She had just got back from exercising and was chatting with neighbours when she heard cries for help.
When Ms Ng Yee Way, 61, went to investigate, she almost paid with her life.
A man who had just attacked another resident turned his anger and knife on her.
As they grappled, with Ms Ng fearing for her life while fending off his knife, she asked him: "Kill me for what?" Fortunately, he relented and told her she could go but she "must run very fast".
She escaped with cuts to her right palm and jaw, sustained during their struggle.
Mr Tan Ban Huat, 58, who lived on the eighth storey at Block 4, Marsiling Road, had earlier slashed a third-storey resident, Mr Abdul Majid Maarof, 62, with a chopper on Monday afternoon.
Shortly after, Mr Tan, a rag-and-bone man whom residents knew as Gemuk (Malay for fat) because of his large size, was found dead in his burning flat.
In an interview at a nearby coffee shop yesterday evening, Ms Ng recounted her terrifying ordeal.
When she and two residents went to the area where she heard the cries, she could not see anyone.
Thinking it was a fight, she took out her mobile phone to call the police. Then she looked up to see Mr Tan towering in front of her.
"By the time I realised he had a knife, it was too late for me to do anything," Ms Ng told The New Paper in Mandarin.
"He grabbed my hair and tried to stab me with the knife, but I managed to grab the handle and dodged the blow."
She said the two residents who were with her ran away instead of going to her aid.
During the struggle, Mr Tan pushed her to the ground and tried to cut her neck with the knife.
"I resisted and pushed back, but I could feel he was still trying to cut me - he was making a sawing motion with the knife. Then he hit my head against the ground," she said, adding that at this point, Mr Tan paused for a moment.
"That's when I started talking to him and said, 'Why are you hitting me and trying to stab me?' He asked me why I was being a busybody and had to interfere with what he was doing."
She said sorry to Mr Tan and told him that she had not seen anything.
"I told him, 'So don't kill me. You kill me for what? I didn't see anything. So let me go.'
"He replied, 'Okay, you can go, but you must run very fast.'"
She got up and ran away, using her clothes to try to stop the bleeding from her hands and face.
Paramedics later treated her and an ambulance took her to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH).
Ms Ng said: "I wasn't scared during the ordeal and kept telling myself that no matter what, I must not let go of the knife."
Ms Ng, whose right hand was bandaged and left jaw had a plaster, said her confrontation with Mr Tan could have stopped him from going after Mr Abdul Majid to continue his attack.
She added that before they were taken to hospital, she saw that Mr Abdul Majid's fingers were nearly severed and "dangling by the skin".
When TNP visited Mr Abdul Majid in KTPH yesterday afternoon, he looked tired. Both his hands were bandaged, with only two fingers of his right hand exposed.
Asked whether he was grateful to Ms Ng for intervening, he said: "I don't know." He declined to comment further.
A KTPH spokesman said Mr Abdul Majid had surgery to remove damaged tissues and to reconnect blood vessels in his hands.
Residents in Block 4 painted a positive picture of Ms Ng while their opinion of Mr Tan was divided.
Fondly referred to as "ngiah cheh" (beautiful sister in Teochew), Ms Ng is a grassroots volunteer who is involved in the daily distribution of food packets to residents in the area, said a neighbour, Madam Tng Noi Kee, 74.
She said Ms Ng could often be found sitting in the open space on the third storey, where most residents gather to chit-chat.
"She used to run a food stall, so she can cook very well," Madam Tng said.
"Just last Saturday, she cooked a big pot of Hokkien mee for all the elderly people sitting at the void deck."
Ms Ng said that she used to invite neighbours to her 12th-storey flat to eat, using her own money to prepare the meals. But nowadays they hold their gatherings at the void deck.
Polite loner or aggressive terror?
On Monday, the day of the attack, several residents portrayed Mr Tan Ban Huat as a verbally abusive man who had terrorised his neighbours for years.
But yesterday, others who lived close to him described him as a "quiet loner".
A man who wanted to be known only as Mr Sam said he lives on the same floor as Mr Tan, whom he knew as Peter.
The 41-year-old, who shares the flat with his mother, said Mr Tan was polite and would always ask after Mr Sam's mother.
"I used to see him sitting at the void deck, where most of the residents gather," Mr Sam said.
"But in the last year or so, he started sitting alone in a garden area between our block and the next. He had a few chairs and some of his things there."
While the rather large Mr Tan would usually sit alone, he would always call out a greeting whenever he saw neighbours he recognised.
"We would make small talk and he spoke to me in Malay. But one day I heard him speaking to others in Mandarin, too, and I was quite surprised," said Mr Sam.
A woman who lived near Mr Tan said he had "never spoken a bad word" and had always been courteous to her family.
"My family has lived here for six years and he always talked very nicely to us," said the woman who declined to be named. Another resident who wanted to be known as Madam Ivy said Mr Tan had always called out a greeting when he saw her leaving for work in the morning.
"One of the last few times he saw me, he gave me a pig figurine, but I didn't think too much about it. Now I've left it on top of my television to remember him by," she said.
But other residents had less fond memories of the man they knew as Gemuk.
Madam Jainab Awang, 65, claimed that Mr Tan was drunk most of the time and was usually rude to residents who were around the void deck.
The cook, who lives on the 10th storey, said other residents had tried to avoid Mr Tan as much as possible.
Another resident, Madam Tng Noi Kee, 75, said that even the grassroots volunteers steered clear of Mr Tan because of his aggressive behaviour.
"He used a lot of vulgar language, so most of us tried to keep our distance," she said in Hokkien.
Ms Ng Yee Way, 61, who was hurt in a struggle with Mr Tan on Monday, said the rag-and-bone man would sleep in the lift landing or void deck as his flat was too cluttered.
He was a big eater, finishing four to five packs of economy fried bee hoon in one sitting, she added.
She also said that he would get drunk every night and pick fights with the residents, but he wasn't like this about two years ago.
"Before this, I would cook and deliver food to his flat, and he seemed okay. Several months ago, he started drinking and fought with residents," she said..
Three days before the attack, she noticed that he did not collect his packets of cooked food as usual.
"It was very strange," she said.
This article was first published on January 28, 2015.
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