SINGAPORE: In July 2021, Singaporeans were shocked by a case of a 16-year-old teenager who was accused of murdering a 13-year-old boy at River Valley High School (RVHS).
On Friday (1 Dec), the teenager, now 18, during a court hearing pleaded guilty to the killing of his fellow schoolmate with an axe in 2021.
The identity of the youth cannot be disclosed as he committed the offense as a minor under the age of 18.
At the request of the victim’s parents, the gag order on the victim’s identity was lifted, revealing his name as Ethan Hun Zhe Kai, as reported by Singapore state media CNA.
On 19 July 2021, the 13-year-old was discovered motionless with multiple wounds in a school toilet at RVHS situated in Boon Lay. Tragically, he was pronounced dead at the scene.
The accused confessed to attacking the victim’s head, neck, and body with an axe between 11:16 a.m. and 11:44 a.m. on that day.
It was revealed that the two students were strangers. The accused chose the victim randomly, intending to execute a plan that would lead to his own death, prompting police intervention in a life-threatening situation.
The accused, suffering from major depressive disorder at the time, had also been desensitized to violence through online videos, as per the court testimony.
The prosecution, labelling the case as “truly unprecedented,” is seeking a sentence of 12 to 16 years’ imprisonment for the accused.
Conversely, the defence is advocating for a five-year jail term.
Justice Hoo Sheau Peng is presiding over the sentencing arguments as the hearing progresses on Friday.
Originally charged with murder, the assailant’s charge was reduced in February following an assessment by the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), which concluded he was clinically depressed during the incident.
Court records revealed his history as a patient at IMH, including instances following a suicide attempt at the age of 14.
The penalty for committing culpable homicide not amounting to murder includes life imprisonment with caning or a maximum jail term of 20 years along with a fine or caning.
Education Minister addressed school tragedy impact
On 27 July 2021, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing delivered a ministerial statement in parliament, highlighting the impact on the school community and the psychological support extended to students and staff.
He noted that following the tragic incident, about 540 students and staff members have sought support from the Caring Action in Response to Emergencies (CARE) Post set up at the school.
Mr Chan also announced several improvements the Ministry of Education (MOE) is looking to implement so as to strengthen the existing mental health support system.
This includes deploying 1,000 more teacher-counsellors in the next few years, having teachers check in on the well-being of their students at the beginning of each term, and updating the Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) syllabus to focus more on mental wellness.
Regarding the CCE, Mr Chan said: “It includes enhanced features on mental health education, designed to develop our students’ mental health literacy.
“For example, they learn to differentiate normal stress from distress and mental illness, so that they can seek help before becoming overwhelmed.”
In 2022, RVHS bolstered its mental health support by increasing access to counselors for its students and staff, aiming to create a safer and more supportive environment.
Where to get help:
If you or someone you know is grappling with suicidal thoughts, assistance and support are accessible.
Samaritans of Singapore Hotline: 1767
Institute of Mental Health’s Helpline: 6389 2222
Singapore Association for Mental Health Helpline: 1800 283 7019
You can discover a directory of global helplines on this page.
In case someone you are aware of is facing an imminent threat, please dial 24-hour emergency services.
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