“Strangled With Telephone Wires”: The Grisly 1987 Death Of A Tycoon’s Son At A Penang Beach Villa
The anguish that comes with unsolved murder cases only heightens when these grisly killings are coupled with close proximity. Such was the case for the brutal murder that took place at a seaside villa in Penang nearly 3 decades ago.
The untimely death of Mr. Loh Kah Keng, who died aged 39, was a high profile case especially among Penangites as he was the adopted son of Malaysian tycoon Datuk Loh Boon Siew, founder of Boon Siew Sdn. Bhd and Malaysia’s first sole distributor of Honda vehicles.
The murder, which took place at Datuk Loh’s beach villa at Tanjung Bungah, astonished the public as Mr. Loh was found with telephone wires coiled around his neck. The same type of wire bound his hands. To top it all off, the deceased was found on his bedroom floor with his “legs tucked behind his back.”
The instance is believed to have taken place between 9:45 p.m. on 24th February 1987, and the early morning of 25th February 1987.
According to then Penang Police Chief Haji Aba Rabiel Huk, Mr Loh had gone for dinner his wife Shirley Yeap, his brother-in-law and colleague Jeffrey Yeap, and their bodyguard.
They had returned to the villa after dinner at about 9:45pm on 24th February 1987. Mr. Yeap then sent Shirley to the airport for a flight to Kuala Lumpur, and returned later to spend the rest of night in the villa.
Haji Aba said Mr. Yeap left for work at 9:30 a.m. the next morning and grew concerned when he did not come across Mr. Loh, Kah Motor managing director at the time, at the office.
He went back to the villa to check on him and knocked on his bedroom door to no avail. He then “forced open” the door to find Mr. Loh laying lifeless on the floor.
Following the event of the murder, Jeffrey Yeap was detained. However, the suspect was freed shortly after. Mr. Yeap told the court that he believed Mr. Loh’s body had been “tampered with” by two policemen and Dr. Tan Cheong Seng, who was also Datuk Loh’s son-in-law. Datuk Loh denied the possibility of this instance.
There were also allegations that suggested that the case had been a suicide rather than murder, noting that Mr. Loh may have tried to hang or strangle himself with the wire.
Datuk Loh refuted these claims as well, but that did not stop the public from speculating the matter, and many believed that it had indeed been a case of suicide committed in the name of a failed marriage.
Datuk Loh also said that he had wanted to inform the police immediately about the death of his son, but was stopped by Mr. Loh’s friend, Dr. Godfrey Geh. Dr. Geh, he said, told him not to inform the police because it would bring shame on the family.
“Dr. Geh said that the public should not know about the hanging and to make it seem like my son had died of an illness,” he said.
Datuk Loh said he then telephoned Dr. Tan and asked him to go to the villa because he would be able to tell whether Mr. Loh died from hanging. He said he wanted to discuss the matter with the aforementioned Dr. Tan.
Dr. Geh, he said, also told him to ask Dr. Tan to come with an ambulance.
Halfway through the hearing, Datuk Loh broke down when he was asked he was prepared to look at police photographs of his son’s body.
When the hearing resumed in the afternoon, Datuk Loh mentioned that Mr. Loh was the youngest of his six children and had no issues managing his part of the family business. Datuk Loh said he was in charge of the company but his son contributed to it as part of the team.
Mr. Loh, he said, earned about RM600,000 to RM700,000 a year including his salary, bonus and dividend. He said his son owned a company which he shared with his brother and four sisters, and was a “good worker who never lost his temper”.
When asked how much Mr. Loh’s assets were worth, Datuk Loh said it was “quite a lot”. He also said Mr. Loh seemed fine during the week before he died and was in a cheery mood at the dinner on the evening before his death was discovered.
“I was not aware of what had transpired between him and his wife Shirley at the time,” Datuk Loh said. However he said about three years before his death, Mr. Loh had complained that Shirley was not happy that he had to entertain his business associates almost every night.
“Kah Keng said Shirley vigorously controlled him,” Datuk Loh explained.
He also said about six months before Mr. Loh died, he had complained again that they were having problems and if not for their two children, he would have ended their marriage.
“Kah Kheng said she was having an affair with another man. I advised him not to listen to what people say but he said he knew about it from a telephone conversation.” When asked whether he liked Shirley as a person, Datuk Loh said he did and even invited her to stay with him but she refused.
At his wit’s end, Datuk Loh also offered an RM500,000 reward for information on his adopted son’s murderer. He made the offer in an advertisement via the New Straits Times paper in 1987. Even so, the case remains unsolved to this day.
Born in China, self-made tycoon Datuk Loh Boon Siew, also known as ‘Mr. Honda’, passed away on 16 February, 1996 at the age of 79. Today, Jalan Loh Boon Siew exists as a minor road in George Town, Penang. Despite the family’s wealth, fame and success, many believe that Datuk Loh’s future generations are cursed.
Netizens have often used the phrase “Wealth cannot continue for over 3 generations” to describe the family’s situation, as some alleged that Datuk Loh’s children and grandkids had suffered grim fates. One claim on a popular forum is that one of his grandsons fell to his death trying to climb into his girlfriend’s room through the window at a condominium after they had broken up.
Others contend that some of his children were involved with drugs, but none of these were factually proven nor covered by mainstream media.
Besides that, there is even a blog that breaks down how the villa in Penang is located in a “bad zone”, making for bad fengshui and inviting tonnes of negative energy.
Read more about it here.