The Straits Times/ANN
She had fled Singapore by the time her elderly employers were found dead in their Bedok flat.
But despite being a double murder suspect, Indonesian maid Khasanah apparently did not keep a low profile while on the run in Sumatra.
She even shared with a few locals in the small town she was hiding in how she managed to slip out of Singapore without using her passport or arousing suspicion.
"Khasanah told us she hid in the engine room of a ferry bound for Batam," said Mr Hariyanto, 24, who did not know she was a murder suspect when they first met in an Internet cafe there. "She said she had to hold her breath and not cough to prevent herself from being caught."
But the law did catch up with the 41-year-old woman, who is originally from Kebumen, Central Java.
She was arrested last Tuesday night in Tungkal Ilir after the local police raided her room at Hotel Nanber following a tip-off from residents.
Tungkal Ilir is a small, rustic town in West Tanjung Jabung, about a three-hour drive from provincial capital Jambi and more than 300km from Singapore.
Among the items found in her possession were several pieces of jewellery, watches, mobile phones, a laptop computer and cash amounting to no more than $300 in various currencies.
Money and valuables were reported missing from the Bedok Reservoir Road home of Mr Chia Ngim Fong, 79, and his wife, Madam Chin Sek Fah, 78, when their bodies were found on June 21.
Khasanah allegedly left Singapore before the crime was discovered.
At the time of her arrest, Khasanah was in the midst of planning to leave for Java, said Hotel Nanber owner Syartini, who, like some Indonesians, goes by only one name.
Mr Syartini, 54, was shocked when the police showed up just before 11pm on Tuesday and asked to check his guest register. "They were looking for a guest named Khasanah," he said.
He added that the woman apologised to him as she was led away in handcuffs later that night.
According to Mr Syartini, Khasanah turned up at his hotel at 10pm on June 24 by ojek, a motorcycle taxi. She had two bags and asked to rent a room, but as he was shutting down for Hari Raya Puasa the following day, he told her to go elsewhere.
Number of days Khasanah stayed in the hotel in Tungkal Ilir. It is a small, rustic town in West Tanjung Jabung, Sumatra, and more than 300km from Singapore.
Value of cash in various currencies found in her possession. Khasanah was also found with several pieces of jewellery, watches, mobile phones and a laptop computer.
"But she begged me, saying her friend had left and she had missed her transport to Java," he said. "If I had known she was a murderer, I would have reported her to the police."
Asked about her demeanour during his encounters with her, Mr Syartini said: "She looked like a tomboy, but there was no sign that she was anxious. She looked calm."
He told The Sunday Times that shortly after she checked in, she went to Fikry Net, a nearby Internet cafe she would frequent over the next three days.
Khasanah had been there the day before, and it was there that she met Mr Hariyanto and his friend, Mr Tommy, also 24.
The two men said Khasanah made friends easily and was generous, readily giving them money to play games or gamble online. "I was given 100,000 rupiah (S$10) just like that," said Mr Tommy.
The two men also said Khasanah seemed to like talking about herself, and even told them how she managed to evade the police and checkpoint authorities in Singapore to get on the ferry to Batam.
Khasanah also did not do anything to conceal her identity.
Mr Luthfi, who owns Fikry Net, and Mr Syartini both said she produced valid identification when asked. But still, there were red flags.
According to the Jambi police, she was overheard talking on the phone at the cafe, saying: "How is their condition? I don't know if they died. I am willing to repent by staying at a pesantren (Islamic boarding school)."
Mr Tommy said Khasanah did mention once about going to a pesantren "to make amends", but she did not say why.
Her phone conversation and the mention of a pesantren raised suspicion because the police had in recent months arrested several pesantren staff and students suspected of being extremists.
Mr Luthfi felt something else amiss. "My regular customers are usually young men or teenage boys who are here to play online games, but she came to read the news on the Internet," he said.
According to Mr Hariyanto, Khasanah was searching specifically for news about a murder in Singapore. "We followed the reports that Khasanah read and saw that the suspect in the case was also named Khasanah. That was when we became suspicious," he told The Sunday Times. And Khasanah, who had been on the run for almost a week, ran out of luck.
Mr Pandit, a senior West Tanjung Jabung police officer, confirmed that the local authorities were alerted by residents.
Mr Luthfi claimed it was one of his customers who had tipped off the police but would not say who.
He also said the police took away the computer from booth No. 13 that Khasanah had used at his cafe. "I suppose they want to check her browsing history," he said.
Khasanah has been handed over to Indonesia's national police in Jakarta, who are working with their counterparts in Singapore to complete the investigation into the double murder, said Mr Pandit.
It remains unclear if the Indonesian authorities will send Khasanah to Singapore to answer any charges over the murder case. This is because the extradition treaty signed between Indonesia and Singapore in 2007 is not yet in force.
The Indonesian police have also said that because Khasanah was arrested in Indonesia, she must be dealt with there instead of the country where the crime took place.
The two countries, however, are party to the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty Among Like-minded Asean Member States. This treaty allows one country to gain access to interrogate suspects detained in the partner country, as well as gather evidence and seize a criminal's assets.
But Mr Pandit said last Friday that Khasanah had confessed to the murder in Bedok after her arrest. "She claims her employers and their family members ill-treated her, so she killed them."