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Identity of human remains found under Kallang Bahru bridge in 2020 a mystery, but no foul play: Coroner

SINGAPORE — The identity of human skeletal remains found by workers under a bridge in Kallang Bahru in November 2020 looks set to stay a mystery after a coroner issued an open verdict on the death on Wednesday (Jan 12).

Identity of human remains found under Kallang Bahru bridge in 2020 a mystery, but no foul play: Coroner
State Coroner Adam Nakhoda issued an open verdict in relation to the human remains found under a bridge in Kallang Bahru in 2020.
  • A coroner's inquiry was held to investigate the skeletal remains found under a bridge in Kallang Bahru in 2020
  • The remains were found by workers who were erecting scaffolding
  • The coroner said there was no evidence of foul play, but the identity of the deceased is unknown
  • However, it is likely the deceased was aged 30 to 60, male and of Mongoloid racial descent

SINGAPORE — The identity of human skeletal remains found by workers under a bridge in Kallang Bahru in November 2020 looks set to stay a mystery after a coroner issued an open verdict on the death on Wednesday (Jan 12).

State Coroner Adam Nakhoda outlined extensive efforts by the police to identify the deceased, including the cross-referencing of various missing persons reports and forensic examination of the remains.

He said that the deceased was an adult male aged between his 30s and 60s and was likely of the “Mongoloid racial descent”, a racial group that includes indigenous people of East Asia, Southeast Asia and the Arctic region of North America.

State Coroner Nakhoda added that the deceased had died at least six months to a year before the discovery of the remains on Nov 9, 2020.

He also said that although the cause of death is unknown, there is no evidence of foul play.

SKULL UNDER THE BRIDGE

Chinese daily Lianhe Wanbao reported on the day that the discovery was made when several migrant workers found the remains while they were building a temporary walkway near the bridge.

State Coroner Nakhoda said in his report that it was unlikely the remains were present before January 2018.

The bridge undergoes regular inspection and before the discovery of the remains in November 2020, it was last inspected in March that year.

In November, a metals and timber structures firm was contracted to erect scaffolding under the bridge. This was to allow workers to get close enough to the bridge’s support beams in order to carry out tests to determine its capacity ahead of possible upgrading.

This was when the workers found a skull in a space under the bridge.

There was no evidence to suggest that foul play was involved in the deceased’s death. The identity of the deceased remains unknown. The cause of death is unknown. Accordingly, I record an open verdict in this case.
State Coroner Adam Nakhoda

A senior engineer from the Land Transport Authority had said during the inquiry that it was unlikely workers from another company would have spotted the skeletal remains during the inspection in March that year, as they would not have had the same proximity to the remains.

In any case, the senior engineer had asked to examine photographs taken during a principal inspection of the bridge in 2018 and confirmed that he did not see any skeletal remains in the vicinity of where they were found.

CLUMPS OF HAIR, BAGS AND PHONE NUMBERS

State Coroner Nakhoda said a subsequent search of the area where the skull was found uncovered more skeletal remains scattered around the top of a support beam.

He said that the remains were predominantly from the upper half of a body.

In addition to these remains, the police had also found a T-shirt, a pair of underwear, three clumps of hair and some hair strands nearby.

Other items that were retrieved as part of the investigations included a suitcase, a brown bag and a black-and-white striped bag.

Within the suitcase, the police found a pair of jeans, another pair of underwear, a belt and a single sock.

Receipts were found in the black-and-white striped bag, but they were faded and the police were unable to obtain any useful information, the coroner said.

Pieces of paper with phone numbers were also found in the bags, but when the police called the numbers listed, the persons who answered the calls were unable to provide any information relevant to the investigations.

“No other personal particulars were found in the suitcase or the bags that the police could use to identify the owner of the bags or belongings,” State Coroner Nakhoda said.

NO INJURIES SEEN ON BONES

A forensic pathologist found that the bones did not show any injuries or any overt disease that would suggest a possible cause of death.

The skull vault, for instance, was intact.

State Coroner Nakhoda added that there were no internal organs present that could have assisted the pathologist in determining the cause of death.

However, based on the autopsy, it was estimated that the deceased could have been between 164cm and 168cm in height.

“Upon conclusion of the autopsy, the deceased’s cause of death was certified as unascertained-skeletonised adult male human remains,” State Coroner Nakhoda said.

MISSING PERSON REPORTS

Aside from the autopsy, the police combed through 18 unsolved missing person reports dating from June 2019 to June 2020 pertaining to males aged 30 to 60, but none of these matched the remains.

Separately, a man had gone to the police because he suspected that the skeletal remains could be those of his brother, who had been missing since Aug 19, 1986.

The man suspected that they could be his brother's remains because the bridge was one of the places that they would go to when they were young and it was within walking distance of their old home.

However, a comparison of the man’s DNA and that obtained from the skeletal remains showed that the deceased was not the man’s brother.

Samples of DNA taken from the suitcases and bags found under the bridge also did not match that of the skeletal remains.

However, they did match those of a man who had been homeless for many years and had been sleeping under the bridge.

The rough sleeper told investigators “that while he was sleeping under the bridge, he did not notice any suspicious activities or anyone else coming under the bridge”.

State Coroner Nakhoda said: “There was no evidence to suggest that foul play was involved in the deceased’s death. The identity of the deceased remains unknown. The cause of death is unknown. Accordingly, I record an open verdict in this case.”

Related topics

court coroner human remains death Kallang Bahru bridge skeleton

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