Lim Ban Lim: Criminal cases (1963 - 1972)

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Lim Ban Lim
Lim Ban Lim gunman.jpg
Born1940
Died1972 (32 years old)
Cause of deathShot by the police
OrganisationGi Ho Secret Society
Spouse(s)Madam Yeo (m. 1956)
Children3 daughters, 2 sons (unnamed)

Lim Ban Lim was a notorious gunman responsible for a series of robberies and shootings between 1963 and 1972. He is most known for the murder of Police Corporal Koh Chong Thye in 1968 and for his ability to elude law enforcement for years.[1]

Criminal background[edit | edit source]

Profile[edit | edit source]

Lim was a former resident of Paya Lebar. In 1968, it was reported that Lim's last known address was 819 Lorong Tai Seng.[2] He reportedly belonged to the Gi Ho Secret Society and was involved in a series of robberies across Singapore and Malaysia, amassing $2.5 million in nine years.[3]


Lim was respected in the underworld and was known to be ambidextrous, having been able to shoot with both hands.[4] The police also reported that Lim had a scar between his thumb and index finger.[5]

Wanted criminal[edit | edit source]

A wanted article for Lim Ban Lim on The Straits Times dated 21 May 1965. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Lim was at large for 6 years and was the only person on the Central Intelligence Division (CID) Rogues gallery who was wanted for injuring three detectives and killing one. His pictures were televised, posted in all police stations and sent to the Malaysian Police as well as to Interpol. Police on both sides of the causeway have cooperated multiple times to capture Lim.[6]


It is said that Lim avoided arrest by laying low in neighbouring countries after every crime such as in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand or Macau. Lim allegedly travelled using forged documents.[7] According to The Straits Times, Lim told the police that:

“You will never catch me. When you are about to arrest me, I will surely engage you in a gunfight. I will use the last bullet to end my life, so you can only collect my body.”[8]

Bounties[edit | edit source]

By 1972, 32-year-old Lim had a bounty of $17,000. He was on the most wanted list in Singapore and Malaysia and was wanted by Interpol for armed robberies and shootings.[9] The following table charts the bounty for Lim from 1966 onwards.

Year Bounty ($)
1966 $2,000
1968 $5,000
1969 $10,000

After the gunfights at Macpherson Road in May 1965 and Odeon Theatre in September 1966, Lim had been at large for more than a year. In October 1966, the police offered a $2,000 reward for any information leading to Ban Lim’s arrest.[10] In 1968, it was raised to $5,000.[11] In March 1969, four years after the first reported shootout and a year after the murder of Corporal Koh, the reward for any whereabouts of Ban Lim was increased to $10,000. The reward expired on 22 September that year.[12]

Suspected robberies[edit | edit source]

Robberies in Singapore (1963-1972)[edit | edit source]

In 1963, Singapore’s Steam Laundry was robbed of $11,000 by gunmen. Later that year, 4 gunmen were believed to be involved in the $30,000 payroll robbery of Straits Times Press in Anson Road.[13] In 1966, 2 gunmen stole $176,000 at Singapore’s first National City Bank in Raffles Quay. The gunmen had the help of a getaway driver and no one was arrested.[14] The police believed that Lim was involved in the aforementioned robberies.


On 4 October 1972, Lim and Chua Ah Kow, Lim's most trusted friend, got away with $62,000 payroll money from the Atlas Electronics factory located at Lower Delta Road.[15]

Robbery in Malaysia (1968)[edit | edit source]

Alongside Chua Ah Kow and 4 others, Lim was a suspect in the armed robbery of the Johor Treasury on 26 August 1968. The robbers stole $452,000 in payroll money.[16] This incident was known to be Lim's biggest payroll grab. While the robbers escaped, a policeman had been shot and killed in the process.[17]

Gunfights with the police[edit | edit source]

A news report covering the Macpherson Road incident. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Macpherson Road shootout (1965)[edit | edit source]

On 21 May 1965, Lim Ban Lim was spotted with 2 other gangsters by Detective Peter Lim and his colleague. Detective Peter Lim gave chase when Lim Ban Lim and the gangsters tried to escape. When he caught up with them in a lane off Macpherson Road, Detective Peter Lim's revolver was snatched away and one of the gangsters (later identified to be Lim Ban Lim) opened fire before making off with the weapon. Detective Peter Lim suffered injuries to his right finger and right leg. Following the incident, the police searched for Lim Ban Lim’s whereabouts but to no avail.[18]


Two days after the shootout at Macpherson Road, a Straits Times journalist Sit Yin Fong received a call regarding a “Hennessy box” containing the lost revolver with four live bullets from the incident. The box had been placed in a corner outside Fong’s home while he was not home. Fong wrote in The Straits Times that the caller “had wanted to make certain that the police got back their gun”. Fong stated that a “blue-white” car had driven by his house four times and stopped after he got home at 2.30 am.[19]


The box came with a letter explaining that the man had actually “walked into an ambush”. The man added that he had not intended to hurt anyone but rather acted out of self-defence. He also hoped that Fong could return the revolver on his behalf. At 3:10 pm on 24 May 1965, Fong called the police and returned the lost revolver. The man behind the letter was assumed to be Lim Ban Lim.[20]

Odeon Theatre carpark shootout (1966)[edit | edit source]

On 8 September 1966, Detective Allan Lee was involved in a shootout with Lim Ban Lim after recognising Shien Chen Hin, another wanted criminal, at the Odeon Theatre. Detective Lee had spotted Shien Chin Hin outside the cinema lobby. When Detective Lee gave chase, Lim appeared and shot at the detective. Detective Lee chased the duo for 274 metres and shots were exchanged throughout the chase. Lim fired twice, hitting Detective Lee once in the right leg. Shien Chen Hin suffered a thigh wound from a shot fired by Detective Lee and was admitted to Singapore General Hospital following his arrest on 17 September 1966. Lim was never caught.[21]

Corporal Koh Chong Thye's murder (23 June 1968)[edit | edit source]

Lim Ban Lim was held responsible for the murder of Corporal Koh Thye Chong (27) on 23 June 1968. The Owen Road incident involved two other police officers.[22]

Lim Ban Lim identified[edit | edit source]

As recounted by Cheong Yam Soon, a former escort and guard officer, at a court hearing, he had been ordered by Corporal Koh to follow a suspicious man down an alley by Rangoon Road at 1:20 pm that day. Cheong was caught by surprise when the man drew out a “James Bond type of gun from his left pocket” and pointed it at him. Cheong escaped by lying about his identity, saying that he thought he was following a friend.[23]

The chase & shootout[edit | edit source]

Lim Ban Lim shot Corporal Koh Chong Thye dead on 23 June 1968. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

After confirming that the suspicious man was, in fact, Lim Ban Lim, Corporal Koh and Cheong tailed him to Rangoon Post Office at Owen Road. Lim Ban Lim took the police officers by surprise again and confronted them with his browning automatic pistol. Lim Ban Lim demanded Corporal Koh to put down his weapon. Upon his refusal, a struggle ensued. Corporal Koh broke free and Lim Ban Lim gave chase.[24]


Cheong heard a gunshot a few minutes later and saw that Corporal Koh had been shot in the chest. Lim Ban Lim then fired a second shot at point-blank range, killing Koh.[25] Corporal Koh died with a total of 3 bullet wounds. In a Straits Times article, Assistant Pathologist, Doctor Chao Tzee Cheng said:

“One bullet struck Koh in the chest, and went through his heart, lungs and stomach. The second hit him in the forehead and brain, and the third on his face.”[26]

Cheong chased Lim through a “maze of backlanes, parked cars and stalls” while exchanging shots until Kitchener Road. Another detective showed up as back-up but Lim escaped in a taxi after he ran into a Verdum Road coffee-shop. He had held the taxi driver at gunpoint and ordered him to drive to Lavender Street where he disappeared. About 400 police officials attended Corporal Koh’s funeral at Bright Hill View Buddhist crematorium.[27]

Death[edit | edit source]

The final shootout that killed Lim Ban Lim occurred on 24 November 1972 at Margaret Drive. The Bukit Panjang police division received a tip-off earlier that day saying that Lim Ban Lim and his “trusted armed double”, Chua Ah Kow, had returned to Singapore and will be visiting a pasar malam (aka night market) at Margaret Drive off Alexandra Road.[28][29]

Final gunfight at Margaret Drive (1972)[edit | edit source]

Lim Ban Lim died from his bullet wounds on 24 November 1972. Retrieved from The Straits Times.

At 7:30 pm, a six-man police party headed by Deputy Superintendent Henry Edwards laid an ambush surrounding Block 6 near Golden City Theatre. At 8:15 pm, the police party spotted Lim and Ah Kow walking towards a row of shops. At around 8:25 pm, the pair were seen coming out of a shop when they suddenly ran in opposite directions and fired at the police. One of the gunmen fired two shots at Detective Tan Lee Keng of which one grazed his chest.[30]


After engaging in what was described as a Hollywood-style shooting with the police, Lim was caught in police return fire while Ah Kow escaped.[31] Having been shot three times in the body, Lim staggered for about 10 metres before collapsing while still holding on to his revolver. The police recovered 13 bullets and $1.40 from his body.[32]

Funeral[edit | edit source]

Prison break (1972)[edit | edit source]

At 10 pm on 25 November 1972, 33 inmates escaped from Bedok Reformative Centre in what was described as a “well planned” mass breakout. The inmates escaped by removing window panes and placing thick blankets over the barb wires in a “typical infantry obstacles course style”. The police initially theorised that the escapees had fled to attend Lim’s funeral. Some inmates that were caught refuted the theory saying that they just wanted to escape the prison’s poor living conditions.[33]

Final verdict[edit | edit source]

Upon investigation, it was revealed that the mass escape was due to a rivalry between two gangs in the reformative centre. The night before the escape, a fight had broken out between two inmates from the rival gangs. The inmates broke out of the prison for a gang fight that was arranged to happen two days later in Lorong Tai Seng at 9 pm.[34]

Personal life[edit | edit source]

Lim Ban Lim and his wife pictured in a Straits Times article dated 26 November 1972. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Family[edit | edit source]

It is reported that Ban Lim had married Madam Yeo, his childhood sweetheart when they were 16 years old. The couple had 3 daughters and 2 sons.[35]

Chua Ah Kow[edit | edit source]

Chua Ah Kow was reportedly Lim Ban Lim’s most trusted friend.[36] A member of the Gi Hai Khim Secret Society, Ah Kow was also known as“Ah Ter, Choh Ah Tam, Ah Pui, Ter Kia”. The pair had been on multiple robberies together with an estimated total loot of $2.5 million. He is number 5 on the Singapore Police’s most wanted list for murder and a series of armed robberies.[37]


In 1971, Chua Ah Kow was responsible for the $15,000 payroll grab at Kie Hock Shipping Co. Ltd and the $20,000 robbery at Associated Bus Service. Together with Lim Ban Lim, Ah Kow was suspected to have robbed the Johor Treasury in August 1968 and the Atlas Electronics factory in 1972.[38]


In November 1972, Ah Kow escaped the gun battle at Margaret Drive where Lim had died. He fired 4 shots at the police that day. Three weeks later, the 32-year-old Ah Kow was caught by patrol police for trying to steal a car. After being shot twice in the back at Clemenceau Avenue, he shot himself to avoid arrest.[39] He is buried at Choa Chu Kang Cemetery.[40]


Chua Ah Kow lived along Shallot Lane off North Buona Vista Road and studied in Lay Koon Chinese School. He left school at 14 years old. At 16 years old, Ah Kow worked in a factory. A year later, he worked as a construction worker.[41]

References / Citations[edit | edit source]

  1. K. S. Sidhu. “Shot gangster stole $2.5m. The Straits Times. November 26, 1972. Accessed November 7. 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  2. Khoo, Philip. “All out hunt for the ‘most wanted’ gunman”. The Straits Times. June 25, 1968. Accessed November 6, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  3. K. S. Sidhu. “Shot gangster stole $2.5m. The Straits Times. November 26, 1972. Accessed November 7. 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  4. K. S. Sidhu. “Most wanted gunman shot dead”. The Straits Times. November 25, 1972. Accessed November 7, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  5. Khoo, Philip. “All out hunt for the ‘most wanted’ gunman”. The Straits Times. June 25, 1968. Accessed November 6, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  6. Wee, Beng Huat. “Still No. 1 on the wanted list”. The Straits Times. July 13, 1972. Accessed November 6, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  7. The night police shot ‘most wanted’ Lim”. The Straits Times. December 23, 1979. Accessed November 7, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  8. “Guilty as charged”. The Straits Times Collection. Accessed November 8, 2019. Retrieved from: https://graphics.straitstimes.com/STI/STIMEDIA/ebooks/Guilty_As_Charged.pdf
  9. Wee, Beng Huat. “Still No. 1 on the wanted list”. The Straits Times. July 13, 1972. Accessed November 6, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  10. $2000 reward for fugitive gunman”. The Straits Times. October 12, 1966. Accessed November 6, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  11. Mystery man: I got clue to murder”. The Straits Times. July 24, 1968. Accessed November 6, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  12. $10,000 reward for the most wanted man”. The Straits Times. March 25, 1969. Accessed November 6, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  13. Gangs and Payrolls”. The StraitsTimes. May 16, 1963. Accessed November 7, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  14. Million dollar hauls by robbers in 1966”. The Straits TImes. January 4, 1967. Accessed November 6, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  15. K. S. Sudhu. “Shot gunman died by own hand”. The Straits Times, December 19, 1972. Accessed November 8, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  16. Treasury robbers not arrested yet, court is told”. The Straits Times. November 21, 2019. Accessed & November, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  17. Gerry De Silva. “Treasury robbery: Interpol aid sought”. The Straits Times. March 16, 2019. Accessed November 7, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  18. Have you seen him?”. The Straits Times. May 21, 1965. Accessed November 6, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  19. Sit, Yin Fong. “At my gate in a bag: A police gun”. The Straits Times. May 24, 1965. Accessed November 7, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  20. Sit, Yin Fong. “At my gate in a bag: A police gun”. The Straits Times. May 24, 1965. Accessed November 7, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  21. Capture of man with bullet wound”. The Straits Times. September 17, 1966. Accessed November 6, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  22. Hunt widens for gunman”. The Straits Times. June 26, 1968. Accessed November 7, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  23. Loh, Boh Tan. “Coroner’s court is told of ‘Hollywood-style’ shooting of police corporal.” The Straits Times. March 25, 1970. Accessed November 6, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  24. Khoo, Philip. “Murdered detective: All out hunt for gunman continues”. The Straits Times. June 25, 1968. Accessed November 6, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  25. Loh, Boh Tan. “Coroner’s court is told of ‘Hollywood-style’ shooting of police corporal.” The Straits Times. March 25, 1970. Accessed November 6, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  26. Loh, Boh Tan. “Coroner’s court is told of ‘Hollywood-style’ shooting of police corporal.” The Straits Times. March 25, 1970. Accessed November 6, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  27. Hunt widens for gunman”. The Straits Times. June 26, 1968. Accessed November 7, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  28. Gunbattle straight out of a Hollywood movie”. The Straits Times. August 2, 2015. Accessed November 7, 2019.
  29. K. S. Sidhu. “Most wanted gunman shot dead”. The Straits Times. November 25, 1972. Accessed November 7, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  30. K. S. Sidhu. “Most wanted gunman shot dead”. The Straits Times. November 25, 1972. Accessed November 7, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  31. Gunbattle straight out of a Hollywood movie”. The Straits Times. August 2, 2015. Accessed November 7, 2019.
  32. K. S. Sidhu. “Most wanted gunman shot dead”. The Straits Times. November 25, 1972. Accessed November 7, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  33. K. S. Sidhu.“The big escape: 25 still free”. The Straits Times. November 28, 1972. Accessed November 8, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  34. Break-out from RTC was to settle gang feud: Police”. The Straits Times. November 29, 1972. Accessed November 11, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  35. “Guilty as charged”. The Straits Times Collection. Accessed November 8, 2019. Retrieved from: https://graphics.straitstimes.com/STI/STIMEDIA/ebooks/Guilty_As_Charged.pdf
  36. K. S. Sidhu. “Most wanted gunman shot dead”. The Straits Times. November 25, 1972. Accessed November 7, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  37. Shot gunman died by own hand...The Straits Times. December 19, 1972. Accessed November 7, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  38. Shot gunman died by own hand...The Straits Times. December 19, 1972. Accessed November 7, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  39. Liu, Edward. “Wanted man shot dead by police”. The Straits Times. December 18, 1972. Accessed November 8, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  40. Shot gunman died by own hand...The Straits Times. December 19, 1972. Accessed November 7, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  41. Shot gunman died by own hand...The Straits Times. December 19, 1972. Accessed November 7, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.