KOTA KINABALU: Prominent Sabah tycoon Datuk Wong Tze Fatt, 82, and his wife Datin Lee Bee Hee, 81, were murdered in their hilltop house shortly before their assailant set fire to the residence.
In the attack, which has shaken the local community, the elderly couple were confronted by an intruder at their bungalow atop Signal Hill at 8am yesterday. The intruder was believed to have hit Wong in the head with a blunt object and strangled his wife.
He later set fire to Lee’s room when one of Wong’s brothers, Tze Kong, and John (Tze Fatt’s son) stumbled upon him. By the time police and firemen arrived at the scene, the intruder had also died in the fire.
Wong was one of South-East Asia's biggest bread makers. His family owns the Tong Hing group of companies which includes Gardenia Food Industries Sdn Bhd, based here. The family also operates the Jesselton Hotel here and the Tong Hing supermarkets.
Relating the sequence of events, Tze Kong said he and John rushed to the house at the upscale Signal Hill area following a phone call by a Jesselton hotel employee who told them that Wong and his wife had failed to turn up for their regular breakfast there yesterday.
When they reached the house, Tze Kong said they saw a “dark-skinned man” in the bungalow.
“We kicked open the door to my brother’s room and saw him lying motionless on the floor with his face covered with a piece of cloth,” he said.
Tze Kong and John then ran to Lee’s room and upon opening the door, they saw her body on the floor and spotted the intruder who shouted Keluar (get out) at them.
As they retreated from the room, they saw the intruder setting fire to the curtains in Lee’s room, he said.
Tze Kong said at about the same time, Wong’s driver of about 20 years called the police, rushed into the house and carried the businessman’s body to a house in the compound.
A few minutes later the police and firemen arrived at the scene while the intruder remained in the burning room.
On seeing the policemen there, the intruder shouted and challenged them. He refused to come out from the room when the police repeatedly told him to.
The room was engulfed in flames with the intruder and Lee's body inside.
“When the fire was doused, the body of the intruder was found with that of Lee,” Sabah police criminal investigation chief Senior Asst Comm II Bakri Zinin told reporters at the scene.
The fire gutted the room. The rest of the house was intact.
He said Wong was found with head injuries while his wife was believed to have been strangled. The intruder, whose identity has yet to be ascertained, died of smoke inhalation from the fire he had started.
SAC II Bakri said Wong and his wife were alone in the house when the intruder entered while security guards were about 100m away downhill from the bungalow.
He said the motive for the murder was believed to be robbery.
While police were determining whether the intruder had an accomplice, they believe the case has been solved with the death of the man whose body was badly burnt, he added.
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