By Maureen Koh
BEAUTY, they say, lies in the eye of the beholder.
In the case of Michelle Lee Pei Yin, 25, and the six men in her life, it could be the painful truth.
By no means does she have the looks or the body of a beauty queen. Yet she has managed to charm six men into marrying her.
What's her secret? The men give various answers.
What they do know for sure now is her motive - money. They and their relatives claim to have been swindled out of a total of RM470,000 ($200,000).
She was released on bail after being detained by Malaysian police for 10 days. It is not known where she is now.
The Johor Baru woman's sensational exploits have all the makings of a Hong Kong drama serial, with its many riveting twists.
At 17, pregnant with her first child, she married her boyfriend - the only marriage that she legally registered - in 2002.
By last month, more details surfaced, showing that Lee had allegedly conned five other men into going through the traditional Chinese wedding ceremony.
Each time, she'd use the same ruse: Have sex with the men, claim she was pregnant, then disappear with money she had swindled from them, their relatives and friends.
She had six children, four with her first man and two with the next one. All the children live with their fathers.
Following the expose in newspapers and this month's Feminine magazine in Malaysia, at least two more men have stepped forward to claim that they, too, had fallen prey to her.
At a press conference last month, her most recent husband, who wanted to be known only as Mr Chung, told reporters that "it was love at first sight" for him.
When asked if Lee was that special, the technician, 25, said: "If five other men before me got conned too, what do you think?"
In a telephone interview, his sister told The New Paper on Sunday: "How can we really blame our brother when even my parents and I were charmed by her sweet and docile nature?"
Ms Christina Chung, 28, added: "She got on well with the family, took care of all the household chores and even prepared our meals. This despite the fact that she had to leave the home early in the morning to manage her beauty salon business."
It was Ms Chung who blew Lee's cover after creditors turned up at the family's home to demand payment in July.
She said: "We were shocked to learn that she had used my brother's name to get money from our relatives and friends under the pretext of helping them to invest in various business schemes.
"It was then that all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place."
Like how none of Lee's relatives were present during the wedding ceremony.
"She told us that she was an orphan, that her father died two years ago, and her only kin - an uncle - had just died from cancer," recalled Ms Chung.
"She also claimed that her father had left behind a hefty inheritance and that she wanted to keep away from her friends because they either owed her money or were after her inheritance."
Ms Chung's brother got to know Lee in March when he got a request to add her as a friend on Facebook.
She asked him out on a date the next day and followed him home, giving the excuse that she wanted to use his computer to surf the Internet.
They ended up having sex and, shortly after, Lee moved in with Mr Chung. A month later, she told him she was pregnant.
Ms Chung said: "All of us, including my brother, were quite taken aback by how 'sudden' it was."
Despite their doubts, Mr Chung's parents felt he should marry Lee.
This, even though she could not produce any proof that she was pregnant.
Ms Chung: "She'd arrange for her pre-natal check-ups on days that my brother had to work.
"Then one day, she came back with an ultrasound scan of what she claimed was the foetus."
In May, the couple went through a Chinese customary wedding, complete with a banquet, in Sabah.
Lee had asked to postpone registering the marriage till August 8, claiming she had to sort out a family problem. It was also an auspicious date, she had said.
But during this time, they claimed, Lee had conned a few of Mr Chung's friends and relatives into investing RM300,000 in a get-rich quick scheme.
Mr Chung is said to have emptied his savings account of RM15,000 to please his wife. One friend lost RM20,000.
Ms Chung said she, too, was a victim.
"Michelle invited me to invest in her beauty salon business. I ended up losing nearly RM30,000."
When confronted, the family says that Lee confessed to everything but pleaded for time to work so she could repay the debts.
Ms Chung said: "But she just could not say where the money went. Our family discussed it and felt that we should leave it to the law."
On August 6, they filed a report with the Kuala Lumpur police. A police spokesman told The New Paper on Sunday that "investigations are still ongoing".
Ms Chung said: "The whole episode has traumatised my brother so much that he has gone into hiding to avoid the shame."