During the June school term break in 2002, 14-year-old Tina Lim Xin Ying disappeared after heading out to pay her ailing grandfather a visit.
This cold case was recently revisited by Lianhe Zaobao on Dec. 13, 2020.
The case: Girl disappears after leaving house to visit grandfather
Tina, who was staying at Choa Chu Kang Avenue 4, was last seen on June 22, 2002.
According to Zaobao, Tina was bored at home during the school break so her father, Lim Boon Kee, advised her to visit her sick grandfather in Jurong.
The girl called her aunt, who was staying with her grandfather, before leaving the house.
Before she left, Lim told Tina that he would pick her up the next day.
Tina never reached her grandfather's house.
That evening, Tina's aunt called Lim to inform him that the girl did not turn up at all.
Lim called his relatives and friends but no one had information about her. He also called the police and Tina's school.
When Tina left, she was dressed in a t-shirt, shorts, and slippers. She carried a blue-and-white haversack.
The girl had less than S$50 on her and did not bring along any extra clothes. She also did not bring her passport.
Because of this, her father did not think that his daughter ran away from home. Her disappearance stunned him.
Father: "It's pure mental torture"
Lim printed and distributed around 7,000 flyers with his daughter's details and his contact number. He also spent over S$1,000 on advertisements in the local papers.
He searched for Tina at her favourite shopping centres — Lot One and Jurong Point — and even went all the way to Ipoh, Penang, Sarawak, and Thailand.
"Maybe she fell into bad company," Lim told The New Paper, adding that Tina's grades fell drastically in the previous school term.
He was afraid that his daughter had been drugged or kidnapped.
According to Zaobao, Lim received at least 10 calls each day but none yielded anything useful.
Two months after Tina disappeared, the ever persistent Lim told The New Paper:
"Whatever it is, this must come to an end. I must at least get an answer. Otherwise it's pure mental torture. If someone has her, please let her go. Maybe she's too scared to come back. If she has run away, I promise I will not scold her or beat her if she comes back."
As the year went on, the hope of finding Tina ebbed.
It seemed like she would never be found again but little did the family know, Tina's grandfather's death would bring about a twist in the story.
Mysterious caller during Tina's grandfather's wake
Slightly over a year after Tina went missing, her sick grandfather passed away.
Lim put up an obituary in the newspapers and appealed through Shin Min Daily News for Tina to come home and pay her last respects to her grandfather who doted on her immensely when he was alive. His dying wish was to see his granddaughter one last time.
Nov. 1, 2003: The last day of Tina's grandfather's wake.
At 5.30pm, the phone rang. Lim took the call. There was silence. Lim instinctively knew that the caller was his daughter.
"I asked if she was Ah Ying and she said yes. She said she wanted to see her Ah Gong," he told The New Paper.
More ominous information came out during that call:
"I asked who she was with and she said she couldn't say. She also said she couldn't come back because someone wouldn't let her... She said she was in Singapore, but don't know exactly where, except that the place was very dark."
That wasn't the only call made to Lim's family that night. They received 10 calls in total between 5.30pm and midnight. The family managed to get their hands on a phone recorder and taped two conversations.
A TNP reporter who heard one of the recordings later wrote that the caller spoke in a hoarse whisper, accompanied by muffled sobbing, "as if she was afraid someone would overhear her".
Prank call or real distress?
However, here is the curious thing: According to Zaobao, police investigations traced the phone calls to a home in Pasir Ris. After interviewing the family residing in that location, the police determined that Tina did not make the call from that household.
Was it just a cruel prank?
Lim and his family swore that the girl they heard on the phone was Tina, even though they did not ask questions that could verify her identity.
While the calls led to a dead end, they gave the family renewed hope that Tina was alive.
Three years after Tina's disappearance, her father offered a S$30,000 reward for information on her whereabouts, but no news of her came in.
Tina was presumed dead in 2010, seven years after her disappearance.This article was put together from multiple archived media reports from NLB. Top images: Crime Library Singapore and NewspaperSG.