When the verdict on his daughter’s death was read out yesterday at a Coroner’s Inquiry at the Subordinate Courts, Mr Li Kui You, 58, could only lay his head on the table.
The soya-bean farmer, who arrived in Singapore with two relatives on Christmas night, was too despondent to raise his head when State Coroner Victor Yeo ruled that there was no foul play and that Ms Li Hong Yan’s death was an accident. Evidence from police investigations showed that Ms Li, 24, whose naked body was found face-down in a Sentosa Cove bungalow pool in March, did not take her own life.
Wearing a dark blue Mao jacket, Mr Li looked tired and sombre. He broke down when answering journalists’ questions about his daughter.
Prior to Ms Li’s death, her family and relatives had been under the impression that she had come to Singapore to be a hairdresser, for which she received training in China.
“She was such a sweet girl who never lost her temper. She got along with everyone,” said Madam Fang Shu Hui, 57, who accompanied Mr Li to court yesterday. Madam Fang is the mother-in-law of Ms Li’s elder sister.
Mr Yeo concluded that the freelance KTV hostess drowned accidentally as she swam in the pre-dawn hours of March 24 this year.
Ms Li had spent the night at the house with its owner, Mr Adrian Chua Boon Chye. Mr Chua’s maid Aye Aye Tun, 26, a Myanmar national, was tidying up the study, which was overlooking the pool, when she saw the naked body floating face-down.
Ms Li arrived from Heilongjiang province in China last year and was employed as an assistant supervisor at an Indian eatery in Jalan Besar. Meanwhile, she moonlighted as a KTV hostess at a nightclub in Outram Road. She quit her supervisor job in early March to become a full-time hostess.
It was at the nightclub that she hooked up with Mr Adrian Chua, 39, chief executive realty-investment firm Roundhill Capital. He affectionately called her “Wawa”, or “doll” in Mandarin and had taken her to his multi-million-dollar home in Sentosa Cove at least twice previously, each time paying her $800 for an evening’s companionship.
On March 24, they had sex and at about 7am, Mr Chua’s 26-year-old maid, Myanmar national Aye Aye Tun, found Ms Li floating face down in his pool.
Mr Chua said he had sex with Ms Li, after which he fell asleep at around 4am.
A toxicology test showed Li’s blood contained 125mg/100ml of ethanol. The legal limit for drink-driving is 70mg.
Closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage showed images of Ms Li unlocking the sliding doors leading to the pool at 3.48am. She was alone and fully clothed.
Mr Yeo said: “I am of the view that, at the pool-deck area, she removed her clothes so as not to get them wet.” There was no CCTV camera installed in the outdoor area.
Mr Yeo surmised that Ms Li, who could not swim, had difficulty keeping her head above water after stepping into the pool. The coroner said that it was also possible she could have slipped while walking down the steps of the pool and sustained the 2cm by 1cm bruise on her left knee. But he ruled out foul play as there were no evidence or injuries that indicated she was attacked. Her colleagues and flat-mates also said that she was cheerful and did not appear to have any problems.
Ms Li is 1.54m tall and the pool’s maximum depth is 1.5m. The lights inside and around the pool were not switched on. As Mr Chua had previously taken her to the pool deck to chat and smoke, Mr Yeo said Ms Li probably went there again to smoke, adding that Ms Aye Aye Tun found Mr Chua’s cigarettes and lighter with Ms Li’s clothes.
Mr Chua said he was woken up by two Sentosa Cove security personnel at 8am. “I was shocked to hear that a naked woman was found drowned in my pool,” he said.
Mr Chua, 39, is the founder and chief executive officer of Roundhill Capital, a real estate investment advisory firm, registered in Singapore under his residential address. He is unmarried and is said to have lived at the three-storey house along Ocean Drive for over a year.
He has since sold the Sentosa property. He appeared calm yesterday as he took the stand, looking steadily at Mr Li and his relatives when Mr Yeo asked them if they had any questions for him. Mr Li could only shake his head and bury his face in his folded arms, saying in Mandarin that he was confused.
He was similarly dazed when two members of the public handed him about $500 in cash.
His eyes moist with tears, Mr Li could only utter: “Thank you.”