When gunmen roamed the streets of Singapore: A showdown at Jalan Kubor

23 01 2010

Having mentioned in my post on the old Protestant Cemetery in Penang that I wasn’t particularly fond of wandering around cemeteries, I found myself drawn to another cemetery while passing through the part of Victoria Street near Kampong Glam one day. As I looked out at Jalan Kubor from the safety of the car, I remembered an incident that happened at the cemetery there when I was a boy of eight,  that had somehow left a lasting impression on me. In the incident, the final scene of what was a real-life drama had been played out at the Madrasah Aljunied Cemetery at Jalan Kubor. This involved two of Singapore’s most dangerous criminals, Abdul Wahab and Mustapha, the Hassan brothers on a December’s evening in 1972. Cornered at their hideout at the cemetery and desperate and outnumbered during what was to be a final confrontation with the police on the 16 December 1972, Wahab shot his younger brother and turned the gun on himself, bringing an end to a one and a half month long reign of terror which had begun with Wahab’s escape from Changi Prison where he was being held for armed robbery.

Jalan Kubor which literally means “Grave Road” in Malay.

The Hassan brothers were behind a gun smuggling syndicate set up together with a few others in October of 1972 and along with several accomplices, staged a series of daring armed robberies at several petrol stations in the Bukit Timah area as well as at a goldsmith’s shop in Geylang. In the period that followed leading up to their last stand at Jalan Kubor, the two had several encounters with the police, including a shootout at Labrador Park during which a policeman and Mustapha himself were shot, and a successful rescue attempt staged by Wahab to free Mustapha from police custody while he was being treated at Outram Hospital just a few days prior to the brothers deaths. The latter incident also involved the abduction of a taxi driver and a policeman.

The Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah Cemetery off Jalan Kubor and Victoria Street was where two gunmen met their deaths in 1972.

The early 1970s seemed to have had more than a fair share of gunmen. Many of these gunmen, as with the Hassan brothers, did not have second thoughts when it came to pulling the trigger. Shootouts between the gunmen and the police were all too frequent. One that involved another gunman on the run, Ng Ah Bai, in April 1973, saw a police detective killed. Closer to home in July 1970, a gunman Tan Chian Lai also known as Hun Cher, shot himself, after being cornered in a flat in Block 64 Toa Payoh. A massive manhunt had been launched for the reportedly trigger happy Tan, who had killed a watch dealer in a robbery at a shop in North Bridge Road. Just a few weeks before the showdown at Jalan Kubor, another notorious gunman, Lim Ban Lim, had been shot dead by police in a gun battle in Margaret Drive after being on the run for nine years, getting away with $2.5 million during that time. The alarming rise in such incidents led to the introduction of harsh penalties for gun offences – new laws were passed in 1973 stipulating a mandatory death penalty for anyone using or attempting to use a firearm to cause injury.

While trying to find out a bit more about the cemetery, I also stumbled upon an article relating to the exhumation of the grave of a certain Ngah Ibrahim, which reportedly was located in the cemetery. Ngah Ibrahim, originally from Perak, was notable for a fortune made from the tin mines of Perak and as the headman of Larut. He was apparently implicated in the assassination of the first British resident to Perak, James Birch and sent by the British into exile in the Seychelles, before ending up in Singapore, where he died in 1895.

in April 1973



14 responses

13 12 2010
Abdul Aziz Ramli

This incident still fresh in my memory.Police cordorned the area at around 8.45 pm and called the to surrender with loudhailer.The two gunned down themselves instead.

13 12 2010
The wondering wanderer

Thanks Aziz. Were you a witness to the incident?

17 12 2010
Abdul Aziz Ramli

No. It was the headlines in the papers and 8.00 pm news.(a glimpse of the incident was telecast live)…

24 01 2011
Rahman Marop

I still remember well abt Wahab and Hassan. I was then abt 6 yrs old. What I heard from the elder was that the duo practiced black magic that could make them dissappear whenever there are trees and even small plants around them but unfortunately on that dreadful day when they were being cornered by the police, their supernatural powers couldn’t work as they were in a Muslim cemetery. They cemetery were then being surrounded by police and there’s no escape. As their supernatural powers couldn’t work in a cemetery, they then committed suicide and thus ending their life. There were also many notorious criminal aside from Wahab and Hassan and they didn’t live long enough to enjoy their doing.

3 02 2011
The wondering wanderer

Thanks for sharing that Rahman!

8 07 2011

im browsing bout singapore’s histories and bumped in here. I agree bout most of u guys had said bout the two brothers but there are some points i totally have my own stand for these two brothers.
Yes they can be considered as criminals, but have you guys ever think why? Robin Hood kills, kidnapped and robs too.
Im also not saying that the duo is right or wrong, it is not our duty to judge. Their lifes was only felt by their own, and we did not know their struggles and happiness back then.
Reports saying that they ended their lifes after being surrounded at their hide’s out.I just find it hysterically funny that why they choose such a hide out, if what the stories bout their bad doings is true. A cemetry as a hideout. Suits more for a refugee than a robber for me.
Just hope that we guys dont put them in an all wrong position. May the souls rest in peace. Amin

3 03 2012

Pls tell me more on this story..i am really interested in the history of singapore’s crime..any idea where i can get full info bout the whole story..i wanna know everything bout the hassan brothers..

17 06 2012

Want to know email me.. sufai@hotmail.com

28 09 2012
Gary Chow

Sorry, if I am not mistaken, they were actually known as the ‘Wahab brothers’. The detective who exchanged fire with them at Labrador Park and was himself shot through the neck (not fatal) was Davy Chan.

As for Lim Ban Lim, initially the police were not sure who they had shot in Margaret Drive. They had received a tip-off that a wanted man will be in that locality during a pasar malam. They tailed a suspicious character to a carpark where the man pulled out a gun and there was a gun fight and they shot a man. It was after checking of fingerprints that they confirmed that they’ve got Lim Ban Lim. Apparently he had undergone plastic surgery.

15 12 2015
Khairul Ashraf

this is amazing, thank you!

20 04 2017
Curious kid

Anyone knw about the story of the gunman in keat hong?
“pai kia hwee” story?

13 05 2017
Ali ismail

Hi,i am an independent film maker,i am very interested in your write up on the Hassan brothers incident…is there a way that we could meet up to know more about what u know regarding this incident,all my research has been either unconfirmed events of the brothers nor the truth…it will be an honor to be able to know what is your input of the brothers.Hope to hear from u soonest.Thanks a million.

30 12 2017

There were also extensive coverage on the Chinese daily papers with alots of pictures showing police couching below the perimeter low wall and that area cordoned off.
Can get into papers archives and have them translated to mine out more details… Hope it helps.

28 12 2017

Any acting oppotunities Ali?

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