Mystery at Orchard Plaza

First, the owner of the Orchard Plaza noodle shop had not been seen for two days. Then, there were rumours of a foul smell coming from the locked room where he lived, next to the noodle shop.

The fact that the owner of the shop, a 48-year-old Japanese man called Mr Ken, had a heart condition only made things worse.

There were fears that the smell was due to a body in the room, but when the room was opened last night, there was nobody inside.

Mr Ken continued to be uncontactable, though.

The drama started yesterday morning, when one of the cooks reported for work and found a door to the shop open with nobody inside.

This was unusual as the shop is either locked or there is someone inside when he goes to work. The cook, who gave his name only as Mr Mah, was supposed to start work as usual.

After failing to get his boss on the phone, he decided to leave, but he returned at 6pm to see if Mr Ken had turned up.

The shop is usually open from 6pm to 2am, Mondays to Saturdays.

Mr Mah told The New Paper in Mandarin: "One door was open, the other was locked. My boss was still missing, so I decided to call the police."

For the next three hours, he paced back and forth, calling Mr Ken on his mobile phone but getting no answer. He feared the worst, suspecting that his boss could have collapsed inside the room.

Meanwhile, curious onlookers watched as four Singapore Civil Defence Force personnel and four police officers gathered outside the locked door.

The police cordoned off the walkway leading to the locked door for about 40 minutes while waiting for the locksmith to arrive.

A pub owner from the same building who declined to be named said: "The noodle shop has been here for at least 10 years. Business has been good, there are always long queues."

Mr Michael Tan, who is in his 60s and who helps out at the cafe restaurant facing Mr Ken's shop, said: "I think I know the owner, he's short and fat. We seldom talk, we just wave when we see each other."

Mr Haja Najimudeen, 51, the manager of the cafe restaurant, said the police investigation had affected business last night.

"None of my regulars is here. I just hope this gets settled as soon as possible," he said.

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