SINGAPORE – A 16-year-old student from River Valley High School (RVHS) was charged with the murder of a fellow student, 13, in a district court on Tuesday (July 20) morning.
The accused cannot be named as he is under 18 years of age.
He appeared in court via video-link to face one count of murdering the 13-year-old at a level four toilet in the school between 11.16am and 11.44am on Monday.
The 16-year-old was in a red polo T-shirt and wearing a mask. His hair was dishevelled and his eyes darted around the room as the charge was read out.
The accused, whose parents were not in court, was represented by lawyer Peter Keith Fernando.
The prosecution asked that the accused be remanded at Changi Medical Centre (CMC) for psychiatric observation.
The police prosecutor told the court that preliminary investigations revealed that the 16-year-old had been previously assessed at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) in 2019 after he had attempted to commit suicide.
He had been taken into custody for his safety, referred to IMH for assessment, then discharged, the prosecutor said.
“Given the circumstances, we are submitting that he requires psychiatric evaluation,” said the prosecutor.
Mr Fernando confirmed his client’s parents had informed him of this incident that happened when the boy was in Secondary 2.
The boy will be remanded at CMC for psychiatric observation and is scheduled to be in court next on Aug 10.
Those found guilty of murder can receive the death penalty. However, those aged below 18 will not get the death sentence but could be given life imprisonment instead.
At the mortuary at the Singapore General Hospital on Tuesday morning, a police van arrived at the compound around 8.45am. Three people dressed in black and wearing lanyards got off the vehicle carrying boxes. A second police van arrived at the mortuary about 10 minutes later.
In a post on his Facebook page minutes after the boy was charged on Tuesday, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam called the incident “one of the worst things that can happen to parents”.
“It’s completely shocking because safety is assumed and normally (in Singapore anyway) assured. The attacker is also a young boy, (16), he has been charged today. As (the Attorney-General’s Chambers) told the court, there is some history of mental health issues,” he wrote.
He also addressed questions asked about how the boy got an axe, which the police said on Monday that they had seized.
“Preliminary investigations suggests that he purchased it online. But we will know the full facts only after investigations are completed,” Mr Shanmugam wrote.
He added: “We all grieve with the parents of the boy who was killed. It’s difficult to even describe the true extent of their grief.”
The police said in a statement on Monday that they arrested the 16-year-old boy, a Secondary 4 student, for his suspected involvement in the death of a Secondary 1 student, 13. Both boys are Singaporeans.
At about 11.40am on Monday, the police were called to RVHS where officers found the younger teenager lying motionless with multiple wounds at a toilet.
He was pronounced dead at the scene by a Singapore Civil Defence Force paramedic.
The police said that preliminary investigations revealed that the teenagers are not known to each other.
An axe was also seized as a case exhibit.
The police said on Monday they intended to seek an order from the court to remand the teenager for psychiatric assessment.
On Monday, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said his ministry is rendering all possible support to the students and staff of River Valley High School and their families.
In a Facebook post at about 4.25pm, the minister said the safety and well-being of students and staff are of paramount importance.
“We are all shocked to receive news of the tragic incident at River Valley High School this morning,” he said.
“We are working closely with the Singapore Police Force on the investigations, and they will be sharing more details on the case in due course.”
He added that the ministry is determined to work with parents and students to keep schools safe, and have children grow up and learn together in a trusted environment.
“To all our students: We will take care of you as always,” he wrote.
• National Care Hotline: 1800-202-6868
• Fei Yue’s Online Counselling Service: eC2.sg
• Institute of Mental Health’s Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222
• Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444
• Silver Ribbon Singapore: 6385-3714
• Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788
• TOUCHline (Counselling): 1800-377-2252
• Care Corner Counselling Centre: 1800-353-5800