No closure for family of "gentle man"

Of the 16 murders committed here last year, only one remains unsolved.

For the family of this victim, sadly, there has not been any closure. For those who knew him, they are still hoping that justice will be served.

Especially when the victim had helped others without asking for anything in return.

The body of Mr Gouse Shariff was found at Aliwal Street near Arab Street on May 21 last year.

His body told the story of how he met a violent end early that day. The 60-year-old had a wound on the right side of his chest and paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene at about 1am.

Mr Gouse was found lying face down on the ground next to a stone bench at an electrical sub-station at Aliwal Street at about 12.45am. He was shirtless and was wearing a pair of black trousers.

When he was alive, the rag-and-bone man used to help out at the nearby Sultan Mosque by performing odd jobs.

No enemies

Speaking to The New Paper last Friday, Mr Asmawi Said, the mosque's executive officer, said: "Until now, I still wonder, why would anybody want to kill him? As far as I know, he had no enemies.

"He was a gentle man who did not mix around much with others. I hope the police will arrest the murderer soon."

Mr Asmawi said that Mr Gouse used to work full-time as a cleaner at Sultan Mosque in 2003, but quit in 2004.

Despite this, he still returned to the mosque every day at around 5pm to help clean the premises, leaving only at around 9pm after performing his evening prayers.

Said Mr Asmawi: "He did all these voluntarily. He would sweep the mosque compound and help lay out the mats for the Friday prayers.

"We tried to help him by giving him money or food, but he refused to accept them."

Mr Asmawi last saw him alive after Friday prayers last year.

He later found out from other mosque volunteers that Mr Gouse had been killed.

Mr Asmawi added that because Mr Gouse had no place to stay, he would spend his nights out at Aliwal Street.

Malay-language daily Berita Harian reported last year that Mr Gouse was very close to his sister, Madam Nurjahanbee Dewan Shariff, who is a year older than him.

He used to visit her home every few days to change his clothes.

The report said Mr Gouse visited her shortly before his death to pass her his bank book and ATM card as he had just opened a bank account.

Madam Nurjahanbee told Berita Harian: "He also gave me the PIN (personal identification number) so that it would be easy for me to make withdrawals should there be any emergencies."

TNP spoke to her last week and she stifled a sob when we mentioned her brother's death. She apologised and declined to be interviewed.

"I'm sorry, but I'm still very sad about the whole incident. I hope you understand," she said.

Shopkeepers and workers at Aliwal Street TNP spoke to said Mr Gouse used to collect used items in the area before selling them off at the "Thieves' Market" at Sungei Road.

One of them, who wanted to be known only as Madam Su, said: "I was very shocked when I found out about the murder."

She owns a food stall in a coffee shop, a stone's throw away from where Mr Gouse's body was found.

Said the 43-year-old said: "I came to work as normal and did not notice anything out of the ordinary that morning. I knew about it only after some friends in the area told me about it."

Madam Su said that she has been working in the area for about 10 years and it was the first time she had heard of a murder in the neighbourhood.

She said: "This is Singapore - a very safe country. There is nothing to be afraid of.

"Moreover, this is a very good place to do business. I'm sure this is just a one-off incident. I just hope the murderer will be caught soon."

A check on the police website reveals that the number of murder cases last year was a 20-year low. There were 19 murder cases in 2009 and 2010, and 25 in 2008.

The police said they are still investigating Mr Gouse's death, adding that anyone with information on the case should call the police hotline at 1800-255-0000.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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