Skeletal Remains Suspected To Belong To The Sisters Discovered Almost 10 Years Apart

Abandoned for an undetermined period of time, a house at 17 Jalan Batai will soon be put up for auction at the end of the month on 27 Feb. Located in a tranquil estate surrounded by greenery, it will be priced between $1.7mil to $1.9mil.

However, what you may perhaps not know is the eerie history – dating back to at least 2006 – behind the single-storey terrace located near Upper Thomson Road.


Perhaps what makes the house most intriguing is the uncertainty surrounding its owners – Pearl and Ruby Tan – and how they died. Collectively referred to by media outlets as the reclusive Tan sisters, the mystery of their deaths may never truly be solved.

Let’s take a deeper look at what transpired.

Flat had been abandoned for awhile

With countless bank statements, reminders for bill payments and even food left untouched at the gate, it was clear that no one had occupied the house for quite some time.

However, in 2006, neighbours of the flat complained of mosquitoes that appeared to be breeding there. As a result, National Environment Agency (NEA) officers broke in to investigate.


Amidst the pile of undisturbed junk, nothing seemed out of the ordinary — could the owners have perhaps simply forgotten about the flat?


Much to the horrors of the officers, a grim discovery was soon made shortly after entry instead.

Skeleton discovered on the toilet

When they entered the restroom, a human skeleton was found lying face-up on the toilet.

While the identity was never officially discovered, it is widely believed that it had belonged to one of the sisters who had lived in the house.


Unfortunately, those living nearby were unable to confirm its identity either due to their isolated lives.

Mr Kunji Rahman, a neighbour who lived two doors away, mentioned that he hardly knew them despite having stayed in the estate for over 50 years.

I’ve lived here for 50 years, but never spoke to them. They didn’t like to talk.

Even after running the names through various government agencies, police officials were still unable to provide an identity — the skeleton had dried out to the extent that no DNA sample could be drawn from it.

Another skeletal remains discovered a decade later

Just when you thought the story behind flat couldn’t get any more peculiar, more skeletal remains was uncovered by a worker clearing rubble from the guest room nearly a decade later in September 2015.

This time it was a human skull and a thigh bone.


However, just like the ones found nine years prior, no DNA could be obtained from the bone sample.

State Coroner Marvin Bay stated that despite circumstantial evidence pointing the remains belonging to the sisters, he could not determine for sure that it was them and declared an open verdict.

Because of the very considerable time elapsed before the discovery of the second set of remains from the date of probable demise, as well as the reclusive manner that the two sisters lived their lives, eschewing social support and company of others, this case remains an enduring enigma.

To make matters more confusing, The Straits Times reported that Pearl – the elder of the two – was spotted leaving Singapore through the Woodlands Checkpoint in 2004 with no record of her returning.

Ruby was also said to have suffered from schizophrenia, and had a history of treatment from the Institute of Mental Health.


Could this have played a part into their mysterious deaths? If so, how do you then explain Pearl’s exit from Singapore?

Sisters hadn’t been seen for a long time

Neighbours were equally as baffled — with some informing police officials that the pair of sisters had not been seen for at least a decade.

Lawyer Freddy Neo – who lived next to the sisters from 1958 to 1979 – told The Straits Times that the house was always shrouded in darkness due to the blinds always being drawn. However, he stated that Ruby was known to be the friendlier of the two before being told by Pearl to stop mixing with the neighbours.

He added that their mother had passed away on National Day in 1970 and a funeral was held at the house.

At the time of the discovery of the first skeleton in 2006, Pearl would’ve been 81 while her sister, 68.

House open for claims and put up for auction

Unfortunately, as neither sisters left any known will, their assets – including the house – was to be given to the State under the Intestate Succession Act after the High Court issued an order to presume them both dead in 2015.


In 2016, the Public Trustee’s Office (PTO) – an administrator for the estates of deceased persons – sought interested parties to submit claims on the sisters’ estate.

However, despite a cousin, two nephews and a niece stepping forward, they were ultimately unsuccessful in their claims.

As a result, the PTO engaged Knight Frank to auction the property.


Stating how the current process is unlike any other properties up for auction, Knight Frank head of auction Sharon Lee had the following to say:

Those interested in the property offered for sale by PTO will have to bid at the auction on Feb 27. There will be no private treaty deals conducted before or after the auction.

What beholds the fate of the house? Only time will tell.

Reclusive lives of the Tan sisters

This tale is a grim reminder of how an isolated lifestyle can lead to no one noticing even when you’re gone. So much could’ve been done yet due to the nature of their lives, virtually no one was aware of the whereabouts of both Tan sisters.

Even their cousin, Ms Eunice Tan was befuddled. Expressing her sorrow at what’s happened, she had the following to say:

I suppose when you live on your own and don’t mix with people, that’s what becomes of you. It’s very sad, we could have done something if we had known it was so bad. But they didn’t seek any companionship, they just kept to themselves.

What do you think of the mystery surrounding the sisters?

Would you still buy the flat despite its eerie past?

Featured image from Edge Prop.