When Jo Royle received a message from a man in Singapore in June last year telling her that her sister Sarah was missing, she was initially not too worried.
Her sister was the adventurous sort and it was inevitable as she flew around the world that she would get into some sort of scrape at some point.
But as she took her dog for an early morning walk she began to think about David’s message some more and when she got home rushed to her phone to re-read the message.
Something was definitely wrong. Suddenly she realised how worried he was that she had failed to return to her Singapore hotel following England football team’s triumph over Slovenia in the World Cup. She phoned Sarah’s phone but it went straight to answer phone.
Angry with her sister, she left yet another message on her phone telling her to get in touch immediately – unaware she was fighting for her life in hospital after plunging from a balcony to her death in mysterious circumstances.
She then phoned her other sister Premsa who was equally worried.
Jo, of Todmorden, said: “I was driving to Hebden Bridge and I remember clinging on to the steering wheel and praying to God that she was OK. I wanted to see her again so much.
“I told Prem to phone the British consulate in Singapore and then Prem rang me crying. I was relieved that she had phoned but all we were told was that she had had a fall.” A fall did not sound too bad but soon Prem was back on the phone – Sarah was on a life support machine and the doctors had said she was not going to make it.
Jo said: “I was just screaming and screaming. It was awful.”
Somehow the two girls scrambled enough money to fly Singapore to be at their sister’s bedside and stroke her hair as her life ebbed away.
Next week they will fly out to Singapore again for a court hearing into their sister’s death and hope that nearly 18 months on they will finally get a clearer picture of how Sarah died.
Ironically Sarah had only visited Singapore to sort out her visa requirements after she overlooked the time permit as she enjoyed her life to the full in nearby Australia.
With both parents dead many years ago the bond between the three sisters has always been unusually close.
All they know for sure Jo says, is that on the night Sarah died she was out with a good-looking English man and an Australian man. After watching the England match they went clubbing before the Australian went home and Sarah and the English man had a massive row during which at least one witness saw Sarah throw a chair at him.
Jo says the police told her she had climbed up a wall and then through a window onto a staircase before trying a few doors. A woman who was interviewed by police apparently saw her run through her apartment just before 6am.
It is unclear what happened next but witnesses did see her fall and phoned for an ambulance.
Jo says: “I just want to know her movements, who she was with and what was happening. It will help me greatly to know why she went up the wall and what she was trying to do.
“I try not to think about it most days but I always do end up thinking about Sarah. She, Prem and I were very close and I loved her so much. I can’t move on with my life until this is over. At the moment I am still pretending Sarah is abroad.”
She has fond memories of one of their best nights together when they celebrated her 31st birthday in March. “She was tanned and just glowing with health, she looked fantastic. She was here for four weeks and I remember driving her to the airport and telling her ‘You don’t need to go, Sarah.’ She was ‘uhm-ing and aahing’ and I was saying: ‘Sarah, don’t go, come back with me.’
“My little boy Harley said to her: ‘Take care, Auntie Sarah’. It was the last time I saw her alive.”
The next time she would see her would be in the Singapore hospital, her life only being prolonged by the medics.
“The ward was deadly quiet. The doctors showed us to her room and it felt like lead weights were on my feet. But the fear had gone and we were all together. It felt like she was waiting for us, though she never regained consciousness.
“She had basically died on the way to hospital. We knew she was going to die and we held her hand and said: ‘We are going to switch you off now, Sarah. Go towards the light.’
“She lasted about an hour. Prem and I were singing songs we enjoyed when we were little, it was really emotional.
“I said: ‘I can smell my mum, my mum is here’, I could see Sarah with my mum in front of me. I saw Sarah walking with mum and holding her hand and I could tell that they were so happy to see each other, they were in total bliss.
“My mum smiled at me to let me know they were fine. Prem and I went really calm and the doctors came in and said Sarah passed away 10 minutes ago. I kissed her on the forehead and left the room.
“Sarah’s death has made me quite over-protective of Harley. I’m always worried that bad things are going to happen to people I love.”
Jo says that although it will be incredibly painful, she and Prem would like to visit the spot where Sarah fell and leave some flowers for her. “It is going to be absolutely horrific but after that we can heal.”
Joining them in Singapore will be Chris Scrimshaw, Sarah’s boyfriend who was from Tasmania and who came over for her funeral – attended by more than 200 mourners – and helped carry her coffin.
But whatever happens in Singapore that will not be the end of the legal action involving Sarah. An inquest has still to be held in Halifax as the body was brought back to West Yorkshire.
Sarah, a popular, attractive girl, known as “Sharky” due to her love of sharks had her ashes scattered in the sea near Bridlington after her sisters hired a boat. “It was what she would have wanted,” added Jo.