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File:Adrian Lim.jpg

Adrian Lim conned many women into offering him money and sex, and killed children in an attempt to stop police investigations against him.

The Toa Payoh ritual murders took place in Singapore in 1981.[fn 1] On 25 January the body of a nine-year-old girl was found dumped next to the lift of a block of flats in the Toa Payoh district and, two weeks later, a ten-year-old boy was found dead nearby. The children had been killed as blood sacrifices to the Hindu goddess Kali.[fn 2] The murders were masterminded by Adrian Lim, a self-styled medium, who had tricked scores of women into believing he had supernatural powers. His victims offered money and sexual services in exchange for cures, beauty, and good fortune. Two of the women became his loyal assistants; Tan Mui Choo married him, and Hoe Kah Hong became one of his "holy wives". When the police investigated a rape charge filed by one of Lim's targets, he became furious and decided to kill children to derail the investigations. On each occasion, Hoe lured a child to Lim's flat where he or she was drugged and killed by the trio. Lim also sexually assaulted the girl before her death. The trio were arrested after the police found a trail of blood that led to their flat.

The 41-day trial was the second longest to have been held in the courts of Singapore at the time. None of the defendants denied their guilt. Their appointed counsels tried to spare their clients the death sentence by pleading diminished responsibility, arguing that the accused were mentally ill and could not be held entirely responsible for the killings. To support their case they brought in doctors and psychologists, who analysed the defendants and concluded that they had exhibited schizophrenia, and depressions of the psychotic and manic order. The prosecution's expert, however, refuted these testimonies and argued that they were in full control of their mental faculties when they planned and carried out the murders. The judges agreed with the prosecution's case and sentenced the trio to death. While on death row, the women appealed to the Privy Council in London and pleaded for clemency from the President of Singapore to no avail. Lim did not seek any pardons; instead, he accepted his fate and went smiling to the gallows. The three were hanged on 25 November 1988.

The Toa Payoh ritual murders shocked the public in Singapore, who were surprised by such an act taking place in their society. Reports of the trio's deeds and the court proceedings were closely followed and remained prominent in the Singaporean consciousness for several years. Twice, movie companies tried to capitalise on the sensation generated by the murders by producing motion pictures based on the killings; however, critics panned both films for indulging in gratuitous sex and violence, and the movies performed poorly at the box office. The actions and behaviour of the three killers were studied by academics in the criminal psychology field, and the rulings set by the courts became local case studies for diminished responsibility.

Singaporean society in the 1980s

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Early in the nineteenth century, immigrants flooded into Peninsular Malaysia, colonising the Straits Settlements including the island city of Singapore. Migrants and natives held differing beliefs, but over time the boundaries between those belief systems blurred. Most of the population believed in spirits that inhabit the jungles, and in gods and devils that hover around, capable of benevolence and mischief. Certain people claimed that they could communicate with these supernatural beings. Through rituals in which they danced and chanted, these spirit mediumstang-kees and bomohs—invited the beings to possess their bodies and dole out wisdoms, blessings, and curses to their believers. As time passed and the cities grew, the jungles gave way to concrete structures and the mediums' practices moved deeper into the heartland of communities.[5]

By 1980, 75% of the residents in Singapore were living in public housing.[6] Government-built high-rise blocks of flats clustered in the population centres, of which the Toa Payoh district was typical. Although a high density of people lived in each block, the residents mostly kept to themselves, valuing their privacy and tending to ignore what was happening around their homes.[7][8] Singapore had settled into a peaceful society—in contrast to the violent gang wars that had raged in the early 20th century. The low crime rate, brought on by strict laws and tough enforcement,[9] gave citizens a sense of security.[10] Nonetheless, the government warned against complacency and lectured in its local campaigns, "Low crime doesn't mean no crime".[11] In 1981, three Singaporeans committed a crime that shocked the nation.

Two murders, three arrests

File:Toa Payoh Ritual Murders' Flat.jpg

Lim's flat (highlighted in red) was in Block 12 (right), Toa Payoh Lorong 7. By 2008, the neighbouring Blocks 10 and 11 (centre and left) had been replaced with taller structures.

For several years, a medium in Block 12, Toa Payoh Lorong 7, had been performing noisy rituals in the middle of the night. The residents complained several times to the authorities, but the rituals would always resume after a short time.[12] On the afternoon of 24 January 1981, nine-year-old Agnes Ng Siew Hock disappeared after attending religious classes at her church in Toa Payoh. Hours later, her body was found stuffed in a bag outside a lift in Block 11, less than a kilometre (five-eighths of a mile) from the church. The girl had been smothered to death; the investigation revealed injuries to her genitals and semen in her rectum. Although the police launched an intensive investigation, questioning more than 250 people around the crime scene, they failed to obtain any leads. On 7 February ten-year-old Ghazali bin Marzuki was found dead under a tree between Blocks 10 and 11. He had been missing since the previous day, after being seen boarding a taxi with an unknown woman. Forensic pathologists on the scene deemed the cause of death as drowning, and found on the boy suffocation marks similar to those on Ng. There were no signs of sexual assault, but burns were on the boy's back and a puncture on his arm. Traces of a sedative were later detected in his blood.[13]

The police found a scattered trail of blood that led to the seventh floor of Block 12. Stepping into the common corridor from the stairwell, Inspector Pereira noticed an eclectic mix of religious symbols (a cross, a mirror, and a knife-blade) on the entrance of the first flat (unit number 467F). The owner of the flat, Adrian Lim, approached the inspector and introduced himself, informing Pereira that he was living there with his wife, Tan Mui Choo, and a girlfriend, Hoe Kah Hong. Permitted by Lim to search his flat, the police found traces of blood. Lim initially tried to pass the stains off as candle wax, but when challenged claimed they were chicken blood.[14] After the police found slips of paper written with the dead children's personal details, Lim tried to allay suspicions by claiming that Ghazali had come to his flat seeking treatment for a bleeding nose.[15] He discreetly removed hair from under a carpet and tried to flush it down the toilet, but the police stopped him; forensics later determined the hair to be Ng's.[16] Requesting a background check on Lim, Pereira received word from local officers that the medium was currently involved in a rape investigation. Lim overheard them and became agitated, raising his voice at the law enforcers. His ire was mimicked by Hoe as she gestured violently and shouted at the officers. Their actions further raised the investigators' suspicions that the trio were deeply involved in the murders. The police collected the evidence, sealed the flat as a crime scene, and took Lim and the two women in for questioning.[17]


Adrian Lim

Born on 6 January 1942, Adrian Lim was the eldest son of a middle class family.[18] Described at the trial by his sister as a hot-tempered boy,[19] he dropped out of secondary school and worked a short stint as an informant for the Internal Security Department, joining the cable radio company Rediffusion Singapore in 1962. For three years, he installed and serviced Rediffusion sets as an electrician before being promoted to bill collector.[18] In April 1967, Lim married his childhood sweetheart with whom he had two children. He converted to Catholicism for his marriage.[20] Lim and his family lived in rented rooms until his 1970 purchase of a three-room flat—a seventh floor unit (unit number 467F) of Block 12, Toa Payoh.[20]

Lim started part-time practice as a spirit medium in 1973. He rented a room where he attended to the women—most of whom were bargirls, dance hostesses, and prostitutes—introduced to him by his landlord.[21][fn 3] Lim, who learned the trade from a bomoh called "Uncle Willie", prayed to gods of various religions despite his Catholic baptism. The Indian goddess Kali and "Phragann",[fn 4] which Lim described as a Siamese sex god,[23] were among the spiritual entities he called on in his rituals.[24] Lim deceived his clients with several confidence tricks; his most effective gimmick, known as the "needles and egg" trick, duped many to believe that he had supernatural abilities. After blackening needles with soot from a burning candle, Lim carefully inserted them into a raw egg and sealed the hole with powder. In his rituals, he passed the egg several times over his client while chanting and asked her to crack open the egg. Unaware that the egg had been tampered with, the client would be convinced by the sight of the black needles that evil spirits were harassing her.[25]

Lim particularly preyed on gullible girls who had deep personal problems. He promised them that he could solve their woes and increase their beauty through a ritual massage. After Lim and his client had stripped, he would knead her body—including her genitals—with Phragann's idol and have sex with her.[26] Lim's treatments also included an electro-shock therapy based on that used on mental patients. After placing his client's feet in a tub of water and attaching wires to her temples, Lim passed electricity through her.[27] The shocks, he assured her, would cure headaches and drive away evil spirits.[28]

Tan Mui Choo

File:Tan Mui Choo.jpg

Tan Mui Choo assisted Lim in his medium practice, reaping the benefits.

Catherine Tan Mui Choo was referred to Lim by a fellow bargirl, who claimed the spirit medium could cure ailments and depression.[29] Tan, at that time, was grieving the death of her grandmother to whom she had been devoted. Furthermore her estrangement from her parents weighed on her mind; having been sent away at the age of 13 to a vocational centre (a home mostly for juvenile delinquents), she felt unwanted by them.[30] Tan's visits to Lim became regular, and their relationship grew intimate.[31] In 1975 she moved into his flat on his insistence. To allay his wife's suspicions that he was having an affair with Tan, Lim swore an oath of denial before a picture of Jesus Christ. However, she discovered the truth and moved out with their children a few days later, divorcing Lim in 1976.[32] Lim quit his Rediffusion job and became a full-time medium. He enjoyed brisk business,[33] at one point receiving S$6,000–7,000 (US$2,838–3,311)[fn 5] a month from a single client.[35] In June 1977, Lim and Tan registered their marriage.[36]

Lim dominated Tan through beatings, threats, and lies.[37] He persuaded her to prostitute herself to supplement their income.[38] He also convinced her that he needed to fornicate with young women to stay healthy; thus, Tan assisted him in his business, preparing their clients for his pleasure.[39] Lim's influence over Tan was strong; on his encouragement and promise that sex with a younger man would preserve her youth, Tan copulated with a Malay teenager and even with her younger brother.[36] The boy was not her only sibling to be influenced by Lim; the medium had earlier seduced Tan's younger sister and tricked her into selling her body and having sex with the two youths.[40] Despite the abuses, Tan lived with Lim, enjoying the dresses, beauty products and slimming courses bought with their income.[41]

Hoe Kah Hong

File:Hoe Kah Hong.jpg

Hoe Kah Hong steadfastly believed in Lim, conscientiously executing his orders.

Born on 10 September 1955, Hoe was eight years old when her father died; she was sent to live with her grandmother until she was fifteen. When she returned to her mother and siblings she was constantly required to give way to her elder sister Lai Ho. Under the perception that her mother favoured her sister, Hoe became disgruntled, showing her temper easily.[42] In 1979 her mother brought Lai to Lim for treatment, and became convinced of Lim's powers by his "needles and egg" trick. Believing that Hoe's volatile temper could also be cured by Lim, the old woman brought her younger daughter to the medium.[43] After witnessing the same trick, Hoe became Lim's loyal follower.[44][fn 6] Lim desired to make Hoe one of his "holy wives", even though she was already married to Benson Loh Ngak Hua. To achieve his goal, Lim sought to isolate Hoe from her family by feeding her lies. He claimed that her family were immoral people who practiced infidelity, and that Loh was an unfaithful man who would force her into prostitution. Hoe believed Lim's words, and after going through a rite with him she was declared by the medium as his "holy wife". She no longer trusted her husband and family, and became violent towards her mother. Three months after she had first met Lim, Hoe moved from her house and went to live with him.[46]

Loh sought his wife at Lim's flat and ended up staying to observe her treatment. He was persuaded by her to participate in the electro-shock therapies. In the early hours of 7 January 1980, Loh sat with Hoe, their arms locked together and their feet in separate tubs of water. Lim applied a large voltage to Loh, who was electrocuted, while Hoe was stunned into unconsciousness. When she woke, Lim requested her to lie to the police about Loh's death. Hoe repeated the story Lim had given her, saying that her husband had been electrocuted in their bedroom when he tried to switch on a faulty electric fan in the dark.[47] The coroner recorded an open verdict,[48] and the police made no further investigations.[49]

Despite her antipathy towards Loh, Hoe was affected by his death. Her sanity broke; she started hearing voices and hallucinating, seeing her dead husband. At the end of May she was admitted to the Woodbridge Hospital. There, psychologists diagnosed her condition as schizophrenia and started appropriate treatments. Hoe made a remarkably quick recovery; by the first week of July, she was discharged. She continued her treatment with the hospital; follow-up checks showed that she was in a state of remission. Hoe's attitude towards her mother and other family members began to improve after her stay in the hospital, although she continued to live with Lim and Tan.[50]

Rape and revenge

With Hoe and Tan as his assistants, Lim continued his trade, tricking more women into giving him money and sex.[fn 7] In late 1980 he was arrested and charged with rape. His accuser was Lucy Lau, a door-to-door cosmetic salesgirl, who had met Lim when she was promoting beauty products to Tan. On 19 October, Lim told Lau that a ghost was haunting her, but he could exorcise it with his sex rituals. She was unconvinced, but the medium persisted. He secretly mixed two capsules of Dalmadorm, a sedative, into a glass of milk and offered it to her, claiming it had holy properties. Lau became groggy after drinking it, which allowed Lim to take advantage of her.[49] For the next few weeks, he continued to abuse her by using drugs or threats. In November, after Lim had given her parents a loan smaller than the amount they had requested, Lau made a police report about his treatment of her. Lim was arrested on charges of rape, and Tan for abetting him. Out on bail, Lim persuaded Hoe to lie that she was present at the alleged rape but saw no crime committed. This failed to stop the police enquiries; Lim and Tan had to extend their bail, in person, at the police station every fortnight.[52]

File:Lim's Altar.jpg

Lim prayed [at this altar] to Buddha, Phragann, Kali, and a variety of gods.

Frustrated, Lim plotted to distract the police with a series of child murders.[53] Moreover, he believed that sacrifices of children to Kali would persuade her supernaturally to draw the attention of the police away from him. Lim pretended to be possessed by Kali, and convinced Tan and Hoe that the goddess wanted them to kill children to wreak vengeance on Lau.[54] He also told them Phragann demanded that he have sex with their female victims.[55]

On 24 January 1981, Hoe spotted Agnes at a nearby church and lured her to the flat. The trio plied her with food and drink that was laced with Dalmadorm. After Agnes became groggy and fell asleep, Lim sexually abused her. Near midnight, the trio smothered Agnes with a pillow and drew her blood, drinking and smearing it on a portrait of Kali. Following that, they drowned the girl by holding down her head in a pail of water.[56] Finally, Lim used his electro-shock therapy device to "make doubly sure that she was dead".[57] They stuffed her body in a bag and dumped it near the lift at Block 11.[56]

Ghazali suffered a similar fate when he was brought by Hoe to the flat on 6 February. He, however, proved resistant to the sedatives, taking a long time to fall asleep. Lim decided to tie up the boy as a precaution; however, the boy awoke and struggled. Panicking, the trio delivered karate chops to Ghazali's neck and stunned him. After drawing his blood, they proceeded to drown their victim. Ghazali struggled, vomiting and losing control of his bowels as he died. Blood kept streaming from his nose after his death. While Tan stayed behind to clean the flat, Lim and Hoe disposed the body. Lim noticed that a trail of blood led to their flat, so he and his accomplices cleaned as much as they could of these stains before sunrise.[58] What they missed led the police to their flat and resulted in their arrest.


Two days after their arrest, Lim, Tan and Hoe were charged in the Subordinate Court for the murders of the two children. The trio were subjected to further interrogations by the police, and to medical examinations by prison doctors. On 16–17 September, their case was brought to the court for a committal procedure. To prove that there was a case against the accused, Deputy Public Prosecutor Glenn Knight called on 58 witnesses and arrayed 184 pieces of evidence before the magistrate. While Tan and Hoe denied the charges of murder, Lim pleaded guilty and claimed sole responsibility for the acts. The magistrate decided that the case against the accused was sufficiently strong to be heard at the High Court. Lim, Tan, and Hoe remained in custody while investigations continued.[59]

Judiciary, prosecution, and defence

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The murder case was heard in Courtroom No. 4 of the old Supreme Court Building.

The High Court was convened in the Supreme Court Building on 25 March 1983.[60] Presiding over the case were two judges: Justice Thirugnana Sampanthar Sinnathuray, who would deliver judgment on serial murderer John Martin Scripps 12 years later,[61] and Justice Frederick Arthur Chua, who was at the time the longest serving judge in Singapore.[62] Knight continued to build his case on the evidence gathered by detective work. Photographs of the crime scenes, together with witness testimonies, would help the court to visualise the events that led to the crimes. Other evidence—the blood samples, religious objects, drugs, and the notes with Ng and Ghazali's names—conclusively proved the defendants' involvement. Knight had no eyewitnesses to the murders; his evidence was circumstantial, but he told the court in his opening statement, "What matters is that [the accused] did intentionally suffocate and drown these two innocent children, causing their deaths in circumstances which amount to murder. And this we will prove beyond all reasonable doubt."[63]

Tan, with Lim's and the police's permission, used $10,000 of the $159,340[64] (US$4,730 of US$75,370) seized from the trio's flat to engage J. B. Jeyaretnam for her defence.[65][66] Hoe had to accept the court's offer of counsel, receiving Nathan Isaac as her defender. Since his arrest, Lim had refused legal representation. He defended himself at the Subordinate Court hearings,[67] but could not continue to do so when the case was moved to the High Court; Singapore law requires that for capital crimes the accused must be defended by a legal professional. Thus Howard Cashin was appointed as Lim's lawyer,[68] although his job was complicated by his client's refusal to cooperate.[69] The three lawyers decided not to dispute that their clients had killed the children. Acting on a defence of diminished responsibility, they attempted to show that their clients were not sound of mind and could not be held responsible for the killings.[70][fn 8]


After Knight had presented the prosecution evidence the court heard testimonies on the personalities and character flaws of the accused, from their relatives and acquaintances. Details of their lives were revealed by one of Lim's "holy wives". Private medical practitioners Dr. Yeo Peng Ngee and Dr. Ang Yiau Hua admitted that they were Lim's sources for drugs, and had provided the trio sleeping pills and sedatives without question on each consultation.[72][fn 9] The police and forensics teams gave their accounts of their investigations; Inspector Suppiah, the investigating officer-in-charge, read out the statements the defendants had made during their remand. In these statements Lim stated that he had killed for revenge, and that he had sodomised Ng. The accused had also confirmed in their statements that each was an active participant in the murders.[75][fn 10] Lim's involvement in the crimes was further evidenced by a witness who vouched that just after midnight on 7 February 1981, at the ground floor of Block 12, he saw Lim and a woman walk past him carrying a dark-skinned boy .[77]

Template:Quote box On 13 April Lim took the stand. He maintained that he was the sole perpetrator of the crimes.[78] He denied that he raped Lucy Lau or Ng, claiming that he made the earlier statements only to satisfy his interrogators.[79][80] Lim was selective in answering the questions the court threw at him; he verbosely answered those that agreed with his stance, and refused to comment on the others.[78] When challenged on the veracity of his latest confession, he claimed that he was bound by religious and moral duty to tell the truth.[81] Knight, however, countered that Lim was inherently a dishonest man who had no respect for oaths. Lim had lied to his wife, his clients, the police, and psychiatrists. Knight claimed Lim's stance in court was an open admission that he willingly lied in his earlier statements.[82] Tan and Hoe were more cooperative, answering the questions posed by the court. They denied Lim's story, and vouched for the veracity of the statements they had given to the police.[83] They told how they had lived in constant fear and awe of Lim; believing he had supernatural powers, they followed his every order and had no free will of their own.[84] Under Knight's questioning, however, Tan admitted that Lim had been defrauding his customers, and that she had knowingly helped him to do so.[85] Knight then got Hoe to agree that she was conscious of her actions at the time of the murders.[86]

Battle of the psychiatrists

No one doubted that Lim, Tan, and Hoe had killed the children. Their defence was based on convincing the judges that medically, the accused were not in total control of themselves during the crimes. The bulk of the trial was therefore a battle between expert witnesses called by both sides. Dr Wong Yip Chong, a senior psychiatrist in private practice, believed that Lim was mentally ill at the time of the crimes. Claiming to be "judging by the big picture, and not fussing over contradictions",[87] he said that Lim's voracious sexual appetite and deluded belief in Kali were characteristics of a mild manic depression. The doctor also said that only an unsound mind would dump the bodies close to his home when his plan was to distract the police.[88] In rebuttal, the prosecution's expert witness, Dr Chee Kuan Tsee, a psychiatrist at Woodbridge Hospital,[89] said that Lim was "purposeful in his pursuits, patient in his planning and persuasive in his performance for personal power and pleasure".[90] In Dr Chee's opinion, Lim had indulged in sex because through his role as a medium he obtained a supply of women who were willing to go to bed with him. Furthermore, his belief in Kali was religious in nature, not delusional. Lim's use of religion for personal benefit indicated full self-control. Lastly, Lim had consulted doctors and freely taken sedatives to alleviate his insomnia, a condition which, according to Dr Chee, sufferers from manic depression fail to recognise.[91]

Dr R. Nagulendran, a consultant psychiatrist, testified that Tan was mentally impaired by reactive psychotic depression. According to him she was depressed before she met Lim, due to her family background. Physical abuse and threats from Lim deepened her depression; drug abuse led her to hallucinate and believe the medium's lies.[90] Dr Chee disagreed; he said that Tan had admitted to being quite happy with the material lifestyle Lim gave to her, enjoying fine clothes and beauty salon treatments. A sufferer from reactive psychotic depression would not have paid such attention to her appearance. Also, Tan had earlier confessed to knowing Lim was a fraud, but changed her stance in court to claim she was acting completely under his influence. Although Dr Chee had neglected Lim's physical abuse of Tan in his judgment, he was firm in his opinion that Tan was mentally sound during the crimes.[92] Both Dr Nagulendran and Dr Chee agreed that Hoe suffered from schizophrenia long before she met Lim, and that her stay in Woodbridge Hospital had helped her recovery. However, while Dr Nagulendran was convinced that Hoe suffered a relapse during the time of the child killings, Dr Chee pointed out that none of the Woodbridge doctors saw any signs of relapse during the six months of her follow-up checks (16 July 1980 – 31 January 1981).[93][94] If Hoe had been as severely impaired by her condition as Dr Nagulendran described, she would have become an invalid. Instead, she methodically abducted and helped kill a child on two occasions.[93] Ending his testimony, Dr Chee stated that it was incredible that three people with different mental illnesses should share a common delusion of receiving a request to kill from a god.[95]

Closing statements

In their closing speeches, the defence tried to reinforce the portrayal of their clients as mentally disturbed individuals. Cashin said that Lim was a normal man until his initiation into the occult, and that he was clearly divorced from reality when he entered the "unreasonable world of atrociousness", acting on his delusions to kill children in Kali's name.[96] Jeyaretnam said that due to her depression and Lim's abuse, Tan was just "a robot", carrying out orders without thought.[96] Isaac simply concluded, "[Hoe's] schizophrenic mind accepted that if the children were killed, they would go to heaven and not grow up evil like her mother and others."[97] The defence criticised Dr Chee for failing to recognise their clients' symptoms.[90][97]

The prosecution started its closing speech by drawing attention to the "cool and calculating" manner in which the children were killed.[98] Knight also argued that the accused could not have shared the same delusion, and only brought it up during the trial.[97] The "cunning and deliberation" displayed in the acts could not have been done by a deluded person.[98] Tan helped Lim because "she loved [him]", and Hoe was simply misled into helping the crimes.[99] Urging the judges to consider the ramifications of their verdict, Knight said: "My Lords, to say that Lim was less than a coward who preyed on little children because they could not fight back; killed them in the hope that he would gain power or wealth and therefore did not commit murder, is to make no sense of the law of murder. It would lend credence to the shroud of mystery and magic he has conjured up his practices and by which he managed to frighten, intimidate and persuade the superstitious, the weak and the gullible into participating in the most lewd and obscene acts."[99]


On 25 May 1983, crowds massed outside the building, waiting for the outcome of the trial. Due to limited seating, only a few were allowed inside to hear Justice Sinnathuray's delivery of the verdict, which took 15 minutes. The two judges were not convinced that the accused were mentally unsound during the crimes. They found Lim to be "abominable and depraved" in carrying out his schemes.[100] Viewing her interviews with the expert witnesses as admissions of guilt,[101] Sinnathuray and Chua found Tan to be an "artful and wicked person", and a "willing [party] to [Lim's] loathsome and nefarious acts".[102] The judges found Hoe to be "simple" and "easily influenced".[102] Although she suffered from schizophrenia, they noted that she was in a state of remission during the murders; hence she should bear full responsibility for her actions.[103] All three defendants were found guilty of murder and sentenced to be hanged. The two women did not react to their sentences. On the other hand, Lim beamed and cried, "Thank you, my Lords!", as he was led out.[104]

Lim accepted his fate; the women did not, and appealed against their sentences. Tan hired Francis Seow to appeal for her, and the court again assigned Isaac to Hoe.[105] The lawyers asked the appeal court to reconsider the mental states of their clients during the murders, charging that the trial judges in their deliberations had failed to consider this point.[92] The Court of Criminal Appeal reached their decision in August 1986.[106] The appeal judges reaffirmed the decision of their trial counterparts, noting that as finders of facts, judges have the right to discount medical evidence in the light of evidence from other sources.[107][fn 11] Tan and Hoe's further appeals to London's Privy Council and Singapore President Wee Kim Wee met with similar failures.[106]

Having exhausted all their avenues for pardon, Tan and Hoe calmly faced their fates. While waiting on death row the trio were counselled by Catholic priests and nuns. In spite of the reputation that surrounded Lim, Father Brian Doro recalled the murderer as a "rather friendly person".[109] When the day of execution loomed, Lim asked Father Doro for absolution and Holy Communion. Likewise, Tan and Hoe had Sister Gerard Fernandez as their spiritual counsellor. The nun converted the two female convicts to Catholicism, and they received forgiveness and Holy Communion during their final days.[110] On 25 November 1988 the trio were given their last meal and led to the hangman's noose. Lim smiled throughout his last walk. After the sentences were carried out, the three murderers were given a short Catholic funeral mass by Father Doro,[111] and cremated on the same day.[112]


File:Sub Court crowd.jpg

Singaporeans crowded the grounds of the Subordinate Court (pictured) and other courts to catch a glimpse of the killers.

The trial on the Toa Payoh ritual murders was closely followed by the populace of Singapore. Throngs of people constantly packed the grounds of the courts, hoping to catch a glimpse of Adrian Lim and to hear the revelations first-hand. Reported by regional newspapers in detail, the gory and sexually explicit recounting of Lim's acts offended the sensibilities of some; Canon Frank Lomax, Vicar of St. Andrew's Anglican Church, complained to The Straits Times that the reports could have a corrupting effect on the young. His words received support from a few readers. Others, however, welcomed the open reporting, considering it helpful in raising public awareness of the need for vigilance even in a city with low crime rates.[113] Books, which covered the murders and the trial, were quickly bought by the public on their release.[114][115]

The revelations from the trial cast Lim as evil incarnate in the minds of Singaporeans.[116] Some citizens could not believe that anyone would willingly defend such a man. They called Cashin to voice their anger; a few even issued death threats against him.[68] On the other hand, Knight's name spread among Singaporeans as the man who brought Adrian Lim to justice, boosting his career. He handled more high-profile cases, and became the director of the Commercial Affairs Department in 1984. He would maintain his good reputation until his conviction for corruption seven years later.[117]

Even in prison, Lim was hated; his fellow prisoners abused and treated him as an outcast.[118] In the years that followed the crime, memories remained fresh among those who followed the case. Journalists deemed it the most sensational trial of the 80s, being "the talk of a horrified city as gruesome accounts of sexual perversion, the drinking of human blood, spirit possession, exorcism and indiscriminate cruelty unfolded during the 41-day hearing".[119] Fifteen years from the trial's conclusion, a poll conducted by The New Paper reported that 30 per cent of its respondents had picked the Toa Payoh ritual murders as the most horrible crime, despite the paper's request to vote only for crimes committed in 1998.[120] Lim had become a benchmark for local criminals; in 2002 Subhas Anandan described his client, wife-killer Anthony Ler, as a "cooler, more handsome version of [the] notorious Toa Payoh medium-murderer".[121]

During the 1990s, the local film industry made two movies based on the murder case, the first of which was Medium Rare. The 1991 production had substantial foreign involvement; most of the cast and crew were American or British. The script was locally written and intended to explore the "psyche of the three main characters".[122] The director, however, focused on sex and violence, and the resulting film was jeered by the audience at its midnight screening.[122] Its 16-day run brought in $130,000 (US$75,145),[123][fn 12] and a reporter called it "more bizarre than the tales of unnatural sex and occult practices associated with the Adrian Lim story".[125] The second film, 1997's God or Dog, also had a dismal box-office performance[126] despite a more positive critical reception.[127] Both shows had difficulty in finding local actors for the lead role; Zhu Houren declined on the basis that Adrian Lim was too unique a personality for an actor to portray accurately,[128] and Xie Shaoguang rejected the role for the lack of "redeeming factors" in the murderer.[129] On the television, the murder case would have been the opening episode for True Files, a crime awareness programme in 2002. The public, however, complained that the trailers were too gruesome with the re-enactments of the rituals and murders, forcing the media company MediaCorp to reshuffle the schedule. The Toa Payoh ritual murders episode was replaced by a less sensational episode as the opener and pushed back into a later timeslot for more mature viewers, marking the horrific nature of the crimes committed by Lim, Tan, and Hoe.[130]


  1. Although the case name suggested ritualistic murders,[1][2] the defendants said they did not conduct prayers, burning of joss sticks, ringing of bells, or any other rituals during the killings.[3]
  2. It is not the norm for Kali's worshippers to make blood offerings. Her portfolio consists of warding off evil and calamities, and does not require sacrifices.[4]
  3. Lim's customers also include superstitious men and elderly females, both of whom he cheated only of cash.[22]
  4. Lim used a small figurine of Phragann in his rituals, and wore it around his waist during sex. The two main sources differed in their naming of this object. John referred to it as Pragngan, while Narayanan cited the police reports, calling it Phragann.
  5. The exchange rate is 2.11, based on averaging the 12 months of the exchange rates for 1981.[34]
  6. She firmly believed in the trick and Lim's ability until Tan revealed to her the trick's workings during their questioning at the police station.[45]
  7. By the time of his arrest, he had 40 "holy wives".[51]
  8. If this defence was successful, the defendant would have escaped the death penalty and faced either life imprisonment, or up to 10 years in jail.[71]
  9. Both doctors were disciplined for their actions by the Singapore Medical Council in 1990; Yeo was struck off the Medical Register, and Ang was suspended for three months.[73] Yeo, however, successfully reapplied for his restoration in the following year.[74]
  10. There were many contradictions among these statements and the confessions made in court by the accused, but Judge Sinnathuray declared that despite the conflicting evidence, "the essential facts of this case are not in dispute".[76]
  11. The Privy Council gave a similar ruling in their review of Walton v. the Queen, a 1989 British murder trial.[108]
  12. In comparison, the 1996 box-office comedy hit Army Daze took in $500,000 (US$289,017) for its first four days.[124] Exchange rate of 1.73 is derived from a 12-month average for 1991.[34]


  1. Sit (1989), I Confess, xiii.
  2. Sit (1989), Was Adrian Lim Mad?, xiii.
  3. John (1989), 187, 202.
  4. John (1989), ii.
  5. DeBernadi (2006), 1–14.
  6. Thung (1977), 229.
  7. Trocki (2006), 146.
  8. Thung (1977), 231–232.
  9. Rowen (1998), 116–117.
  10. Quah (1987), 49.
  11. Naren (2000), 24.
  12. John (1989), 9.
  13. John (1989), 2–3.
  14. Narayanan (1989), 166–167.
  15. John (1989), 7–8.
  16. Narayanan (1989), 9.
  17. John (1989), 8.
  18. 18.0 18.1 John (1989), 10.
  19. John (1989), 162.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Narayanan (1989), 80.
  21. John (1989), 17–19.
  22. John (1989), 18, 34.
  23. John, p.12–13.
  24. Narayanan (1989), 86, 89.
  25. Narayanan (1989), 30–31.
  26. John (1989), 19–20.
  27. Narayanan (1989), 46–47.
  28. Kok (1990), 70.
  29. John (1989), 28.
  30. John (1989), 26–27.
  31. John (1989), 29–31.
  32. Narayanan (1989), 113–114.
  33. John (1989), 33–35.
  34. 34.0 34.1
  35. John (1989), 37.
  36. 36.0 36.1 John (1989), 36.
  37. John (1989), 34.
  38. John (1989), 32.
  39. John (1989), 170–171.
  40. John (1989), 171.
  41. John (1989), 186.
  42. John (1989), 40–41.
  43. John (1989), 37–38.
  44. John (1989), 40–42.
  45. John (1989), 196.
  46. John (1989), 43–45.
  47. John (1989), 46–48.
  48. Narayanan (1989), 111.
  49. 49.0 49.1 John (1989), 48.
  50. Kok (1990), 44.
  51. Narayanan (1989), 6.
  52. John (1989), 49.
  53. John (1989), 61.
  54. John (1989), 84.
  55. Narayanan (1989), 45.
  56. 56.0 56.1 John (1989), 92–94.
  57. John (1989), 94.
  58. John (1989), 95–97.
  59. John (1989), 51–52.
  60. John (1989), 52.
  61. Tan (October 1997).
  62. John (1989), x.
  63. John (1989), 55.
  64. John (1989), 56.
  65. Narayanan (1989), 28.
  66. John (1989), 67.
  67. John (1989), 51.
  68. 68.0 68.1 John (1989), 117.
  69. John (1989), 127.
  70. Narayanan (1989), 155.
  71. Tan (April 1997).
  72. John (1989), 107–116.
  73. Fernandez (1990).
  74. Lim (1991).
  75. John (1989), 61–70.
  76. John (1989), 198.
  77. John (1989), 56–60.
  78. 78.0 78.1 John (1989), 121.
  79. John (1989), 132–133.
  80. John (1989), 154–156.
  81. John (1989), 155.
  82. John (1989), 157–158.
  83. John (1989), 168, 198.
  84. John (1998), 164–165, 203.
  85. John (1989), 180–181.
  86. John (1989), 202–203.
  87. John (1989), 208.
  88. Kok (1990), 71.
  89. John (1989), 204.
  90. 90.0 90.1 90.2 Kok (1990), 72.
  91. John (1989), 209.
  92. 92.0 92.1 Kok (1990), 73.
  93. 93.0 93.1 Kok (1990), 45.
  94. John (1989), 202.
  95. John (1989), 217.
  96. 96.0 96.1 John (1989), 218.
  97. 97.0 97.1 97.2 John (1989), 219.
  98. 98.0 98.1 John (1989), 220.
  99. 99.0 99.1 John (1989), 221.
  100. John (1989), 224–225.
  101. Kok (1994), 53.
  102. 102.0 102.1 John (1989), 225.
  103. Kok (1994), 94.
  104. John (1989), 226.
  105. John (1989), 227.
  106. 106.0 106.1 John (1989), 228.
  107. Kok (1990), 73–74.
  108. Kok (1990), 74.
  109. Davie (1989).
  110. Naryanan (1989), 14–15.
  111. Naryanan (1989), 14.
  112. John (1989), 229.
  113. John (1989), 116–118
  114. Khor (September 1989).
  115. Khor (October 1989).
  116. Yap (1995).
  117. Tan (1998).
  118. Yaw (1991).
  119. Davidson (1990).
  120. Low (1998).
  121. Vijayan (2002).
  122. 122.0 122.1 Uhde (2000), 109–110.
  123. Uhde (2000), 110.
  124. Uhde (2000), 114.
  125. Guneratne (2003), 172.
  126. Millet (2006), 96.
  127. Uhde (2000), 115.
  128. Lee (June 1996).
  129. Lee (May 1996).
  130. Tan (2002).


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