Dec 31, 2022 I Brent Swancer

Black Magic and the Strange Case of the Toa Payoh Ritual Murders

There are many beliefs in the occult that span cultures, and for the most part these may sometimes be bizarre, but they are mostly harmless. However, sometimes such beliefs and practices can lead to the dark world of murder and human sacrifice, these ideas driving the darkest parts of the human soul to violence. One such case happened in the normally safe and peaceful country of Singapore, which would shock the populace and expose a dark realm of murder and magic.

On the afternoon of January 24, 1981, nine-year-old Agnes Ng Siew Heok vanished without a trace in the town of Toa Payoh. A student at the Holy Innocent's Chinese Girl School and the youngest of nine siblings, Agnes had last been seen waiting for her sister to finish classes before returning home together, but at some point she just disappeared. The following day, a 25-year-old carpenter at the ground floor of the apartment complex Block 11, Toa Payoh Lorong 7, found a brown vinyl bag by the elevator landing while on the way home from a night at the movies. When he looked at what was in the bag, he would find Agnes’ lifeless, naked body stuffed within, curled up in the fetal position. The autopsy would show that she had been sexually assaulted and suffocated, likely by a hand covering her nose and mouth. At the time police had no leads and no clues, and although they launched an intensive investigation, questioning more than 250 people around the crime scene, they failed to obtain any leads, but this would change.

On February 6, 10-year old Ghazali Marzuki was last seen boarding a taxi with an unknown woman. The following day, he was found dead near a hedge just in front of Block 10 of the same apartment complex that Agnes was found at. An autopsy in this case would find that the boy had been brutally drowned, and there were burns on the boy's back and a puncture on his arm, as well as races of a sedative detected in his blood. It was surmised hat he had been drugged and then drowned in a bathtub. On this occasion police found a scattered trail of blood that led to the seventh floor of the nearby Block 12, this led to a room with a door adorned with an eclectic mix of religious symbols including a cross, a mirror, and a knife-blade. In the hall they came across the owner of the flat, Adrian Lim, who greeted them and told them he was living there with his wife, Tan Mui Choo, and a girlfriend, Hoe Kah Hong. The police asked him if they could take a look around inside, to which Lim agreed, and the case would get stranger.

Adrian Lim

Inside Lim’s flat police found quite the eerie scene. The place was very messy, cluttered with all manner of junk, as well as various occult paraphernalia and arcane and religious imagery, the whole of it lit with a spooky amber light and even featuring some sort of altar. None of this was illegal so far, but police soon found traces of blood, which Lim at first claimed was candle wax but then later admitted was chicken blood from chickens he had killed in the kitchen for the Chinese New Year. Police also found some vials of blood in the fridge, but the most damning evidence was a single piece of paper written with the dead children's personal details. The noticeably nervous Lim then claimed that the boy had come to his flat seeking treatment for a bleeding nose, and as he explained this police caught him discreetly trying to remove some hair from the carpet and flush it down the toilet. Now suspicious as hell, the police checked into Lim, and they were about to open a whole can of worms.

It took almost no time at all to learn that Lim was currently involved in a rape investigation from 1980, in which he had assaulted a door to door cosmetics saleslady. The rape case had been rather bizarre, in that Lim, a self-proclaimed black magic practitioner, had claimed to her that she was being haunted by a ghost and needed to carry out sex magic to get rid of it, as you do. Perhaps not surprisingly, the saleslady, a Lucy Lau Kok Huang, had not fallen for this unusual pick-up line, and so Lim had just drugged her and raped her instead. Lim had been arrested on charges of rape, and Tan for abetting him, and they had been released on bail pending trial. Indeed, it was soon found that Lim had a long history of duping women into sex or out of their money through telling them he was a sorceror, and this was enough for police to detain him. When they did, Lim got indignant, raising his voice to the officers and denying that he had raped anyone. Now convinced Lim was involved in the murders, they sealed the flat as a crime scene, and when the blood proved to be that of one of the victims they took Lim and the two women in for questioning. In the meantime, they looked more into Lim, and the more they dug, the weirder it got.

It was found that Lim was a member of a religious cult that worshipped the Hindu Goddess Kali, as well as a self-styled healer, spirit medium, magic practitioner, who had pretended to have supernatural powers and scammed people for years by claiming he had magical powers to solve their problems through spells and rituals. He had a long history of using the ruse of fortune telling or selling magic potions to lure in young women and con them. Indeed, he had done this with Tan Mui Choo and Hoe Kah Hong, who he called his “holy wives.” Lim had put them through extensive physical, sexual, mental and financial abuse, including forcing Tan into prostitution and performing stripteases, as well as giving them electric shocks to drive out evil spirits, and Hoe's husband Benson Loh was subjected to the torture some years earlier and had died. He also claimed that he could cast spells on them anytime, made them drink their own urine, and menaced them with a snake, as well as claimed that his commands to them were channeled through him by a higher being. Lim had thoroughly brainwashed them into doing his bidding, including lying to cover up the rape he had committed. In addition to this, Lim apparently held rituals in which he and his followers chanted loudly, incurring various complaints from his neighbors that police had never really checked up on. 

An altar in Lim's flat

Lim was also clearly disillusioned, as he sincerely believed that he was a ladies’ man who women desired, so he felt that he couldn’t possibly have been guilty of rape. This was one of the reasons that he and his “holy wives” had decided to take to murdering children. They believed that not only would this be a suitable sacrifice to Kali to get them out of tyrouble, but that it would also derail the police investigation into the rape, and so they had gone about choosing suitable victims for their depraved crimes. During the court trial, which would last 41 days and be the longest in Singapore’s history, all manner of horrific details would come out, which would shock the nation. It would come out that Hoe had approached Agnes in churchyard on the 24th of January and persuaded her to come to Lim’s apartment, where she was drugged, sexually abused by Lim and then smothered with a pillow. After this her blood had been drunk by the three of them and smeared over a picture of Kali. Hoe had also procured Marzuki, who she had tricked into going to Lim’s apartment and been drugged, choked, and drowned, with the death estimated as talking 10 minutes, during which time the boy had defecated himself and struggled immensely. The case had so shocked and horrified Singapore that crowds gathered outside the courts to catch a glimpse of the trio and get a first-hand experience of the trial, and it was a complete media frenzy at the time. 

None of the defendants denied their guilt, although Lim was hostile, arrogant, and uncooperative throughout the proceedings. Tan and Hoe both mounted a defense of diminished responsibility by virtue of being under Lim’s total control, arguing that they were mentally ill and could not be held entirely responsible for the killings, but in the end it didn’t work. All three of the accused were found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging, with Hoe and Tan holding the morbid distinction of being only the third and fourth women to have ever been hanged in Singapore. Although Tan and Hoe showed no reaction to the verdict, Lim, ever defiant, smiled widely and cried, "Thank you, my Lords!" as he was led out. The three were hanged on 25 November 1988. What drove these people to do what they did and how much did their dark, arcane beliefs have to do with it? Was this a true belief in black magic and sacrifices, or what it just the depreved actions of some seriously troubled people? The answers are murky, and it remains one of the most brutal and shocking crimes in Singapore history.

Brent Swancer

Brent Swancer is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He's written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

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