S'pore woman, 64, spends years investigating empty $1m condo that attracts pests & emits foul smells

The owner of the house supposedly died in 1996 but someone has continued to pay maintenance fees for the empty unit.

Andrew Koay | July 13, 2021, 09:18 PM

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For the past three years, Frieda Lee has been investigating an abandoned flat worth over S$1 million at Eng Aun Mansion in Thomson.

However, the 64-year-old is not a detective of any sort, but instead a self-described "typical housewife".

She is a resident at the condominium who wants to resolve the issue of dead pigeons and the stench that emits from the empty unit.

Dead birds

Outside the door of unit 310C, on the top floor of the old-fashioned walk-up apartment, Lee explained how the matter had come to her attention in 2018 after she noticed dead birds around the estate.

"In 2018 I saw at least three dead pigeons, and in a subsequent year, I saw another two dead pigeons. Every year there would be dead pigeons."

"And there would be birds' droppings too," she added.

Lee then realised that many pigeons were flying in and out of one of the units — 310C — through its dilapidated windows.

Earlier this year in February, police also entered the unit after neighbours complained of "a foul smell".

Image of Frieda Lee and a member of the Singapore Crime Library. Frieda Lee (L) and Joanna Khoo, a volunteer with Crime Library Singapore. Image by Andrew Koay

Home empty since 1996

Through some digging, Lee found out that the flat supposedly belonged to a woman surnamed Chong.

With the help of Crime Library Singapore, Lee eventually learned that Chong had passed away in 1996; she believes that the flat has been empty for the 25 years since then.

The plucky housewife even tracked down Chong's supposed burial site, which has mysteriously been left unmarked.

Image of Chong Siew Hong's unmarked grave Image by Frieda Lee

Further adding to Lee's intrigue about the empty unit, someone has continued to pay the condominium's maintenance fees, which come to S$100 a month.

Lee knows this because she served as the treasurer at Eng Aun Mansion's management corporation strata title for some time.

She believes that Chong's daughter — whom she believes to be a woman surnamed Chan — has been paying these fees, though her attempts to find the woman have thus far been unsuccessful.

Priced north of S$1.2 million

Lee first moved into Eng Aun Mansion with her husband in 1988 and has lived in the condominium at various times since then.

She however, has never met anyone who has lived at 310C.

Out of the 40-odd units at Eng Aun Mansion, Lee believes she is the only resident staying there that actually owns their abode; the rest are rentals.

At present, other flats in the building — which enjoys a freehold tenure — can be found listed online at prices north of S$1.2 million.

Entries into the empty apartment have occurred periodically, like in February's example with the police, or a more recent example where someone cleared some weeds that spontaneously sprouted from a crack in the windows.

Yet Lee is looking for a more sustainable and consistent way of dealing with the pests that have made 310C home.

She believes that establishing direct contact with whoever the apartment now belongs to, most likely Chan, will facilitate this.

"(I want) to see why she left it empty and to do something where the pigeons don't fly into the unit" said Lee.

image of the unit's door Image by Andrew Koay

Top image by Andrew Koay and courtesy of Freida Lee