Ex-detective hunted down cop killer the 'old-fashioned way'

Ex-detective hunted down cop killer the 'old-fashioned way'

Three individuals, whose stories are featured in the book Living The Singapore Story: Celebrating Our 50 Years 1965-2015, tell GAO WENXIN (wxgao@sph.com.sg) what life was like in the early years of independence

Singapore may have low crime rates now but in the 60s and 70s, things weren't quite the same.

Former police detective Abd Rahman Khan Gulap Khan, 65, told The New Paper about a colleague who was killed by a gunman while investigating a minor traffic accident in July 1973.

Detective Ong Poh Heng, 28, was resolving an argument between a car driver and a bus driver when he was shot.

Since detectives wore plain clothes and carried only short-barrel revolvers that were easy to conceal, Detective Ong had to identify himself as a police officer.

When he did this, the armed criminal fired two shots at Detective Ong's chest and escaped with his Smith & Wesson revolver.

"In those days, criminals and robbers would often carry guns stolen from police officers. They would not hesitate to kill a cop," said Mr Rahman.

From the 1960s to 1980s, there were at least nine reported cases of police officers being shot dead.

Mr Rahman, who was a detective in the Rural West Division (now Jurong Police Division), worked with other detectives to establish the identity of the gunman, whom they nicknamed the Cop Killer.

Police then did not have the technology to collect evidence by using methods like conducting DNA analysis, so they solved the case the old-fashioned way - with a lot of legwork.

"We made friends with criminals, bargirls, in order to gain their trust," said Mr Rahman.

The detectives asked their informants in the "underworld" who they thought was the likely suspect.

One of them gave the police a lead, saying that one of the most confrontational thugs was a 20-year-old man called Botak (Malay for bald).

This was a breakthrough for Mr Rahman, as he knew the parents of Botak, whose real name was Hoo How Seng.

They lived near Mr Rahman's grandmother in Johor. So he visited her and dropped by Botak's family home and asked after him.


Mr Rahman got a breakthrough when they told him Botak had moved to Singapore. They even gave him a photo of Botak as they wanted Mr Rahman to be able to recognise him.

The detective then got Hoo's address from the Malaysian immigration office.

Armed with the new information, six detectives planned to ambush Hoo at his residence in Cavenagh Road, only a short distance from the Istana.

Since he was armed, Mr Rahman said the police lured him out by making a phonecall to tip off his live-in girlfriend, Jenny, a cabaret girl.

He said: "We told her in Cantonese that they should escape, because the police were coming."

As Hoo escaped down the staircase, one of the detectives subdued him while Mr Rahman held on to his revolver.

Hoo still managed to fire three shots, triggering a shoot-out.

The first two bullets burned Mr Rahman's palm and the third grazed his stomach.

But the detectives eventually shot Botak in the head and he died 13 minutes later.

Mr Rahman spent 35 years in the police force, and although he is now working as a Security Operations Manager at the National University of Singapore, he still keeps his police contacts to contribute his experience when it is needed.

Looking back, being shot by the Cop Killer was not the most painful moment for Mr Rahman: "The three tetanus jabs they gave me in the hospital were much worse. I could not sleep on my buttocks for days."



58 stories of Singaporeans from all walks of life, to celebrate 50 years of nation-building


Available at major bookstores and on Amazon, as well as all public libraries from today



This article was first published on May 16, 2015.
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