Suave To Sinister: Recounting Lee Chow Meng, M’sia’s Infamous Serial Rapist & “Very Own Ted Bundy”
Descriptions of Lee Chow Meng, from his appearance to his gait, seemed to come straight out of a Netflix documentary.
To quote the gist of it, he was the picture of charm and attractiveness, able to pique the gaze of “every lady who came in proximity to him”… But behind his dashing appearance and a smooth demeanour lurked a dark, dangerous underbelly.
At six feet tall, Lee Chow Meng was a towering figure who masked a sick and depraved passion for forcible sex. In the annals of Malaysia’s criminal history, he earned the infamous title of the nation’s most notorious serial rapist. He left a trail of horror and violated the lives of defenceless women, displaying a depth of wickedness that seemed nothing short of boundless – traits which made him comparable to the infamous Ted Bundy.
Within a span of about a year, Lee raped approximately 18 women, allegedly murdering 5 of them. This case also included one of the largest numbers of rape victims in a single case ever documented in Malaysian history in such a limited amount of time.
The story of Lee’s fatal charm began when Lee Chow Meng’s long-standing girlfriend ultimately ended their relationship as she could no longer endure his unrelenting infidelity. Consumed by bitterness and unable to accept her departure, Lee’s heart turned black with vengeance. It was then that he unleashed his wrath upon unsuspecting women, seeking solace in the suffering he inflicted upon them.
Lee’s spirit darkened with rage as a result of his frustration and inability to accept her leaving. Then, in “search of comfort” in the pain this had caused him, he let out his wrath on gullible women.
He preyed on females who had advertised their services in newspapers and periodicals by searching for them and offering them insurance policies, tuition, bookkeeping, and real estate sales. Lee enticed his victims into meetings by employing a variety of aliases that concealed his true identity. It is said that even happily married women had been lured by his magnetic appeal.
After winning their trust, he would invite them out to serve them cocktails that were laden with a potent brew that rendered them defenceless. In their semi-conscious state, he subjected them to unimaginable acts of sexual violence, violating their bodies and souls. It was reported that his heinous deeds took place inside their cars, in remote locations, hotel rooms, and other private spaces, leaving an imprint of ruined lives in his wake.
At the time, speculations spread that Lee’s rabid desires were fuelled by a sickening fixation on women who bore resemblance to his former girlfriend. To add to the anguish, he threatened to reveal incriminating photos while using his victims’ intimate moments as leverage to extort money from them.
As the number of rape cases linked to Lee continued to rise, law enforcement agencies launched an intensive manhunt. There was an RM50,000 reward available for any information that led to his arrest. Countless posters bearing his face were plastered across the country, appealing to the public for help.
Lee evaded capture for more than a year, eluding the reach of the law. But the police’ tenacious pursuit paid off in the end. A courageous victim, from whom Lee had tried to demand money, came forward to support the inquiry. She worked closely with the police to carry out a meticulously orchestrated sting operation that resulted in Lee’s capture on one fateful day in Ipoh – August 28, 1997, when Lee was finally taken into custody after being shot in the leg by police.
During his time in detention, the facts regarding his awful acts eventually came to light. The extent to which Lee had carefully concealed his tracks quickly became apparent to the investigators, leaving them with inadequate evidence to press charges in the majority of the cases. One instance, though, gave reason to believe that justice would ultimately prevail.
The Taiping magistrate’s court eventually indicted Lee for the murder of beautician Lim Phaik Lian, 33. Even so, the victims’ chances of obtaining justice appeared to be bleak, and the road ahead was uncertain.
Then, in a startling change of events, Lee admitted guilt in February 1999 to the lesser charge of manslaughter. To this day, a number of individuals are still dealing with their outrage and feelings of unfairness with regard to the subsequent sentencing. Lee was sentenced to just 15 years in prison – a far cry in contrast to the severity of his atrocious conduct.
Two years later, in March 2001, it appeared that the universe had reclaimed some measure of balance. Lee’s wretched life was blighted by health issues brought on by an HIV infection, and he passed away within Taiping Hospital. He met his end after being in the hospital for about two weeks, leaving behind an archive of appalling horror.
In his last moments, Lee made a chilling demand that revealed the profundity of his wickedness. He granted the prison wardens instructions to place his possessions, including two sex-related novels, inside his coffin. It is learned that his final request was fulfilled, and his body was consigned to the flames of the crematorium; his ashes strewn at sea.
The man whose name once inspired dread and terror had a fitting end. Now, his tragic story of crime and depravity serves as a terrifying reminder of the heights of evil that can exist within a seemingly ordinary individual.
May his victims’ strength and tenacity act as an inspiration to a world that strives for justice and healing in the face of unfathomable cruelty. May their memory live on.