they may look down on her family,' said Madam Fang.
The group wended their way down Yingke Road from the airport to a lodging house 600m away. When Mr Li's legs gave way, his son piggybacked him the rest of the way, as he struggled to get down. 'My heart is aching so badly,' he moaned.
The younger Mr Li did his best to console his father: 'You still have my eldest sister and me.'
The next day, while curled up in bed resting in a 60-yuan-per-night lodging house, Ms Li's father, who had thus far maintained a stoical silence, covered his face as he wept.
'My wife has no more strength left to cry. I have to put on a tough front as the man of the household in front of everyone else. But it's not tears that I'm crying. It's blood. At least we managed to bring her back to her favourite city. Only when her ashes are laid to rest will I fulfil my duty as her father.'
Ms Li spent many years in Dalian working as a salon hairdresser, and before that, four years as a flax mill worker in Keshan County. Her dream had been to earn enough to relocate her family to Dalian, where she eventually hoped to settle down.
To fulfil her last wish, the family spent the next two days tearing around Dalian, preparing for her sea burial at the sea-facing Dalian Laohutan Ocean Park.
PILLAR OF STRENGTH: Mr Li Ai Hui, a lance corporal in the People's Liberation Army, carrying his father on his back after Mr Li Kui You's legs gave way from grief and exhaustion. The younger Mr Li was not told about his sister's death. He found out about it only after he searched the Internet for news about his sister, sensing that something was amiss. He later confronted his aunt. On the night he was told the truth, he drank a bottle of Chinese wine for the first time since he entered the military. ST PHOTOS: NEO XIAOBIN
 A SOLDIER'S TEARS: Mr Li Ai Hui struggling to hold back his tears on the day his sister, Hong Yan, was laid to rest. He had put on a brave front for his parents' sake until that day. 'A man does not cry,' he said. He had not seen his family since he enlisted with the Shenyang Military Region in Liaoning province two years ago. 'Her wish was for me to be a good soldier, he says. 'I will not disappoint her.' ST PHOTOS: NEO XIAOBIN
LETTING GO: At precisely 8.06am on April 19, Mr Li Kui You scatters his daughter's ashes and red rose petals in the murky sea off Dalian. In great distress, he then throws over the wooden urn. With him are (from left) relatives Yang Ming Hui and Zhang Yan Hui, the boat operator, and his son Ai Hui. The yellow eight-seater speedboat is usually reserved for park visitors to tour scenic locations around Laohutan. It costs the family 800 yuan to rent. After the burial, Chinese crackers were set off at the jetty for good luck. ST PHOTOS: NEO XIAOBIN 
'Whenever I close my eyes, I see her... Hong Yan convinced me to let her go to Singapore. She said the country was very safe. Good legal system, nice people, great environment. I did not know the extent she suffered. If I knew what she was going through, I would not have let her go,' Mr. Li said. 'She worked so hard to earn money for all of us, but she forgot to take care of herself.'
It hardly mattered to them that Hong Yan had been a karaoke lounge hostess, or that she had lied to them about her job and life in Singapore. What mattered most was that whatever she did, even though it may not have been right, was because she wanted something better for her family. To her relatives, she was just a filial daughter, a kind and doting sister.
From right: Hong Yan's brother Ai Hui, sister Hong Bo, Hong Bo's mom-in-law Fang Shu Hui, dad Li Kui You. Mom Sun Jing Fang is in the middle of the back row. ST Photo: Neo Xiaobin
HOMEWARD BOUND: After the sea burial, Ms Li's sister Hong Bo, her husband Zhang Qi He and her mother-in-law Fang Shu Hui chat at Dalian railway station before their 17-hour train journey to Qiqihar. After that is a three-hour drive to Keshan county, and then another hour's drive to Li Ming village where they hope to buy back the family land that Mr Li sold to pay for the Singapore trip. ST Photo: Neo Xiaobin
SETTLING UP: The three of them check the bank book after withdrawing 60,000 yuan in cash from the Keshan branch of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. Half of the amount will be used to buy back the farm land, the final step before Ms Li's parents can start to rebuild their lives. ST Photo: Neo Xiaobin
Note: Neo Xiaobin, 26, is a photojournalist with The Straits Times. She was seized by the ill-fated story of Chinese karaoke lounge hostess Li Hong Yan, 24, who was found floating naked in the lap pool of a Sentosa Cove bungalow on March 24, and how Ms Li's parents sold their farm in Heilongjiang to raise money to come here to collect her ashes.
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