Coroner records open verdict in case of 80-year-old man with dementia found dead in drain

Coroner records open verdict in case of 80-year-old man with dementia found dead in drain

SINGAPORE: A coroner on Friday (Nov 4) recorded an open verdict in the case of an 80-year-old man who was found dead in a drain two days after going missing. 

Mr William Leck Swe Chua was suffering from “very pronounced” dementia at the time but his body was so badly decomposed that a cause of death could not be ascertained, the court heard.

State Coroner Adam Nakhoda said Mr Leck lived with his partner, Madam Yap, for more than 10 years. 

He was diagnosed with dementia in 2020 and his condition grew progressively worse. By December 2021, he could recall only events in the past and had no recollection of more recent events.

His short-term memory had deteriorated considerably and only his long-term memory was intact, the court heard.

According to Mdm Yap, they did not have any personal issues and they regularly communicated with each other. He also did not have any financial issues or medical issues apart from the dementia, Mdm Yap said.

Mr Leck had gone missing twice before, but returned home each time on his own.

On Jan 1 this year, after Mdm Yap left for work at about 5am, Mr Leck left the flat.

When Mdm Yap returned home at about 2.50pm, she realised that Mr Leck was not in the flat and tried to call his phone multiple times.

She managed to get through to him and he said he was at a nearby temple. However, when she went there, she could not find him.

She contacted him again, and he said he was at a traffic light junction but was unable to give more details.

She called him again later and Mr Leck picked up the phone but did not say anything. She heard only background noises.

The coroner said he found that Mr Leck’s responses on the phone demonstrated that he was likely disoriented.

He then made his way to a car park at Defu Lane and was shown in closed-circuit television camera footage engaging in odd behaviour.

He was shown walking in and out of the car park six times that afternoon, washing his hands in a puddle on some occasions.

He entered the car park a seventh time at 4.28pm and was not shown leaving thereafter.

Mdm Yap later noticed that she had received a missed call from Mr Leck at about 6.15pm. She tried to return his call, but he did not answer.

That evening, Mr Leck ended up in an open drain near the car park. Heavy rain and showers were reported in the area at around the same time.

“It cannot be explained why Mr Leck had removed his Bermuda shorts, mobile phone and wallet and placed them by the side of the open drain, nor how he came to be in the open drain,” said the coroner.

He added that it would be “pure speculation” to try to fathom the reason.

However, he said that Mr Leck was probably in the drain by the time heavy rain and showers were reported in the area.

The force of the water flowing through the drain carried his body and wedged it against a metal grate, where he was subsequently found.

Mr Leck’s body was found in the drain on Jan 3 this year.

An autopsy found no signs of external or internal trauma but the cause of death could not be established due to the state of decomposition.

The police found no suggestion of foul play.

Mdm Yap said she did not know why Mr Leck went to Defu Lane that day.

Mr Leck’s niece recalled that one of his old friends mentioned during Mr Leck’s funeral that when Mr Leck was younger, he worked at a funeral parlour.

He would often hang out at the car park in question at Defu Lane with his colleague.

Mr Leck’s niece thought that he had gone there due to these memories.

The coroner extended his condolences to Mr Leck’s next-of-kin for their loss.