Identity of human skeleton found under Kallang Bahru bridge remains a mystery

The skeleton was discovered by a worker who was erecting a scaffolding under the bridge.
Screengrab from Google Maps

The identity of a human skeleton found under a bridge in Kallang Bahru more than a year ago remains a mystery, even after DNA matching efforts and cross-referencing 18 unsolved missing-person cases.

In his findings released on Tuesday (Jan 11), State Coroner Adam Nakhoda returned an open verdict, which means that the precise cause of death could not be established.

The deceased's identity remains unknown, but an autopsy revealed that he was a man in his 30s to 60s of Asian descent who died at least six months to a year before his remains were found on Nov 9, 2020.

The police did not find evidence of blunt force injuries suggesting foul play or that the deceased was a victim of any crime.

The court heard that the skeleton was discovered by a worker who was erecting a scaffolding under the bridge. He spotted a skull and informed the Land Transport Authority, with the police then alerted.

When the officers arrived, they found more skeletonised remains predominantly from the upper half of a body.

DNA samples from the deceased's bones did not match any in the authorities' database.

The police found a T-shirt, a set of underwear and three clumps of hair in the vicinity where the remains were found.

These items were sent to the Health Sciences Authority to try to obtain DNA samples for comparison with the deceased's DNA. The agency was, however, unable to obtain any readable DNA.

The police also found a suitcase, a brown bag and a black and white striped bag in the area. Inside the suitcase were a pair of jeans, a set of underwear, a belt and a single sock. The DNA on these clothes did not match the deceased's.

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

A forensic pathologist found that the remains were "totally skeletonised" with no remnant organs, flesh or hair.

The bones showed brown discolouration with a few maggots within the skull.

During investigations, a man identified in court papers as Mr LBP came forward as he suspected the remains belonged to his brother who had been reported missing on Aug 19, 1986.

The bridge was one of the places Mr LBP and his brother used to go to when they were young and it was within walking distance of their old home.

Mr LBP gave a sample of his DNA for a kinship comparison with the deceased but it was not a match.

Of the 18 unsolved missing-person reports dating from June 2019 to June 2020 that the police went through, only four fitted the general profile of the deceased.

The four cases, however, were eventually eliminated by the police for various reasons.

One possibility, Mr NHS, was last seen by his family on July 1, 2009, when he told them that he was going to Thailand for two weeks.

The police ruled him out after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that Mr NHS had not returned to Singapore from Thailand during the time the deceased was found.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.