Joanne Ingham, one of the Ingham twins who captivated public attention in the late 90's, was found dead at a Wellington Motel. Video / Mark Mitchell
The ex-husband of Joanne Ingham says he is shaken by his former love's sudden death and hoped she died in peace.
Ingham - who was one of the twins who captivated public attention in the late 1990s after claiming to have jumped overboard from a Malaysian container ship and swum for 15 hours through crocodile-infested waters - was on Tuesday found dead at a Wellington motel.
Her ex-husband Hanafi Bin Salleh - who spoke to the Herald from his home in Johor, Malaysia - said he was in "complete shock" to hear the woman he shared two children with was gone.
"As soon as I found out, I jumped onto Google to read all the articles and then I told my parents and my family. We will be holding a blessing and prayer tonight and over the next three days," Salleh said.
"I hope she left in peace, I will be praying for her," he said.
Ingham and Salleh married in 1999 and lived together in Malaysia for five years, where they had two boys Jamie, now 18, and Shayden, now 22. Ingham became a devoted Muslim wife, but in 2004 she brought her children back to New Zealand on holiday.
"She wanted to stay in New Zealand and never came back," Salleh said.
Salleh said the last contact he had with her was when he was visiting New Zealand in 2016 and he dropped off a letter to her house.
"In the letter I told her I hope she was enjoying her life and to take care but she never replied."
He said he remembers her as being "beautiful and having a great love for Malaysian food".
Salleh said the last he had heard his ex-wife was in a "bad condition", including having no permanent home.
Police were called to the Harbour City Motor Inn in Webb St about 2.40am Tuesday after the sudden death.
Ingham's death has been described by police as "unexplained".
A spokesperson confirmed inquiries into the death are ongoing.
"Initial inquiries have been carried out and the death is currently being treated as unexplained," they said.
"A scene examination will occur this morning and inquiries are ongoing. Further information will be provided when it is available."
Ingham and her twin sister Sarah first came to international attention in 1997. They had stowed away on a Malaysian container ship and claimed to have jumped overboard and survived swimming through crocodile-infested waters in Queensland.
Salleh said he didn't know Ingham then and wasn't part of the "stupid thing" but his friend, who went on to marry Sarah was with them.
He said he met his ex-wife through that friend.
Their tale dominated world headlines and led to them receiving a hefty payment to appear on Paul Holmes' TV show.
In an awkward interview the twins told Holmes that before jumping off the ship they were told to hold their life jackets down the side so they didn't break their necks when they hit the water.
They were also told they could die if they went under the ship into the propeller, so they should jump out as far as they could.