SINGAPORE - Just two weeks ago, porcelain artist Nancy Gan, 69, texted her friend.
"Guess what happened to me?" she wrote. "I had a fall. It could have been worse. I really thank my lucky stars (it wasn't)."
Her injury - a hairline fracture of the wrist - meant she had to wear an arm sling.
Worried, the friend who wanted to be known only as Ms Yan, called Madam Gan immediately.
"She told me she was very lucky. She had dislocated her wrist but was grateful the injury wasn't that bad," Ms Yan recalled. "That's how Nancy is, always so unassuming and down-to-earth."
But last Wednesday, something worse happened.
Madam Gan, a widow, was found dead in the swimming pool of her Bukit Timah bungalow. She is believed to have died from head injuries.
The police have arrested a 23-year-old Indonesian maid for murder. She was arrested in the house along Victoria Park Road. The New Paper understands that a member of the public had alerted the police on Wednesday morning.
Police have classified the case as murder. The maid was charged last Thursday.
Passers-by would have been able to catch glimpses of the octagon-shaped pool, which is beside the main building, through the fence.
Ms Yan called TNP after she heard about what happened to Madam Gan. They have known each other for five years after meeting at a high-society event.
"Despite our age gap (more than 20 years), we hit it off and bonded. Nancy had no airs," Ms Yan said.
The Victoria Park bungalow, which Madam Gan owned, was a temporary home. Neighbours whom TNP approached in the largely quiet estate declined to comment.
Some were unaware of what had happened next door.
Maids we spoke to said they did not know the Indonesian maid.
Madam Gan was supposed to move back to her main property in Swiss Club Road, also in Bukit Timah, in August, after renovations were completed.
"Nancy loved her Swiss Club home. That's where her heart is," Ms Yan said. "Probably because it had a kiln where she could do her artwork."
She lived with her only child, Mr Victor Lim, and the maid. The latter started working for the family last year.
Mr Lim is believed to be in his early 30s. He works in the oil industry and travels frequently for work. When in Singapore, he would turn up as Madam Gan's date at charity balls and gala events.
"He's very well-mannered and would co-host the afternoon teas that Nancy held for her friends," Ms Yan said.
The last time mother and son made a public appearance was at the Singapore Red Cross Benefit Gala on March 1.
When TNP called Mr Lim last night, his mobile phone was switched off.
Madam Gan's husband, a Malaysian heart surgeon, died when their son was a toddler.
By all accounts, Madam Gan had a privileged upbringing. The daughter of a commander grew up in Hong Kong and never had to step into the kitchen.
"She didn't know how to cook when she met her husband," Ms Yan said. "But she became known for hosting dinners at home for ambassadors' wives."
Madam Gan's younger brother Richard called her "an extremely nice and charitable person".
A magazine editor who has known her for four years agreed.
Declining to be named, he said: "She's one of the nicest people around, warm, vivacious and so down-to-earth. She always has a ready smile for you."
A publishing director, who wanted to be known as Mr P, said Madam Gan made a positive first impression when they first met more than 10 years ago.
He said: "Nancy's very unassuming and genuine. She belongs to the corporate crowd and is quite selective about the events that she attends, preferring to turn up at charity dos.
"She's not the kind who will attend events to show off a $10,000 gown."
An artistically talented woman, Madam Gan trained as a classical pianist at the Trinity College of London and has been a porcelain artist since 1986.
Her works on romantic landscapes, fauna and flora in full bloom found a wide audience.
At a recent ball, one of her porcelain plates was auctioned for $8,000.
Singapore Airlines commissioned four pieces, which were featured on in-flight menu covers. Another eight specially-commissioned porcelain paintings were produced as limited-edition bone china prints for first- and business-class passengers in 1987 and 1988, her website stated.
Madam Gan also held demonstrations at charity fund-raising efforts for the Kidney Dialysis Foundation, Bone Marrow Donor Programme and Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped.
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