Socialite's death in pool shocks friends

Friends of the woman found dead in a swimming pool on Wednesday said they were shocked to learn of the news.

"It is very shocking and horrifying," Mr Gilbert Cheah, managing director of luxury magazine Singapore Tatler, said of Ms Nancy Gan's death.

"She was a very bubbly, vivacious and friendly woman who would greet you with a big smile and hug."

He got to know her about four years ago at an event here. She would sometimes turn up for events with her son, who looked to be in his early 30s, he added.

The last time he saw her was at a ball six months or so ago.

A close friend of Ms Gan, who declined to be named, was also shocked to learn of her death, especially over the fact that her body had been found in a swimming pool. The 69-year-old knew how to swim, she said.

The friend said Ms Gan lived with her son and maid at a bungalow on Victoria Park Road, off Coronation Road. Her son had left for South Korea on business on Monday, and flew back on Wednesday night after hearing the news.

Indonesian maid Dewi Suko Wati, 23, has been arrested in connection with the case, which has been classified as murder.

A fairly well-known socialite and porcelain artist, Ms Gan was known for donating her works for charity.

She also has a daughter, who is a doctor and lives in London. Both children are from her first marriage to a doctor, whose name is not known by The Straits Times. He has since died.

Her second marriage, which ended in divorce, was to a former Hong Kong politician, Mr Hilton Cheong-leen. His daughter Flora, from a previous marriage, is a well-known Hong Kong ballerina and fashion designer.

According to Ms Gan's website, she was trained as a classical pianist at London's Trinity College.

She later became known for her works of art, which have been exhibited in countries such as Japan, Australia and the United States.

In 1987 and 1988, four of her porcelain paintings were featured on the cover of Singapore Airlines' in-flight menu.

She was also commissioned by the airline to produce limited prints of eight paintings for its first-class and business-class passengers.

In an April 1990 article by The Business Times, Ms Gan was described as "sophisticated, garrulous and very image-conscious" as she would insist on selecting the photos that appeared in the media, lest they be unflattering.

She was then living in Hong Kong, having moved there after marrying Mr Cheong-leen.

It is unclear when she returned here.

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