JOHOR BARU - It will be a funeral in Malaysia for Estonian freelance model Regina Soosalu, whose body was found along a beach stretch at Pulau Rawa on July 1.
Her family made the decision to allow her friends in Asia to pay their last respects to Soosalu before the funeral, which is expected to be held later this week or next week.
A close family member, who declined to be named, said they were still unsure as to when the funeral would take place. He said, however, that the funeral rites would be conducted after Thursday.
"We decided against bringing her remains back to Estonia as it is expensive and we are not wealthy," he said via e-mail yesterday.
An earlier report, quoting Estonian honorary consul to Malaysia Datuk Harbans Singh, said one foreign airline was asking up to RM120,000 to bring the model's body back to her homeland.
"It has been two weeks since she passed away and we would just like to conduct the ceremony as soon as possible and to be by her side," said the relative, adding that the family had yet to decide whether to conduct the funeral in Kuala Lumpur or Johor Baru.
Family friends and an Estonian official in Malaysia were helping to arrange the travel plans and funds for the family to come to Malaysia.
"We are a close-knit family and this has been a trying time for us," said the family member, adding that they were touched by the support given to them.
"We thank them from the bottom of our hearts. She was a sweet person, friendly and caring," he said.
Her family and friends have uploaded various images of her childhood and teenage years on a community Facebook page dedicated to her life.
The page, "In loving memory of Regina Soosalu 7/Dec/1984-1/July/2014" has garnered over 2,100 likes with hundreds of messages of condolences and other posts uploaded by her family and friends.
Meanwhile, Johor CID chief Senior Asst Comm Datuk Hasnan Hassan said they had not set any date to return Soosalu's body to the family as investigations into her death were still ongoing.
Officials had initially thought the model, who was holidaying on the island at the time her body was found, had drowned.
However, it became a murder case when investigators found "suspicious wounds" on her body.
Seven men, including her boyfriend Tunku Alang Reza Tunku Ibrahim, were subsequently questioned over Soosalu's death.
On Tuesday, the police said two of the detained men have been released but it is learned that one man with links to royalty remained in police custody.