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Tragic River Valley High School incident: Teenager sentenced to 16 years imprisonment for fatal axe attack

An 18-year-old teen gets 16-year sentence for 2021 fatal axe attack on River Valley High peer after being assessed to be influenced by major depression, qualifying for diminished responsibility defense.



An 18-year-old boy, whose identity remains protected due to his age at the time of the offence, was sentenced to 16 years in prison for fatally attacking a fellow student at River Valley High School with an axe in 2021.

The victim, 13-year-old Ethan Hun Zhe Kai, was tragically found with multiple wounds in the school’s toilet on 19 July 2021. Despite efforts, Ethan was pronounced dead at the scene.

The court, at the request of Ethan’s grieving parents, has lifted the gag order on his identity, allowing the public to mourn and remember him.

The perpetrator, then a 16-year-old Secondary 4 student, admitted to a gruesome attack involving slashing Ethan’s head, neck, and body. The court learned that the two students were strangers, with the offender choosing Ethan randomly as part of a broader, disturbing plan.

Justice Hoo Sheau Peng, who presided over the case, acknowledged the complexity of the situation. The offender had been suffering from major depressive disorder and had viewed online content desensitizing him to violence.

Yet, she noted that he was aware of the moral and legal implications of his actions.

In what the prosecution described as an “unprecedented” case, they had sought a 12 to 16-year jail term, while the defense argued for a five-year sentence. The 16-year sentence, backdated to his arrest, reflects the severity of the crime and its impact on the community.

The courtroom was filled with attendees, including the offender’s visibly distressed family, who interacted with him during an adjournment.

Ethan’s parents, though absent, conveyed through their lawyer, Mervyn Cheong, their heartbreak and a plea to remember Ethan for his positive attributes, reinforcing his kind-hearted nature.

The court heard that the offender, previously a patient at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) following a suicide attempt, had watched videos depicting death and planned the attack as a means to an end.

During March and April of 2021, he purchased a knife and two axes, one of which was used in the fatal attack.

His purchase of the murder weapon and preparation for the attack were detailed in court.

Post-attack, the offender expressed a mix of catharsis and regret. His interaction with a teacher and subsequent arrest painted a picture of a deeply troubled individual.

Dr Kenji Gwee from IMH highlighted the offender’s psychiatric condition, with major depressive disorder playing a significant role in the incident.

Subsequent medical evaluations suggested that the offender’s decision to attack the victim with an axe was influenced by his major depression; without this condition, the attack might not have occurred.

In subsequent reports, the doctors assessed that if the offender did not have major depression at the time of the killing, he would not have decided to attack the victim with an axe.

The offender qualified for the defence of diminished responsibility based on the psychiatric evidence.

According to section 304 of the penal code, the sentence for culpable homicide that does not constitute murder can include life imprisonment accompanied by caning, or alternatively, a prison term of up to 20 years, potentially with a fine or caning.

In a statement issued last July, the Ministry of Education (MOE) noted that following the tragic incident at River Valley High School (RVHS) involving the death of a 13-year-old student, the school has enhanced its support for students and staff.

This includes the provision of additional counsellors and the establishment of a comprehensive wellness hub, focusing on the socio-emotional needs of the school community. MOE highlighted that RVHS now regularly conducts mental well-being awareness sessions for its students as part of these efforts.

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Since the trauma from covid and never seen before high levels of living cost, I had predicted much more crimes and more cruel crimes will come and its happening.

Please name and photo id the perpetrator so that Empires with plenty of money will not make use of these ppl to commit more crimes