Spain murder victim bought insurance from suspect , Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Spain murder victim bought insurance from suspect

More than two weeks after she went missing while on a solo trip in Spain, Ms Audrey Fang was finally home, with her family holding a wake in Petir Road on April 27 after her body arrived in Singapore.

Speaking to The Straits Times at the funeral wake, her brother Benjamin Fang and her cousin, who wanted to be known only as Ms See, said the family is still trying to make sense of the tragedy.

Mr Fang, 34, said: “I’m glad that she’s finally back home with us, and we can send her off properly.

“But we still have many unanswered questions on what happened in Spain and why she died the way she did.”

Ms Fang, 39, was found with 30 stab wounds and other injuries near a parking area for lorries in the town of Abanilla on April 10. It is about 150km from the hotel the Singaporean was staying in.

On April 16, Spanish police arrested Singaporean Mitchell Ong, 43, in connection with the case.

Fighting back tears, Mr Fang said his sister was a pillar of strength after their mother died in 2019. The siblings had lived with their parents in the same flat.

Desperate to understand Ms Fang’s relationship with Ong, the family went through her belongings. They found letters from insurer AIA, which they showed ST.

The agent’s name stood out – Ong Cheong Yi. It is the suspect’s Chinese name.

He listed on an old LinkedIn profile, which is no longer available, that he was a financial planner at Manulife Singapore between 2011 and 2013, and had worked at AIA Singapore between 2014 and 2019.

Ong used the name Mitch and Mitchell in his many business dealings, and in social media posts, but had registered his marriage in June 2012 as Ong Cheong Yi, which was the name he used as a student at Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) and Raffles Junior College.

A legal record search showed he also used the name Mitch Ong Cheong Yi.

Mr Fang and Ms See were shocked when they realised it was the same person.

Said Ms See: “When we saw the name Ong Cheong Yi on her insurance letters, we wondered if it was the same person but could not confirm that it was (Mitchell).

“Now we have made a connection.”

The letters showed Ms Fang bought two investment-linked policies from AIA through Ong in August 2015 – a $3,000 AIA Family First Protect plan and a $50,000 AIA Asset Builder policy.

Tragic discovery

Ms Fang’s trip to Spain on April 4 was not her first time travelling solo. She had told her family she might be meeting a former colleague there but did not give details.

When Ms See asked why she was travelling to Europe to meet an ex-colleague, Ms Fang replied that she wanted to visit Spain as she had never been there before.

The family did not think much of it. After all, she was planning a trip to Japan at the end of April with Ms See.

But when Ms Fang became uncontactable on the night of April 9, Mr Fang grew worried. She was usually prompt in updating the family while abroad.

Mr Fang contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) for help the next day. When Ms Fang did not return home as scheduled on April 12, he made a police report.

By then, her hotel in Xabia had contacted the police there, after noticing that her belongings were still in her room but she was nowhere to be found.

On April 16, Mr Fang flew to Spain with Ms See and a family friend, Ms Lee Si Hui, hoping for answers.

When they arrived there, an MFA representative broke the news to them that Ms Fang had been killed.

Mr Fang said identifying his sister’s body was heartbreaking as she was severely injured.

“There were multiple stab wounds all over her body and she was punched badly in the face. Her skull was cracked and her head was badly bruised and swollen,” he added.

Ms See said: “We don’t understand the savagery of the attack.”

Describing Ms Fang as “the best big sister”, Mr Fang said that he is struggling with the fact that she is gone.

“She was very close to my mother. When I did something wrong, both of them would scold me,” he said.

He added that she stepped up to care for the family after their mother died.

Mr Fang said: “She was very filial. I’m the one who likes to run around and play outside till very late. She was the one always taking care of our parents.

“My dad doesn’t know how to cook, so after my mum left, she took over the cooking.”

Mr Fang said his father has not been able to function since he received the news. But he has been putting on a brave front at the wake, especially when visitors turned up.

They included Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.

Dr Balakrishnan, who is an MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, where Petir Road is located, spent some time with the family at the wake on April 27.

The casket carrying the body of Ms Audrey Fang arriving at the wake in Petir Road on April 27, 2024. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Close to colleagues

Ms Fang was due to return to her old workplace, Sunray Woodcraft Construction, to start work next week.

She had worked for the firm as a design manager for almost a decade, leaving only in 2022 to help run her late mother’s floral business.

Mr Ng Zong Han, 38, who worked with Ms Fang at Sunray, told ST that she had informed him of her Spain trip about a week or two before she left.

The last time Mr Ng contacted Ms Fang was on April 7, while she was in Spain. She told him via WhatsApp that she would be attending the wedding of a former colleague at Sunray in June.

“You can see how close she was with her former colleagues, even after leaving a company,” said Mr Ng who works at Sunray as an associate project director.

Ms Fang often tried to supplement the family income. In August 2020, she started an online seafood business – Anseafood.

She launched the business with a friend amid the Covid-19 pandemic, after noticing an uptick in similar online businesses.

They purchased seafood from local suppliers and resold them on online platforms such as Lazada. The partner told ST he is now planning to wind up the business, after learning about her death.

Meanwhile, Spanish media outlet La Verdad de Murcia said Ms Fang had made some investments in the country, with police investigations showing recent transfers to an unidentified person.

Quoting sources close to the investigation, the paper said that an “economic motive” may have been behind Ms Fang’s murder.

Property investment

Besides working as an insurance agent, Ong dabbled in a number of professions and businesses, including stints in finance.

In July 2023, Ong told a former schoolmate that he had invested in a co-living space in Spain.

The former schoolmate, who did not want to be identified, told ST that he and Ong were schoolmates from primary school to junior college, but insisted they were not close.

However, he said, they kept in touch via social media.

“Back in school, he was a bit of an awkward person – a bit insecure and on the chubbier side. But that seemed to have changed based on what I saw on his social media posts,” the friend said.

Ong was active on Instagram, posting multiple videos and pictures of his gym sessions. At 1.88m tall and muscular, he cut an intimidating figure.

The friend said he had reached out to Ong via Facebook chat in 2016 with a birthday greeting, and to congratulate him on becoming fit. They stayed in touch after that.

He said: “In July 2023, we happened to be talking about the war between Russia and Ukraine on Facebook when he brought up the fact that he owned a co-living space in Spain. I did not ask him more about it then.”

There are multiple co-living spaces in Alicante that offer short-, medium- and long-term rentals. They are mostly geared towards professionals working remotely and come with co-working common spaces.

“(Ong) seemed to have become more adventurous in what he was doing to earn money, having started out working in financial services,” said the friend.

Aside from financial planning and insurance, Ong had listed on a personal website that he was a private investor in electronic dance music and cryptocurrency in 2017.

Ong was also involved in various companies.

He was formerly a director at Neo General, which was involved in general insurance and art and graphic design services. The firm has since been struck off.

A business record search showed he has one active directorship – in Ultra General, which deals with insurance and was incorporated in 1972.

A search of legal records showed Ong was a party in a $262,380.82 lawsuit in relation to Neo General in 2021, but no court orders were made in this case.

He had also filed for a protection order against a woman in 2020, but the case was withdrawn without the order being granted.

In Spain, the police are still trying to piece together the motive. Although an autopsy was completed by forensic scientists, the results have not been made public. 

Footage from closed-circuit television cameras at the hotel showed Ms Fang leaving at 8.45pm on April 9. She was then picked up by a car.

Although the images were too dark, the police were still able to identify the make and model of the car by analysing its size and design details.

They traced the car’s route and set up a surveillance operation. It led to the arrest of Ong in his hotel room in Alicante on April 16, which is about 80km from Ms Fang’s hotel.

Investigations showed Ong was allegedly in the same areas in south-eastern Spain where Ms Fang was, including where her body was found.

Ong has been remanded in Spain after he was brought to court in Murcia, but has kept silent and refused to testify.

Until Ong speaks, Mr Fang said he will not be able to make sense of the incident.

He said MFA had helped his family greatly in locating his sister in Spain and repatriating her body back to Singapore.

He hopes the investigation in Spain will shed light on his sister’s death, and that her killer will be put behind bars for a long time.

“It seems the only person with the answers is the suspect, but he’s not talking. I hope the police investigates thoroughly and gives us the closure we need,” he said.