Tan Keng Lee (Bukit Brown)

It was the first case of adalin poisoning to appear in the courts and the deceased was Miss Tan Keng Lee, 26 years of age and daughter of the late Mr Tan Tiong Seng, a General Manger of Overseas Chinese Bank.  The coroner gave a verdict of suicide after conducting autopsy of the deceased and from the facts provided during cross examination of witnesses, she died as result of overdosing herself with adalin (a drug commonly used for headaches).

Miss Tan Keng Lee / Tan Keng Bee tried to take her on life on 2 separate occasions, with one serious enough that kept her unconscious for 3 days. Finally on 1 August 1933 she was found unconscious near her father's grave in Bukit Brown and died 4 days later without regaining consciousness.

Miss Tan Keng Lee

(source: NewspaperSG)

"Suicide girl"

Witness account from Mr Samat bin Haji Abdullah (the grave caretaker of Mr Tan Tiong Seng's tomb who lived and worked in Bukit Brown) and Madam Lim Kee Neo (Miss Tan Keng Lee's mother), painted a story of a girl depressed and upset after her father's death in 1930. Seeing this change, her mother sent her to China for a change. Miss Tan Keng Lee returned 10 months later but had a relapsed. Desperation led to the family,calling to both doctors and of Chinese Priest called to "drive the spirits away".

She recovered and was engaged, set to be married to a principal of a local chinese school. Unfortunately, she had a sudden illness and the marriage was postponed. On August 1, 1933, at 8 am in the morning, Miss Tan Keng Lee sought permission from her mother to go out  for shopping. She was driven out by the family driver and when he returned at 1 pm with the children from school, Miss Tan Keng Lee was not with him. While the driver was relating the story, grave caretaker (Samat) arrived to inform that Madam Lim Kee Neo that her daughter was lying unconscious in his house after appearing giddily in his house at noon. She died with recovering 4 days later.

"Suicide girl" was the name the Bukit Brown group of enthusiast ("Brownies") coined for her initially, but hopefully with this article we can now know her as Miss Tan Keng Lee, an unfortunate girl who died because of her mental illness. Her tomb, located at Hill 3 Section D, plot  974/ 991 is not easy to find although close by to her parents due to the heavy foliage growing around her tomb.

Foliage growing around the tomb 


Mr. Tan Tiong Seng was the General Manager of Overseas Chinese Bank until the time of his death on September 4 , 1930 at the age of 59. He came to Singapore 40 years ago and from a clerk, worked his way up. He has considerable number of property and left behind a widow and 7 children.

Madam Lim Kee Neo ( Mrs Tan Tiong Seng) passed away at the age of 91 on February 28, 1968, leaving behind 2 sons, Tan Kheng Chuan, Tan Tee Chock, daughters; Tan Cheng Hiong, Tan Kheng Yan, Tan Poh Tee, Tan Kheng Yean, Tan Kheng Hwe, Tan Kheng Chwe and Tan Kheng Wan, 3 sons-in-law, 2 daughters-in-law,34 grandchildren, 21 great grand children. The cortege left from No 15 Draycott Drive.
Their tomb is located at Hill 3 Sec D, plot 811/828/971

The recently cleared tomb of Mr Tan Tiong Seng 
Mr Tan Tiong Seng. (1930, September 6). The Straits Times, page 12
Over father's grave. (1933, August 17). The Singapore Free Press, page 7
Girl who pined for her father. (1933, August 17). The Straits Times, page 12
Advertisement. (1968, February 29). The Straits Times, page 16
Engaged to Principal of A School. (1933, August 17). Malaya Tribune, page 10



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