Flashback #Star50: Making up for a tragic loss

BETTER-LIT car parks. More patrolling by security guards. Female-only parking lots. Panic buttons.

In many ways, Malaysians owed these better security measures to Canny Ong. Her abduction from the car park of a Kuala Lumpur shopping complex, and subsequent murder, had horrified the nation and led to huge changes on how car parks should be run.

Ong’s heart-wrenching last journey began when she came back for a visit in 2003 from the United States, where she worked as an IT analyst.

Tragedy struck on the night of June 14, 2003. She had dinner with her family at the complex and later, she went to retrieve the parking ticket from her car while her mother and sister waited for her by the autopay machine.

That was the last time her loved ones saw her alive.

She would have marked her 29th birthday the following month on July 18.

CCTV footage showed her being kidnapped by someone, who drove off in her car.

Three days later, her remains were found inside a manhole along Jalan Klang Lama.

“Despite the intense publicity on the case, her family members including her husband were always polite towards the media people whom, I admit, could be a nuisance at times, ” recalled The Star chief reporter Beh Yuen Hui, who was on the crime beat then.

“There was not even once when the family members raised their voice at the press, which had constantly hounded them and kept asking questions.”

Beh had met the parents for the first time when the family sought out MCA’s Datuk Seri Michael Chong in seeking public help to find Ong.

On another occasion at the police station, she said that Ong’s husband even spared a few minutes to thank the police for their professionalism in the investigation.

“The last time I met the family was when they picked up her ashes at the crematorium. This time, they had remained silent. Her husband apologised for not being able to answer any more questions.

“If you think about it, what more can they say?” Beh said.

Days later, Ahmad Najib Aris, a former aircraft cabin cleaning supervisor, was arrested after forensic evidence was found.

On Feb 23, 2005, a High Court in Shah Alam convicted Ahmad Najib, 27, and sentenced him to death.

Four years later, he lost his final appeal when the Federal Court upheld his death sentence.

He was eventually hanged at the Kajang Prison on Sept 23, 2016 after spending 11 years on death row.

Days after his execution, a reader wrote to The Star, saying:

“Shoppers in shopping complexes should be grateful to Canny Ong whose tragic death forced mall owners and operators to upgrade their security features.”

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